Technology is constantly evolving, and the economy is always fluctuating. No matter the business, it will die if it doesn’t adapt. This sentiment especially rings true for the fleet industry.
We’re witnessing a high cost in fuel prices and a shortage in parts and truck availability. But that doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel. In contrast, companies are developing and implementing innovative solutions to these problems. And ThompsonGas is one such company.
ThompsonGas’ Fleet Director Wayne Terpstra and Autogas Director Monte McLeod shared how they adjusted to the ongoing obstacles and maintain their fleet’s overall health.
ThompsonGas: 75 Years of Fleet
Founded in Maryland, ThompsonGas specializes in propane services for commercial and residential customers. It started in 1947 serving propane to a small farming community. While holding its fair prices and consistent values, it has grown to a nationwide company in 26 states.
It recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. And throughout those decades, its fleet has soared to over 1,400 units. These vehicles include propane bobtails, crane units, and pickup/service trucks.
ThomsponGas’ latest achievement is its Thompson AutoGas division in partnership with Roush CleanTech. Its F-750 trucks equipped with Roush CleanTech propane systems provide autogas to commercial fleets. It started in 2020 and now has spread throughout the U.S.
And recently, ThompsonGas has gone through two big developments that help it adapt to this ever-changing industry.
Success Recipe: Telematics & Autogas
Like most fleet companies, ThompsonGas faces national challenges. Terpstra stated the fleet’s top three challenges are the rising cost of fuel, supply chain delays, and vehicle maintenance.
To combat these challenges, ThompsonGas designed a recipe for success. And it only has two ingredients: telematics and autogas.
Terpstra said his priorities when it comes to the fleet are health and safety. And telematics is a great system to monitor the health and safety of a fleet.
ThompsonGas’ fleet completed the installation of a complete management system, including telematics in August 2022. The upgrade has already proven its worth in time and cost in just a short amount of time. The system monitors the health of the overall fleet, including mileage, wear and tear, part replacement, and idle time. And with that comes fewer errors and more safety reassurance for the fleet and employees.
And its last ingredient for adaptability is autogas. Since Thompson AutoGas officially launched in 2020, Terpstra and McCloud have wanted to walk the walk. So, they made the push to have a fully autogas-fueled fleet.
A Key Component to a Green Future
As we push toward a green future, industries need to adapt. Luckily, the fleet industry has several options. The most popular is, of course, vehicle electrification. But there is also a cheaper alternative: propane.
Propane has been around for decades. It’s reliable, clean, and versatile. When used to fuel fleets, it’s known as autogas.
According to ThompsonGas, “Autogas is an amazing, efficient option to fuel your fleet, and has been proven time and time again to be far more reliable than traditional gasoline-powered engines, with the lowest cost-of-ownership of any fuel.”
The company added that, with far fewer emissions released into the atmosphere upon use, “equipping an autogas fleet is also a great way to reduce your business’s carbon footprint and do your part to protect our changing world.”
Big or Small, Autogas Does It All
ThompsonGas wants to be the poster child for a full autogas fleet. Terpstra stated: “We know switching to an autogas fleet is a big undertaking. It took us a few years to complete. But it is a manageable process. You can do a couple of trucks at a time, and in the end, the reward far outweighs the price.”
He said he even uses autogas to fuel their Class 5, 6, and 7 propane bobtails, which work without a hitch.
Terpstra does say it’s a project that will always be ongoing, and his advice is to have patience and plan for longer lead times in purchasing plans. But leaving behind traditional gasoline is one of the best decisions ThompsonGas has made for its fleet and recommends it to all fleets.
The benefits far outweigh the cost and time. Propane autogas:
- Doesn’t require a complete overhaul of the fleet.
- Can be used to fuel all types of vehicles, from pickup to heavy-duty trucks.
- Makes for quieter vehicles. This is ideal for fleets such as school buses or motor coaches.
- Has the potential to lower maintenance costs.
McLeod also added, “Safety, lower cost per mile and environmental responsibility are just a few of the reasons that ThompsonGas and many others around the country are turning to autogas.”
How it all Began
Terpstra began his fleet experiences when he joined a bodybuilder for the propane industry, Tri-State Tank, out of Kansas City. Later, he joined Custom Truck One Source to develop industry line equipment.
Tri-State and Custom Truck build propane bobtails and sell other propane-related equipment in the propane industry.
“I also have strong retail propane experience with several national propane companies in various roles. This experience developed my understanding of what the field operations guys need, with propane-related equipment, to get the job done safely and efficiently. That all has led to my natural progression to the fleet management role,” Terpstra said.
On top of that, when asked about his favorite part of the job, he added, “I love it when field guys call me after getting a new truck and tell me they love the truck. They relate how it benefits the branch and local drivers and service technicians. That is what makes my day!”
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