What options does a propane company have when it does not need a propane-fueled bobtail as large as 33,000 GVW with a 3200-gal. barrel? Several smaller, independent propane marketers are now using the new F-650 propane-fueled bobtails from Roush CleanTech (Livonia, Mich.) in their delivery fleets. Roush’s F-650 handles barrels up to 3000 gallons with a GVW up to 30,000 lb. For those that need the larger bobtail, Roush plans a September release of an F-750 propane-fueled bobtail with the higher GVW and that can handle the larger barrel.
“A lot of propane marketers run a 3000-gallon-or-smaller barrel on their bobtail, so [for them] the F-650 works just fine,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for Roush CleanTech.
Williamson LP Gas (Dayton, Texas) is a good example of a company that uses the bobtail delivery trucks with barrels smaller than 3200 gallons. It has been in business since 1953, and all of its propane delivery trucks have run on propane since its inception. Williamson has outfitted its Roush propane-fueled bobtail with a 2600-gal. barrel.
“We’ve always run propane, and we wanted to stay with propane because that’s what we sell,” said route manager and driver Richard Till. “We carry our fuel on the back of our trucks.”
Till, whose company has owned the Roush bobtail since October and had put about 2500 miles on it as of mid-December, stated that the bobtail “does everything we want it to do.”
The F-650 bobtail has been in the works at Roush for about two years. Although the company knew the vehicle was on the small side for what many of the larger propane companies wanted, it also realized that Ford would not offer a 33,000 lb GVW vehicle with a 6.8L, 3V engine until 2015. Recognizing the potential, Roush released its F-650 for the smaller bobtail market about a year ago. “In 2015, Ford will introduce the F-750 on gasoline with the gas prep package for propane, which we’ll then convert to propane, which will get us to that magical 33,000 GVWR number,” Mouw noted. The 6.8L 3V engine and commercial grade 6R transmission will power the F-650 and F-750.
The bobtails feature the same engine and transmission combination available in more than 4200 propane-fueled Bluebird school buses on the road today, which are rated at 33,000 GVWR. Mouw stated that because the engine and transmission combination is in many of the Ford commercial products, that large volume of production translates to significant price advantages for the Ford chassis over competitive class 6-7 chassis.
Roush has produced the bobtail with price in mind for cost-conscious propane marketers. At the vehicle’s launch date, the company offered two tank configurations. One features tanks on the passenger and driver’s side, with 45 total usable gallons, while the second includes dual tanks with 83 usable gallons. And recently, in response to customer requests, Roush added a third option with a single long tank on the driver’s side offering 50 usable gallons. The single-tank option provides an additional advantage for cost-conscious marketers. The price will be under $68,000 for the base chassis with the Roush CleanTech fuel system, which Mouw noted is at least $2000 less than a comparably equipped diesel chassis from one of Ford’s competitors in the Class 6-7 space.
Because some marketers might still be skeptical about purchasing a propane-fueled bobtail after the technological issues that occurred in the past, Roush has worked to alleviate those concerns. It invested more than $35 million to make its technology robust enough for the toughest duty cycles. The same engine/transmission combination worked well for school buses, so Roush is confident it will work well in the bobtail application. More than 375 Ford repair locations are capable of repairing the vehicles. Mouw believes the F-650 competes well with the 30,000 GVW option of the Freightliner S2G propane-fueled bobtail, and the F-750 will also compete well with the S2G’s 33,000 GVW version.
Williamson LP Gas has had a good experience with the Roush vehicle so far. “It’s got all the power you want,” Till stated. His company’s driving routes include many stop signs in heavy residential traffic, and the truck’s automatic transmission has worked well in those situations.
“With a standard transmission, a lot of times you can’t get across, and you’ve got to sit there and wait until you have enough time to get across and shift gears,” commented Till, who has been with the family-owned business since 1991. “But with the automatic transmission, you have the get up and go.” The company does not have an on-site fueling station, simply fueling the vehicle from the barrel when needed.
“We’ve mostly had Chevys. This is our first Ford,” remarked Till. “We haven’t had to do any mechanical work, but it seems to be easier to work on, with access and things like that. The Ford is a lot cheaper than the Freightliner. You have to look at economics and make sure the vehicle can do what you want it to do for you. It’s done everything so far. We’re pleased with the truck.”