When looking to save every penny possible, it is common for people to wonder if they should buy and refill their own forklift propane tanks or if they should use a propane exchange tank program. We will cover some considerations to help you decide what would be best option for you.
Considerations for Buying or Exchanging Forklift Propane Tanks
- How Often Will You Need to Refill Your Tanks?
The biggest factor affecting your overall cost (and therefore which will be cheaper) will be how much propane you will use during an average year. Propane can be less expensive if supplied in bulk and you load your own tanks, but you need to use enough propane to get significant savings. By the time you figure the cost of the tank, the cost for an employee to refill tanks, the cost of storage cages, etc. it may actually be less expensive to use an exchange program.
Propane tanks now have an expiration date on them. When figuring in the cost of the tanks, know that they will need to be replaced on a regular basis. With forklift propane cylinders running as high as $250 each, that cost adds up (yes, we can get you tanks at a great price if you would like to buy your own forklift propane tanks).
On another note, if you use propane to heat your business, it may not be advisable to just take propane out of the same tank. The concern is propane for heating and propane for motor vehicles may be treated differently under the tax codes in your state, even though it is the same propane.
Like in many states, Wisconsin has a specific fuel tax for propane used in vehicles. Check with your tax lawyer and your local propane supplier to know what is the best way to handle your propane use when you use propane for both heating and forklifts if you fill your own forklift propane cylinders.
We are happy to serve our customers whether they fill their forklift propane tanks or we fill their forklift propane tanks, but honestly, most people do not use enough propane to make filling their own tanks worth their while.
- Who Will Refill Your Tanks?
When you use a forklift propane exchange tank program, you are transferring risk to your propane company. We will fill your propane tanks at our facilities and not yours, so we can ensure safety. We also have regular training programs to ensure our team knows how to both fill a tank safely as well as inspect a tank each and every single time.
If you fill your own tanks, you will need to plan for regular training of employees qualified to refill tanks and you will need enough people trained so that you can ensure there will always be someone available to refill the propane tanks.
If you have only one or two people trained to safely refill a tank, what happens when they are not available? Make sure you have a plan for coverage.
If you only maintain a few tanks, you are likely only filling a few tanks at a time. If you only maintain a few propane tanks, how much time is eaten up just gathering tanks, setting up, inspecting tanks, filling tanks, putting all the equipment back, and putting the tanks away. You can easily end up finding you are adding several dollars to every tank refill with the labor spent refilling tanks.
- How Will You Ensure Spare Tanks Are Ready to Use?
How are you going to make sure the tanks are filled when they need to be filled?
Well organized companies have set schedules for all their maintenance needs and keeping to those schedules, they keep all of the equipment going, including their propane fueled fork trucks. If you do not have a well-oiled routine for your team members, you may find out no one filled the propane until there is a dead forklift in the middle of the aisle waiting to have its tank swapped out with nothing but empty tanks waiting in the storage cabinet.
Many people have tried “I will fill it when most of the spare tanks are empty” route only to find the tanks have been forgotten about again. Then there is a mad scramble to fill tanks in order to get fork trucks running again. If your team has a hard time with maintenance or similar schedules, filling your own tanks is likely not a good fit.
- Do You Have a Safe Place for a Bulk Storage Tank?
Sometimes filling your own tanks is not even an option because there is no safe place to put your bulk tank. Whether your property has limited space or there is no safe place to put it because of specific dangers, your ability to place a bulk tank may be limited or even nonexistent.
- How Often Can Tanks Be Exchanged in an Exchange Program?
One aspect to take into consideration is how often your tanks can be refilled on an exchange program. If you use a lot of propane for your forklifts, but you are only on a once a month route, then it would take up too much storage to ensure you had enough tanks ready to go. That is usually not an issue with Boehlke Bottled Gas because we increase our delivery frequency for anyone who uses a lot of propane, but if you are not in our delivery area, be sure to find out what the delivery schedule is before sighing up.
- Who Should Be Responsible for Damaged Tanks and Leaky Valves?
If you are on a forklift cylinder exchange program, issues with the tank from reasonable use remain the responsibility of the propane company because that is who owns the tank. If you buy and refill your own tanks, the responsibility moves to you. For us, since we handle so many propane tanks, it is relatively inexpensive for us to buy and maintain propane tanks compared to the average company using propane for their fork trucks, so we can keep our tank costs lower than the average company that uses the tanks only for forklifts.
- Is a Potential Cost Savings Worth the Headache?
While you may save a couple of dollars a year on refilling your own tanks, is it worth it? Is it worth the training of employees, keeping a refill schedule, taking on the risk for inspections and maintenance, etc? At the end of the day, for many small and medium companies, it is worth your while to NOT have one more thing on your plate to worry about.
When you sign up with Boehlke, it is like a set it and forget it program. Once you put us to work, you can just know there will be the right amount of propane ready and waiting for you at all times and we adjust the amount of propane on hand as your needs change.