Propane Autogas-Powered 2016 Ford F-150 to Boost Fleet Sustainability Efforts

CleanFUEL USA®, global manufacturer of certified and approved alternative fuel equipment for propane autogas technology, announced recently its agreement with Westport Innovations Inc. to serve as a supplier for the Westport WiNG™ 2016 Ford 5.0L F-150 propane truck. The propane-fueled F-150 with the Westport WiNG Power System will be featured at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo on November 18-19, 2015, in Washington, D.C., in the Propane Education and Research Council’s booth #3413.
Westport FordF150propane

The Westport WiNG™ Power System will employ the CleanFUEL USA Liquid Propane Injection (LPI®) technology. Westport’s F-150 with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or propane, offers Ford QCM/QVM warranty protection with expected EPA and CARB certifications.

“CleanFUEL USA and Westport are both providing high quality, alternative fuel-powered fleet vehicles with lower emissions and vast economic benefits,” said Curtis Donaldson, founder and president at CleanFUEL USA. “The Westport WiNG Power System propane offering demonstrates that, and we look forward to expanding our relationship with future opportunities.”

The F-150 includes Ford’s new propane gaseous-prep package, now available on model year 2016 vehicles. The truck is equipped with a 5.0 liter engine and new body with high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy, reducing the weight of the truck by as much as 700 lbs. The fuel packages include a standard 23 gallon underbody tank, an extended 39 gallon underbody tank or an in-bed 60 gallon tank. Westport is a Ford QVM; the F-150 LPG-certified truck with the Westport WiNG Power System is supported by the Ford OEM warranty, and is now available to order.

“With the 2016 Ford F-150, Westport is delivering a variety of alternative fuel solutions for fleets,” said Paul Shaffer, vice president and managing director of Westport’s Dallas operations. “In addition to the dedicated LPI technology, Westport offers a compressed natural gas option to support sustainability for corporations, municipalities and organizations using the popular utility vehicle. We are pleased to team with CleanFUEL USA in bringing this high-performing and environmentally-friendly propane truck to market.”

Como Oil & Propane Acquired by ThompsonGas

Duluth-based Como Oil & Propane has been purchased by ThompsonGas, headquartered in Frederick, Md. In an announcement issued Wednesday, Como's branch manager, Joel Berg, said: "This acquisition significantly strengthens Como's position as the area's leading fuel provider."
Como Propane Logo ThompsonGas

"While Como has always been a strong, reliable fuel provider, ThompsonGas offers us a national footprint, greater buying power and access to cutting-edge technology. Having this kind of competitive advantage, gives our 120 local employees a lot to be excited about," he said.

The deal will expand ThompsonGas' national reach to include markets in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The company now serves more than 87,000 customers in 14 states.
Como's new ownership said it has no plans to make any staff reductions due to economies of scale related to the acquisition.

"We like the business, we like the employees and most importantly, we like the customer base. In fact, we plan to fly the same logo with one slight modification: Como Oil & Propane (and then in smaller print, A Thompson Gas Company)," said George Koloroutis, ThompsonGas' executive vice president and chief operating officer in an email exchange Wednesday.

"ThompsonGas and Como share many important values and approaches to the heating business," said Koloroutis in a written statement. "Most importantly, both companies believe our customers are our most valuable resource."

Como is just shy of 70 years old. The company was formerly owned by Interstate Energy LLC, a division of East Central Energy.
Financial details of the transaction have not been made public.

Source: Duluth News Tribune

Maryland Gets First Propane School Bus in 
Anne Arundel County

Anne Arundel County students boarded the first school bus fueled by propane autogas in the state of Maryland. The Blue Bird Vision Propane bus, from contractor Jubb’s Bus Service, Inc., went into operation for the 2015-16 school year. The transportation contractor has taken the first step toward reducing emissions and cutting costs by upgrading to a clean-burning, economical propane school bus.
Jubbs Maryland Blue Bird ROUSH Propane School Bus

“With the rising costs of diesel maintenance and our interest in incorporating green technologies, it was time to explore our options,” said Randall Jubb, president of Jubb’s Bus Service, Inc. “We are the first contractor in Maryland to offer a school bus fueled by emissions-reducing propane autogas to an area school district — and we have plans to transition 20 percent of our fleet to autogas in the future.”

The new Blue Bird Type C bus, equipped with a Ford 6.8L V10 engine, replaces an older diesel bus. A propane autogas fuel system manufactured by ROUSH CleanTech powers the bus. Historically, propane autogas costs about 50 percent less than diesel per gallon and reduces maintenance costs due to its clean-operating properties. Currently, Jubb’s Bus Service, Inc., pays almost 45 percent less for propane autogas compared with diesel.

Sharp Energy installed an onsite autogas fuel station with 1,000-gallon capacity. The infrastructure can expand to 4,000 gallons as the need arises.
“We are proud to partner with a forward-thinking company like Jubb’s Bus Service, Inc.,” said Brian Carney, group account director for ROUSH CleanTech. “They’re joining over 500 other school districts nationwide experiencing the benefits of propane autogas technology: lowering operating costs, maintenance costs and emissions.”

The propane autogas bus will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by over 1,200 pounds and more than 30 pounds of particulate matter each year compared with the diesel bus it is replacing. Propane autogas also reduces hydrocarbon emissions and virtually eliminates particulate matter, when compared with conventionally fueled school buses.

“Blue Bird provides school bus contractors with innovative and cost-effective green transportation solutions for its school district customers,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “Through its research, Jubb’s Bus Service, Inc., decided that Blue Bird’s Vision Propane bus is the best choice for reducing fuel and maintenance costs while providing cleaner air for the community.”

World LPG Association (WLPGA) Welcomes New President Yağiz Eyüboğlu

The WLPGA welcomed new president, Mr. Yagiz Eyuboglu, who shared his vision for the WLPGA in an exclusive interview with the WLPGA.
Yagiz Eyuboglu New WLPGA President

Some of the priorities Eyuboglu has identifed for WLPGA in the coming years include becoming a more unified voice for the global LPG industry by bringing together the 200+ private and public companies in more than 125 countries to champion the LPG industry and broaden its impact worldwide, continuing to develop partnerships with international organizations, strengthening WLPGA membership, furthering the development of LPG markets, implementing projects on a local and global scale, and continuing to promote standards, compliance and good business and safety practices, critical for sustainable growth, noted Eyuboglu.

"Although LPG is the most viable alternative energy solution, in most parts of the world it still has not received full credit and has not been given special importance in world energy policies. In this respect, and with the help of our excellent WLPGA management team, I will work to strengthen LPG’s recognition and lead a combined effort to assist the LPG industry’s sustainable development in compliance with good business and safety practices," said Eyuboglu.

The new WLPGA president noted that key challenges facing the industry include the sustainable development of the LPG industry and strengthening the perception of LPG around the globe. Eyuboglu stated that LPG is one of the most viable alternative energy solutions for addressing climate change issues and improving household living standards.

Eyuboglu believes increasing public awareness regarding environmental issues is one of the greatest opportunities for the LPG industry. "We should take this chance to strengthen LPG’s status as a viable clean energy solution and further emphasize the health and safety benefits of using LPG in households and Autogas," added Eyuboglu.

Additional opportunities identified by Eyuboglu to focus on include the booming demand in the petro-chemical industry, increasing penetration of Autogas and continuing the success of the Cooking For Life Campaign.

Through the Cooking For Life campaign, WLPGA will work to transition the one billion people worldwide still using charcoal, wood and other fuels for cooking to cleaner burning propane.

The 29th World LPG Forum & 2016 AEGPL Congress will take place in Istanbul in September 2016. Eyuboglu looks forward to this platform to exchange ideas, share experiences, debate common issues, and learn from each other’s good business practices.

5 Top Questions & Answers About Cash-Flow Management

By Diane Schumm . . . The year to date has shown a considerable change in the economy, with tempered but hopeful optimism for the remaining months of 2015. It’s important for propane marketers to adapt to these conditions in dealing with their customer base. Knowing what may be affecting business positively and negatively makes everyone better prepared to maintain relationships while retaining consistent cash flow.
Cash Flow

The propane industry emerged from what proved to be an aggressive winter, but with fewer supply and demand issues than 2013-2014. As with last year, the summer months have brought with them less urgency for customers to stay current with their bills, and a struggle for marketers to recapture those slow-pay accounts.

Looking ahead, the economic forecast is balancing out. With slow but steady growth in most industry sectors, customer need will likely continue to stabilize. However, we are still experiencing the consequences of their delinquent “survival” spending habits from last year.

As a business owner, knowing these emerging trends in customer behavior is key to responding proactively and professionally. You may not be able to control economic events that affect your business, but you can take steps to minimize delinquencies, optimize cash flow, and improve customer relations. Here are answers to top questions about how to bounce back in the months ahead:

1.  How can I increase positive cash flow?
Your cash reserves continue to be low due to residual effects from the past year and the efforts to stabilize moving forward. Many customers are now accustomed to paying late (if at all), so you’ve had less cash coming in. How can you generate more positive cash flow and maintain it for the long term?

Much depends on your internal collection efforts. Do you focus on the accounts that are 30 to 60 days past due, or the ones 90 to 120 days (and more) past due? Age is the greatest deteriorating factor in the collectability of a debt. So if you’re putting your internal energy and dollars into pursuing accounts over 90 days, the 30-to-60-day slow-pays are becoming less collectable by the moment. And you’re in a vicious cycle. The key is pro-activity:

• Call slow-pays immediately after due date. Reopen the lines of communication to remind customers of their obligation. Identify any service issues and resolve billing disputes.

• Make payment arrangements. Process full payment over the phone or set up a payment plan. If you don’t try to get partial payment, those dollars may not be available next month.

• Call habitually slow-paying customers first. You already know it’s not a service issue — they’re just slow to pay. Keep on top of these accounts.

• Review aging reports weekly. Make sure you know exactly where accounts are falling in the delinquency cycle so that you can prioritize your internal efforts.

2. How can I get customers to pay on time?
The load-to-load mentality has developed over many years. Historically, propane marketers allowed nonpayment until customers needed their next tank of fuel. At one time, they could still realize a decent profit within this loose payment structure — but not in today’s economy.

There is no payment flexibility when it comes to customers’ electric, phone, cable, and other utility bills. So they’ve learned to prioritize and pay those on time. The goal is to change the load-to-load mentality and help customers view their fuel bill as a utility bill. You can’t force timely payment, but you can encourage a change in payment behavior:

• Send invoices on time. Timely submission lets customers know that you expect the same.

• Identify credit terms. Your invoice should be accurate and easy to read, and it should prominently state your credit terms so there’s no room for confusion.

• Create a sense of urgency. Clearly state the due date in no uncertain terms. The phrase “Due Oct. 30, 2015” is far more impactful than “Payable in 30 days.”

• Emphasize benefits of prompt payment. Remind customers that timeliness is the key to maintaining a good credit rating and avoiding a credit hold.

3.  How do I retain customers and sustain those relationships?
Customers who developed slow/no pay buying habits in 2013/2014 have a choice for the months ahead: Do I pay my outstanding bill plus the cost of another tank of fuel, or do I go elsewhere and just pay for my new supply?

That load-to-load mentality leads to attrition. So does the strain placed on relationships with customers who were once in good standing but had difficulties during the 2013-2014 winter. At the same time, your competitor’s loss for these reasons could become your gain. And while new customers seem like a blessing, if they’re the result of attrition elsewhere, they could actually be a liability. The best course of action is customer education and communication:

• Maximize sales opportunities while minimizing risks. Pull credit reports on new customers. Determine to whom you’ll extend credit and how much (for example, limited credit based on their credit report, collect on delivery, or full credit).

• Revamp your credit policy and procedures. Make sure your policies aid timely payment and customer retention. For example, if you place a debtor on COD once he finally pays, you’re encouraging him to go to a competitor who will sell him fuel on credit. The most effective strategy is to educate customers about paying on time — not chase them to the competition.

• Say thank you to customers for their business. Create an incentive for early orders or payment. Request feedback and respond.

4.  How do I reduce the burden on my internal staff?
As you take steps to correct your slow-pay and dead accounts, you may continue to face challenges for your overworked staff members. The goal is not to increase their workload, but to create efficiencies that ensure maximum value for their efforts:

• Maintain good customer data. Pull credit reports and get contact information from every new customer so you don’t waste time chasing it down when you need it. And be sure to update your database with new addresses, phone numbers, or names on the account.

• Maintain good account data. When you contact a customer, you need to know more than just how much he owes; you need his payment record, history of broken promises, and so on. You’ll save an exponential amount of time when data is up to date and readily available.

• Make phone calls count. Call on different days of the week. Try evenings and weekends when contact is most likely. Use a cell phone or block your company’s number to avoid screening.

• Get a commitment. If you can’t secure full payment, set up payment terms and get the debtor’s commitment that he will follow through. Specify each due date and payment amount, and enter all details into your system. Make one call that gets results to avoid making multiple, time-consuming, ineffective ones.

5.  How do I support my internal efforts with a third party?
The key to effective cash flow management is early intervention. The earlier in the delinquency cycle you forward an account to a reputable third party, the higher the recovery results. And you’ll free up more of your staff members’ time to do what they do best — service your customers. When choosing a third party, some key considerations include whether it:

• Specializes in the propane industry. The company is familiar with your unique challenges and knows how to communicate with your customers. Ask about references and endorsements.

• Focuses on customer retention. You’ve taken steps to ensure positive communication while trying to return accounts to good standing. Your third-party resource should do the same.

• Works on a fixed-fee basis. Some firms can charge 33% to 50% contingent fees, which makes early placement cost-prohibitive and any recoveries nominal.

• Offers comprehensive services. Does the company perform courtesy calls, first-party billing, and third-party collections? The more your partner can do on your behalf, the less the burden on your internal staff.

• Guarantees results. Most business owners wait to engage a third party to avoid throwing good money after bad. If you work with a fixed-fee based service that guarantees results, you can get a substantial return on your investment.

In summary, use your new-found knowledge of trending customer behavior to initiate new policies and strategies to improve your company’s bottom line. Be proactive — evaluate your current delinquent accounts, internal procedures, and past collection success rate. Put a plan of action in place immediately not only to recoup lost dollars, but also to prevent future losses.

Your entire organization needs to view credit and collections as a top priority in enhancing business operations, optimally servicing customers, and increasing profit margins for the remaining months of 2015.

Diane Schumm is vice president of corporate services for TekCollect Inc. Contact her at (888) 292-3530.