A new alt fuel trend in parcel delivery

Todd Mouw Roush CleanTech renewable propane Headshot

You may remember that in 2021, the U.S. Postal Service re-committed to “continuously advancing our sustainability goals and environmentally focused solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy, fuel, and waste.”

Because USPS has the gargantuan responsibility of delivering mail to 163 million addresses each week, it relies on third-party contractors to help get the job done, especially in hard-to-reach regions. What does USPS’s new sustainability plan mean for those thousands of contractors? Well, it means that if they want to continue working with the largest mail carrier in the U.S., they need to start thinking about how sustainable their own fleets are.

Many USPS contractors are building sustainable fleets by adopting vehicles powered by propane autogas — an affordable, non-carcinogenic, domestically produced, readily abundant fuel that is dramatically cleaner than diesel or gasoline. According to the World LP Gas Association, vehicles fueled by propane autogas emit 96% less NOx than diesel and 68% less than gasoline.

Some trends are hard to get on board with, but propane parcel delivery vehicles have staying power. Here are stories from USPS contractors that have adopted propane autogas to explain why.

McAbee Trucking

Following the USPS’s vision of working toward sustainability, Lisa McAbee, owner of McAbee Trucking in South Carolina, began researching emission-reducing vehicles and loved what propane had to offer. Each of McAbee Trucking’s 26 propane trucks travels 8,000 miles per month and has greatly benefited the company.

“Propane is very favorable for us economically,” McAbee said in 2021. The propane vehicles performed well in 2020, helping McAbee Trucking deliver 40 to 50% more packages during the pandemic while keeping fuel and maintenance costs low. With the money saved overall due to propane’s efficiency, the company has upgraded its facilities, vehicles and parking lots.

Hi Pro, Inc.

In 2022, Hi Pro, Inc. became the first U.S. Postal Service contractor in Colorado to integrate propane vehicles into its fleet. Each of Hi Pro’s new trucks have engines that are certified to the optional ultra-low NOx CARB 0.02g standard, operating 90 percent cleaner in NOx than the EPA's strictest heavy-duty standards.

Hi Pro has had so much success with the clean fuel initiative that it is now working to move its entire contract from diesel to propane. With the first wave of propane trucks, Hi Pro will reduce its CO2 emissions by 20% and reduce fuel costs by 50%. “The cost of propane autogas is a fraction of what I would be paying for diesel,” says Joshua Stoneback, CEO of Hi Pro, Inc. “And to top it off, the fleet is reducing emissions at the same time.”

DDA Transport

DDA Transport in New Hampshire recently added propane vehicles to their fleet.

“​​As a supplier to the US Postal Service, we are continually striving to find ways to protect the environment,” said Dwayne Andreasen, president of DDA Transport. “Our fuel consumption is our biggest environmental concern, so the ability to lower this impact through propane helps us achieve our short- and long-term goals.”

DDA Transport’s delivery trucks travel up to 90,000 miles per year. The company’s drivers love the smooth ride, quieter operation and ability to warm up quickly. “Operating in New England, we are looking forward to our propane trucks running in the cold without fuel gel issues,” said Andreasen. The company’s goal is to achieve a 50/50 mix between diesel and propane autogas within the next few years.

Nicholas Trucking

Nicholas Trucking Co., Inc., an 80-year-old family-owned business in Pennsylvania, added three Ford F-750 propane trucks in 2023, with plans to purchase five more in 2024. Nicholas Trucking is currently saving more than 53% on fuel costs and will get additional savings through the federal alternative tax credit.

Propane makes sense

I believe that propane will play a significant role in the transformation of commercial trucks, including parcel delivery contractors.

“Propane autogas is a viable solution to provide contractors with the low-emissions energy they need to best service their communities right now,” said Jennifer Beiro-Réveillé of USPS at an event celebrating Hi-Pro’s use of propane autogas.

Greg Reed, executive director for the National Star Route Mail Contractors Association, believes that propane is a great option for parcel delivery. “If there is anything that should move with a reliable, domestic source of energy, it is the mail,” said Reed. “The postal service is urging more contractors to use this technology.”

For those who are curious about the viability of propane and its potential contribution to America’s sustainability goals, I’ve answered the most common questions here.

Todd Mouw is executive vice president of sales and marketing at Roush CleanTech and former president of the NTEA Green Truck Association.