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Propane industry drivers share likes of the job

June 17, 2022 By     0 Comments

Bob Costello has a message for job seekers who might consider a truck driving position in the propane industry.

“Give it a shot. You might surprise yourself,” he says.

Costello has made a rewarding career out of delivering propane, which he’s done for 27 years at Van Unen Miersma Propane, an Energy Distribution Partners company, in California.

But the nationwide driver shortages – made more severe by COVID-19 – are putting the pressure on industries and their companies to find more Bob Costellos. That’s not an easy feat.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the shortage reached an all-time high of 80,000 truck drivers last year. At current trends, the shortage could surpass 160,000 drivers by 2030. Over the next decade, ATA estimates, the industry will have to recruit nearly 1 million new drivers to replace retiring drivers, drivers who leave voluntarily and involuntarily, as well as account for the additional drivers needed for industry growth.

There is no single cause of the driver shortage – ATA considers multiple factors, including lifestyle issues, federal regulations and an underrepresentation of women behind the wheel. Similarly, it says, there is no single solution.

What’s working

But the drivers with whom we talked provided a glimpse of what drew them to propane (it’s a variety of reasons) and shared why they would recommend the job to others.

Randy Brouwer, a 33-year-old driver at Christensen Inc. in Washington, says he would “absolutely” recommend a propane industry driving position.

“There’s always going to be a demand for fuel and propane,” he says.

“There’s nothing but upside to the industry,” adds Brian Waddington, a New Jersey-based transport driver at Crestwood. “There’s plenty of work in whatever area or region of the country you want to be.”

The industry has allowed Mike Garrett, a Maryland-based transport driver at Crestwood, to make a career out of hauling LP gas, a good living, and a chance to be happy in his work. He cites the independent nature of the job, which takes him to different places and allows him to meet “a lot of nice people.” And most of the time, especially during the winter, he’s sleeping in his own bed.

“I would push people toward this because now the money is definitely there,” he says. “But you’ve got to be willing to bend a little bit.”

Garrett explains that propane delivery is not a 9-to-5 job, and work schedules are based on customer demand, especially in the winter. It’s not uncommon for him to work 12- to 14-hour days.

As much as these drivers love their work, they admit it’s not for everybody. 

“The reason people aren’t flooding into the seats is because it’s different,” Garrett says.

Communication “right off the bat” will help companies and drivers find the right fit for both sides, he adds.

“It’s just about branching out and finding the people willing to work in these kinds of positions that really like the hours and the driving,” says Brouwer, whose love for driving started at 16.

“It’s probably not the job for everybody,” echoes Gary Gregory, a bobtail driver and longtime employee of Ferrellgas in Michigan, “but it’s a darn good job.”

Gregory says he’s been in the industry for so long (35 years) that he feels like part of the families to whom he delivers.

“Even the dogs come out to greet you,” he says. “It’s good to be on a first-name basis with customers.”

At 62, Gregory has thought about retirement, but even then, he plans to continue making seasonal deliveries. It’s what he knows, what he enjoys.

“Life is good,” he says.


Propane delivery drivers share their likes of the job:

  • Clean fuel, clean job
  • Customers become like family
  • Delivering an essential energy
  • Good wages and benefits
  • Improved family life
  • Independence
  • Working outdoors
  • Working with good people

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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