In a press release dated February 15, the Missouri Propane Education and Research Council (MOPERC) invited the public to “Thank a propane delivery worker.”
With the continued cold weather blasting Missouri and much of the country, the organization explained, the state’s propane providers have been stepping up to ensure timely and safe deliveries to homes, farms and businesses.
“Missouri propane transport drivers, bobtail drivers and customer service staff have all been working long hours to help keep Missourians warm and safe,” said Steve Ahrens, president of MOPERC. “We know that this is the time of year when we must meet our customers’ needs, and I believe the response so far has been as timely and professional as possible.”
The industry got a boost recently when Govenor Mike Parson signed Executive Order 21-03. The action temporarily lifts a hard cap on allowable commercial vehicle driving hours which otherwise can bring deliveries to a standstill.
“A sudden increase in the demand for propane changes the dynamics of deliveries,” Ahrens said. “There is plenty of propane in the United States but some of the local supply points can get overwhelmed by a sudden increase in demand. That causes our transport drivers to travel greater distances for supply and then wait for hours to pick up a load when they arrive. We’ve heard of 12-hour lines at some locations. Even though the truck is parked, that wait time counts against the driving hours.”
Without the Hours-of-Service relief, that driver would not be able to return with the load, stranding the supply away from where it is needed, Ahrens said. “That poses two problems. First, fuel is not being delivered to those who need it, and second, you may have a loaded tanker sitting on the roadside when the driver reaches the limit on driving hours.”
Ahrens said that the temporary relaxing of the federal driving regulations is designed to address this exact challenge. “Gov. Parson’s action allows the driver to return to base safely to unload the cargo, thereby helping keep residents supplied and the roadway clear of idle trucks,” he said. “The temporary Hours of Service waiver is not intended to allow non-stop operation but is a sensible response that balances the safety of the motoring public with the safety of those who depend on our fuel.”
The governor’s response is especially important for the Show Me State, MOPERC reported. Almost 9% of Missouri homes use propane for heat and hot water, about twice the national average. Propane in residential use seems to be getting more popular, and Ahrens points to a growing awareness of the fuel’s cost and environmental benefits.
“On a Btu basis, propane is usually much less than electricity,” he said. “It is also an extremely low-carbon, low-emission fuel that will be beneficial as the nation looks for clean, dependable energy sources.” He cites a growing interest in propane-powered standby generators as an indication of a shift in homeowner preference. “People like having their fuel source on-site and not subject to downed power lines or curtailments.”
To avoid supply disruptions, Ahrens advised consumers, it’s important to communicate with your supplier and don’t wait until cold weather hits to have a supply plan. “You don’t want to be ordering propane when it gets cold and everyone else is making that same call,” he said. “Don’t let your tank get below 30% going into the winter. If you own your own tank and shop around for supply, understand that when it’s winter, not all companies are going to take on a new customer or will be able to do so as quickly as you’d like. To keep prices low, most propane companies use a routing system for deliveries and it may take several days or perhaps weeks to work you in.”
While he acknowledges there have been a few complaints, Ahrens believes that the industry’s response has been exceptional. “I invite Missouri residents to thank a propane worker when they see them out and about, or with a quick note of gratitude,” he said. “Our Missouri propane marketers and delivery personnel are a skilled and dedicated group, and right now they are working tirelessly to keep our neighbors safe and meet the current demand of residential heating fuel.”
“Just like other professionals who provide critical safety responses, our propane workers are intent on protecting our residents’ comfort and security when they depend on us most,’ Ahrens concluded. “The propane industry has always been a people industry, and we’re all working hard to take care of our customers. These people genuinely care about others and their well-being and it really shows, especially in times like these.”