warm thoughts

Recently Gray, Gray & Gray released a statement regarding its 2024 Annual Propane Industry Survey:

We are excited to announce that our 33rd annual Energy Industry Survey is now open! We are pleased to continue providing companies like yours with key benchmarking data for their present and future success.

This year’s more efficient survey experience should enable you to complete it in just 15-30 minutes, while still providing the important benefits of helping to establish the most up-to-date industry benchmarks and the standards by which company performance is measured. Plus, you’ll notice a greater focus on two important and timely topics – workforce development and key business concerns, such as electrification.

As always, YOUR thoughtful responses will help us to develop a “snapshot” of the retail oil and propane industry, assisting you with measuring the growth and development of your business.

This Year’s Survey In Partnership With:

ANGUS ENERGY – We have once again partnered with Angus Energy, a respected energy services firm. Data collected through this year’s survey will be augmented by financial and operational data developed by Angus Energy.

PROPANE EDUCATION & RESEARCH COUNCIL – Our continued partnership with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) will help supplement our survey findings and maximize benchmarking abilities to assist companies in planning for the future.

Please complete this year’s survey with information from your company’s

April 1, 2023 – March 31, 2024 results.

Submission Deadline: June 25, 2024

To go to the survey, click here.

By Alex Burns

New technology is taking hold of industries worldwide. It’s taking possibilities to new heights that many of us never imagined possible—and the propane industry is no exception to this phenomenon. Fortunately, new technological developments will allow your company to reach goals more efficiently than ever before. In this article, we’re diving into futuristic technology features that are available today to help your propane company stretch its boundaries and increase productivity beyond your wildest dreams.

What Can New Propane Technology Do?

1. Reduce the Industry’s Shocking Error Rate
Our datasets show that the propane industry averages an astounding 30% error rate in safety documentation—that means that potentially one-third of your paperwork wouldn’t protect your company in the event of a catastrophic incident. Propane being a high-risk, high-reward product means that we must do everything in our power to ensure our customers know how to use the product safely. New technology can identify and flag errors for correction or follow-up, meaning those mistakes are fixed immediately. The benefits of this feature may extend beyond initial impressions, including:

* Helping protect your customers, employees and company from propane-related danger.
* Identifying training opportunities and providing immediate feedback through technology’s error-detection capabilities.
* Saving money by reducing how often employees have to go back to the jobsite to fix issues. Technology’s insistence on getting the job done right the first time will increase productivity and save you billable hours, gasoline, and employee energy.

2. Provide Real-Time Feedback That Sticks
Once your field team and management see digital documentation software in practice, they’ll never want to go back. Being able to remotely review safety documentation right away is a huge time saver. Technicians in the field submit their safety inspections to your electronic database and your staff can easily review them whether in office or at home.

If your management team identifies errors, it can communicate that to the technician in the field right away. This helps technicians remedy the error quickly and serves as a training opportunity to prevent future errors or omissions.

Think about it—by the time you detect an error on a paper form, the technician may no longer remember the service call. This means the correction won’t be as effective, and you’ll likely have to repeat yourself more than once before the correction is accurately implemented in the tech’s future interactions. Plus, with team members completing documentation digitally, your managers have a readily available performance log for each employee.

3. Prove Your Compliance with NFPA 58 Requirements
The National Fire Protection Association Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code (NFPA 58) has set requirements for DOT cylinder and ASME tank placement in Chapter 6. These are critical to maintain safe use of propane for customers and reduce risk for your company.

We’ve all crossed paths with a DIY homeowner—you know, the one who installs a generator alongside the previously compliant container set your company placed just weeks before? Fortunately, technology has a solution to this problem. Photo documentation has come into play in recent years with metadata and time stamps that prove your tank set was in compliance when the picture was taken. Using a photo documentation process will make meeting container placement requirements easier and help your team improve operational efficiencies.

This is also a great tool to evaluate technician performance. Photos provide detailed, visual information for training purposes, helping you offer effective coaching immediately. Your insurance company will love your photo documentation, too. Having clear photo documentation that the container in question was compliant with NFPA 58 and other federal, state, and local requirements will help protect your company from liability in the event of litigation. The photo documentation process will also help you avoid unnecessary safety hazards, which protects your customers in the long run.

4. Report Unsafe Conditions
Let’s face it — our field teams don’t love paperwork. We’ve seen more than one situation where the driver doesn’t fill out an unsafe condition report because with manual processes, these reports can slip through the cracks. When your drivers and service technicians are out in the field, new technologies and photo documentation can help ensure noncompliant equipment is recorded, flagged for priority follow-up and corrected to help eliminate issues and risks for your company.

Drivers with tablets or smartphones can use mobile services to take photos and report these unsafe conditions in real time, notifying your office digitally so that you can address and resolve the issue quickly and have documentation of the initial report in the event of litigation. Plus, taking a quick photo of a noncompliant system is much easier than filling out a report after the fact, which means team members in the field are more likely to do it consistently.

5. Streamline Customer Agreements
Customer agreements are critical documents recommended by legal experts for both leased and owned propane storage containers. New technology is changing the way propane marketers complete and document their agreements with features such as:

* Professional, customer-facing forms
* Electronic signatures and damage-proof cloud storage
* Updated document accessible to sales, techs, and office staff in one place
* Mitigation of liability from DIY customers

Adopting Mobile Technology

If you haven’t already adopted mobile technology in your safety documentation program, now is the right time to make the switch. Mobile forms can provide intuitive prompts and form fields to eliminate factors like illegible handwriting or incomplete documentation, opening doors to greater accuracy and complete documentation that will protect you in case of liability.

Mobile forms are also a significant time saver for drivers and technicians in the field, as well as back-office management teams and supervisors. After a mobile form is complete, a copy can be sent to and stored in an electronic database where managers and office personnel can easily access it and generate management reports. It’s a game changer for driver efficiency, documentation accuracy, and overall risk reduction for your company.

What If You Stick with Paper Forms?

The drawbacks of paper forms abound, which many companies still use to document safety information and track important follow-ups. It’s already been said, but it’s worth saying again: It’s likely that as much as 30% of your documentation will have errors. Illegible handwriting will get in the way or follow-ups will not be maintained with the diligence they deserve.

New advancements in digital forms and online documentation software have become the standard in our industry, and tools like photo documentation are something more and more marketers are implementing to reduce risk, increase efficiencies, and help maintain container placement code requirements.

Alex Burns is the vice president of the P3 Mobile & P3 Compliance System division of P3 Propane Safety. You can reach Burns at alex_burns@p3propanesafety.com or p3propane.com.

How do we meet the escalating global energy demands while curbing carbon emissions? Tucker Perkins, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), is an advocate for cleaner energy solutions to combat environmental challenges, and in this episode, he shares the role of propane in achieving zero emissions. Emphasizing propane’s versatility and efficiency in various sectors, Tucker sheds light on its potential as a cleaner alternative to traditional fuels.

Listen in as Tucker describes what goes into propane production, its environmental benefits, and its seamless integration into existing energy infrastructures. He challenges conventional perceptions, urging listeners to rethink propane’s role in the broader energy landscape. You will come away with a deeper understanding of propane’s potential to drive decarbonization and propel us toward a sustainable future.

To listen to the podcast, click below.

What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode:
* How Tucker became so passionate about the propane and energy industry.
* The different use cases for propane today.
* How people should think about propane in the energy transition.
* The advantages of using propane.
* How propane is produced.
* If there is enough supply for businesses.

What Tucker is most excited about in the space.
Ideas Worth Sharing:
“Propane is clearly a part of the energy transition going forward. We are in an energy transformation.” – Tucker Perkins
“Propane is cleaner to store, cleaner to burn, and we can do it simpler.” – Tucker Perkins
“We don’t ever want to fear failure. We want to be on the edge of innovation, so failure is clearly an option. And when we do fail, we want to fail fast.” – Tucker Perkins

EDP STRENGTHENS ITS PRESENCE IN THE CINCINNATI MARKET

TERRAVEST INDUSTRIES INTRODUCES NEW WEBSITE

From the National Propane Gas Association Bobtail

We look forward to seeing you at NPGA’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo™! Not registered yet? Register today before rates change on April 2 at 7 pm ET!

This information will help you make the most of your time in the Queen City:

Complimentary shuttle service is provided between the Charlotte Convention Center (CCC) and select hotels that are beyond easy walking distance. For more information about hours and locations, click here.

Save time upon arrival at the Convention Center and use the NEW self-badge printing station. Enter your info and off you go! As always, you may also go to one of the staffed desk stations to check in and receive your badge. Remember, you must wear your badge at all times!

Grab quick bites right in the Convention Center food court. Options include Starbucks, Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits, Buon Cibo and Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Connect with the exhibitors of interest to you by using the interactive show floor map to plot your course!
Download the official Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo™ app to access search and planning tools for the upcoming event.

We’re excited to be in Charlotte for the first time and hope you make time to explore the city before or after Expo. With the NASCAR Hall of Fame, baseball, and family-friendly museums, there’s truly something for everybody!

SEE YOU IN CHARLOTTE!

Last week, NPGA President & CEO Steve Kaminski shared on LinkedIn good news for the propane industry:

“Massive energy-choice victory on the codes front!

The International Code Council Board decided to move the contested electric-ready provisions–related to energy use in commercial and residential buildings–from the main body of the 2024 International Energy Conservation Code to non-mandatory appendices or to be listed as “resource material.” This effectively alters the status of these provisions from being required for compliance with the IECC to optional.”

Read NPGA’s summary of the process, NPGA’s role, and the decision here.

The Propane Education & Research Council’s 2024 class of Leadership in Energy Ambassadors (LEA) met in Charleston March 26-27 to network and gain skills for communicating propane’s message in their communities. The 2024 group consists of 32 ambassadors who join the 44 ambassadors from the inaugural 2023 class.

The LEA program was originally created for the ambassadors group selected through PERC. It is now available on The Learning Center to anyone who would like to learn more about how propane plays a role in the environmental conversation and be able to confidently and accurately explain propane’s benefits to enhance the awareness of our energy in your community.

The courses are a combination of propane and the environment, strategic partnership courses on various soft skills that will help you be a trusted advisor to allied partners in your community, and a checklist for your business strategy.

Ambassadors were invited to arrive a day early to visit a Southern Living Idea Home being built in Keiwah Island just south of Charleston. PERC is a sponsor of this home and it will have many propane appliances and features as the public begins to tour the home in August.

“Thrilled, honored and proud to have spent the first part of this week with some of the best minds in the energy business in Charleston, SC,” wrote Nathan McShinsky of Eastern Propane & Oil on LinkedIn. “And now the fun begins! Engage in conversation. Engage in learning. Engage in listening. Engage in the challenge. Ask for more! Repeat!” McShinsky thank PERC staff leaders who organized the meeting and said, “Speaking on behalf of the group, your Propane Education & Research Council Leadership in Energy Ambassadors are ready!

Publishers note: “I was pleased to be one of the 2024 Propane Ambassadors. I plan to use the information shared to better present the latest news of the national and world energy conversation. The many ways technology is being harnessed to cut carbon emissions from multiple energy sources is amazing and propane’s carbon footprint was already low. We have an ever-evolving story to tell and as some of the challenges of the electric grid, electric vehicles and batteries take place, I think we will have a greater number of people willing to listen to and be a part of our story. I am committed to having Trending in Propane be one of many sources of good information that can help you as readers participate in the energy conversation.”

Pat Thornton
Publisher, Trending in Propane

EDP EXPANDS INTO MAINE AND NEW HAMPSHIRE

PPATEC MARCH 2024 PROGRAM GRADUATES ENTER PENNSYLVANIA WORKFORCE

TERRAVEST INDUSTRIES INTRODUCES NEW WEBSITE

OPW ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF OPW CLEAN ENERGY SOLUTIONS WEBSITE

Teeco Products has released a statement announcing the death of owner Hank Weeks:

“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of the owner of Teeco Products, Hank Weeks. Hanks’s courageous battle against cancer ended last week, but his legacy of leadership, dedication and vision will forever inspire us. Hank’s unwavering positivity, relentless drive, and grit to propel Teeco to excellence will be dearly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

Hank’s absence leaves a void that will be deeply felt, as we mourn the loss of a friend, an expert, and his genuine passion for the propane industry. His generosity and unselfishness were instrumental in directing and inspiring our team. His legacy will continue to drive us as we carry on alongside the rest of the Weeks Family.”

By John Horner

Imagine a DOT auditor knocks at the front door of your propane operation and asks to see a copy of your DOT security plan. What’s your next move? If your answer is anything other than heading into your office to retrieve a copy of your manual, read this article. I’m going to outline the top three reasons you need a DOT security plan.

1: It’s Required by the Department of Transportation
The first and arguably most pressing reason you need a DOT security plan is that the Department of Transportation Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR 172.802) requires all propane marketers that transport HAZMAT in vehicles with a water capacity greater than 792 gallons have a written security plan. A DOT Security Plan is critical in evaluating security risks, preventing unauthorized access, and ensuring that your employees are properly trained to take action in the event of a security breach.

2: It Protects the Public
Having a security manual and regularly training your employees on its use can be the difference between life and death. After all, unauthorized operation of a propane bobtail is a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t let your company’s unsecured bobtail be the reason for someone’s loss of life if an untrained driver were to get behind the wheel in a situation involving truck theft or malicious intent.

3: It Protects Your Employees & Company
Do you want your company’s name in the news if bobtail theft and a catastrophic incident were to occur? If the answer is no, it’s time to be more diligent about security. Keep reading to learn more about what should be included in your DOT Security Plan and how frequently to train your employees on its stipulations and use.

How to Get a DOT Security Plan

In my career, I have found that the vast majority of propane marketers who don’t have a written DOT Security Plan fall into one of two categories:

1. They aren’t sure where to start
2. They don’t have the time to research and compile one

P3 safety articleFortunately, this is a road you don’t have to walk alone! There are propane safety and compliance providers out there who can provide you with a complete, customized DOT Security Manual and training guide to stay in compliance with federal requirements. Get in touch with a propane safety provider you trust and request a DOT Security Plan. They’ll work with you to develop one that fits your needs and keeps you in compliance with DOT requirements.

DOT Security Plan Training Requirements

DOT HAZMAT training is required initially within 90 days of employment and every 36 months after that. Every employee should be trained to know their responsibilities under the security plan, which include line items such as awareness training, security duties, not discussing routes with others, important background checks when hiring, whom to alert if there is an issue, and requesting identification when an unknown person enters the bobtail refilling location.

Reminder: Document the who, what, when, and where of all training. If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen!

Recurring DOT Security Plan Review

DOT Security Plans aren’t a “set it and forget it” type of manual. Written DOT security plans must be reviewed at least annually and revised and/or updated as necessary to reflect changing circumstances. If you aren’t sure what to review and update, get in touch with the expert who provided your manual in the first place. They’ll know what to look for and update year after year. Safety experts can also assess your plan to identify any areas that might be missing or incomplete and conduct required security plan training with your employees.

Time to Get Started

If “DOT Security Plan” is not a written document stored on your propane operation’s shelves, you’ll want to get your hands on one as soon as possible. It’s a required document for your company and helps keep your customers, employees, and company protected. Your DOT security plan will promote a safe work environment, help you avoid costly fines, and protect your company from risk and litigation.

About the Author: John Horner is the senior director of safety and training at P3 Propane Safety. He has more than 13 years of industry experience providing DOT and other safety and compliance training. You can reach John at john_horner@bostonenv.com or P3Propane.com.

From the National Propane Gas Association Bobtail

In most states, you must be 21 years old to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) for intrastate commerce – operating solely within the boundaries of a single state. This has long put the propane industry at a competitive disadvantage, as other industries that require a CDL – but not an HME – are able to engage with and hire workers ages 18-20. By the time these workers turn 21, they are already professionally invested in another industry.

Recently, both Indiana and Wyoming passed bills that will allow CDL holders, ages 18-20, to apply for and obtain an HME for intrastate commerce. Again, only operating within the confines of one state. This will greatly expand the applicant pool for drivers of bobtails, transports, and cylinder trucks. Importantly, it will allow propane companies in these states to engage younger workers before they are hired by a competing CDL interest. As the propane industry continues to confront an aging workforce, these types of state initiatives are invaluable.

Both the Indiana Propane Gas Association, led by State Executive Matt Solak, and the Rocky Mountain Propane Gas Association, led by State Executive Tom Clark, were engaged on these efforts in their respective states.

For more information, contact NPGA’s Director of State Affairs, Jacob Peterson, at jpeterson@npga.org.

From the National Propane Gas Association Bobtail

Earlier this month, a Federal District court judge ruled that the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), which became law on January 1, 2021, was unconstitutional. The Act mandates that over 32 million small businesses hand over sensitive, private data to the Federal government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a branch of the Department of the Treasury. Failure to comply with the law would have saddled these businesses with significant legal headaches and potential criminal penalties. However, this ruling only narrowly applies to the plaintiffs in this case, the National Small Business Association (and the 65,000 businesses they represent), leaving tens of millions of businesses still subject to these reporting requirements.

This week, NPGA joined a coalition of 125 organizations that sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging the passage of legislation that would delay the implementation of the CTA for one year. This past December, the House passed a companion bill with an overwhelming margin of 420-1. A one-year delay of CTA’s filing deadline would allow the court process to progress through the Appellate and Supreme Court and provide FinCEN and the business community more time to educate small business owners regarding these reporting requirements.

For more information, contact Rhett Johnson, NPGA’s Senior Manager of Legislative Affairs at rjohnson@npga.org.

From the National Propane Gas Association Bobtail

On March 15, 2024, new statewide buildings codes for residential and commercial structures went into effect in Washington State. The new codes, which were revised last year following the Ninth Circuit’s holding in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, will greatly incentivize the installation of electric heats instead of thermal fuels, such as propane or natural gas. The State Building Code Council’s (SBCC) new codes will award vastly more energy efficiency credits – a certain number of credits are required to obtain necessary building permits – for the installation of electric heat pumps, as opposed to appliances powered by conventional thermal sources. These new codes will severely distort decision-making, to propane’s detriment, by builders and homebuyers.

Although these news codes are currently being enforced, both the National Propane Gas Association and the Pacific Propane Gas Association are supporting lawsuits in federal and state courts to challenge SBCC’s harmful actions and ensure propane has a fair opportunity to compete in the marketplace.

As of the 2022 sales report from PERC, the industry sold 207 million gallons of propane in Washington State, making it the 16th largest state market in the country.

For more information, contact NPGA’s Director of State Affairs, Jacob Peterson, at jpeterson@npga.org.

Chris Caywood discusses environmental messaging strategy with Pat Thornton.