State Transportation Departments Turning to Propane to Cut Costs

The state of Indiana is converting more than 500 of its transportation vehicles to run on clean-burning propane autogas - saving taxpayers more than $1 million a year. (image: acg.org)

As the federal government wrestles with the nation’s debt ceiling, state transportation departments are being urged to consider alternative fuels to reduce costs.

A report Sunday in govpro.com says DOTs are being hit by a double whammy of shrinking revenues and spiraling oil costs. The situation was forcing many to consider more innovative ways to power transport fleets in order to make savings.

“Many state departments of transportation are turning to technology and environmentally sensitive solutions to cut fuel consumption, improve efficiency and save money,” said John Horsley, executive director of the Washington-based American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

“State DOTs are facing some of the steepest revenue declines in decades. Without these innovative solutions, the impact on the condition and performance of our roads and bridges would be even greater.”

Switching transport fleets to run on propane autogas is a move many state departments are making to help cut costs while also looking out for the environment.

The report highlights the state of Indiana, which is converting 527 of its work trucks and vans to run on cleaner-burning domestic propane.

Propone is a byproduct of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. About 90 percent comes from domestic sources and propane generates up to 90 percent less carbon monoxide, ozone and hydrocarbon emissions than traditional vehicle fuels.

The Indiana Department of Transportation says the retrofitted vehicles have the same power and fuel economy as their gasoline and diesel-powered counterparts, but propane costs less than half as much per gallon as gasoline. INDOT estimates it will replace 500,000 gallons of unleaded gas with propane in the fiscal year beginning July 1, as the new vehicles and infrastructure to support them come online. That equates to taxpayer savings of more than $1 million.

“The investments we are making today will continue to pay dividends as the market prices for domestic propane are expected to be favorable compared to gasoline well into the future,” INDOT Chief Operations Officer Troy Woodruff said.

But it’s not just propane helping to save DOTs money while safeguarding the planet for future generations.

INDOT is also purchasing 19 new snowplow trucks that will run on compressed natural gas. And the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is testing a new solar-powered system that would power emergency lighting when engines were turned off.

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