It was like a scene from Attack of the Killer Bees. Unsuspecting Acme Fuel driver Mike Phillips was on a routine delivery call and making his way to the tank when he stepped on a hornets’ nest. “I looked down and my feet were a blur,” says Phillips. “I took off running and jumped in my truck.”
But a few blocks later, more of the angry insects emerged from his boots, aiming directly for his face. “I smacked the brakes, put on the four-way flashers and jumped out of the truck,” he says. “I got stung in the arm and I was doing a crazy dance to keep them away from me. People driving by were laughing.” As you may have guessed, the customer did not get a delivery that day.
Phillips’ experience was extreme, but for Acme drivers at this time of year, encounters with insects and brambles are common. As summer turns to fall, clients realize it’s time to prepare for heating season but they may not remember to clear their driveways or cut back bushes around their tanks to make them accessible for drivers. “Blackberry bushes can get overgrown during the summer,” says driver Lonny Kirschbaum. “If you cut your branches back it helps us to get in and out quicker because we get so busy during the fall.”
Both Acme and their customers learned from the experience of last winter, the coldest in 40 years. The upcoming season is predicted to be equally cold, says General Manager Todd Deck. As a result, Acme’s added Saturday deliveries to the winter schedule. “Last year we had drivers going out practically every weekend,” he says. “We’ve always had an emergency, on-call delivery driver, but from November 2017 to February 2018 we’re going to have a designated Saturday driver. That should help our customers who can only get fuel on the weekend or unsuspectingly run out of fuel.” Some may have scheduling issues or dogs who can’t be inside during the week, he explains. “This will also help our on-call drivers have a bit more relaxing weekends.”
Another result of last winter, and possibly in response to the number of recent global weather-related catastrophes, is an increase in customers installing propane-powered generators. “If we get into a storm situation where there’s no power for numerous days, they’re going to be happy that they installed their generator,” says Deck. “We don’t know what could be on the horizon, so it’s good to be ready.”
From a preparedness standpoint, the best approach is to sign up for Acme’s automatic refill program. If those customers do run out of fuel, they’re the first priority when disaster strikes. The next best option is will-call service, but that requires an extra degree of vigilance in monitoring fuel levels. “People need to go out and look at their tank gauge when on will call,” says Deck. “Remember to keep an eye on your tank and when it gets down to 20%, give us a call.”
Clients may not realize how much fuel they’re using during the hot months, says Kirschbaum. “All it takes is for them to add another fuel demand like a hot water heater or crank up their heat a little more than usual and forget to tell us. That can backfire.”
Driver Cullen Jensen notes that even when customers turn off an appliance, the pilot light is still burning. “A lot of people don’t realize how much the pilot burns over the summer. Seven to ten gallons a month per appliance is a lot of fuel, especially if you have a 120-gallon tank.”
Those who’ve relocated into new homes also need to be aware of fuel levels, says Deck. “Over the summer months we get a lot of people moving into homes that have propane or heating oil. They need to give us a call and open an account. We can get their fuel delivered before the weather gets cold,” he assures.
Acme also delivers and installs propane tanks for new customers. “If you’re thinking about putting in propane, now is the time to do it,” says Deck. “We can install a 120 gallon tank if you want to add a fireplace or a cooktop. We’d rather get it installed at the beginning of the heating season.” Acme also works with builders in the area who need a propane tank in new homes to get owners up and running.
Getting your furnace serviced is also important, he notes, along with changing air filters to ensure maximum air flow and efficiency.
Clearly, preparing for winter includes many considerations but if you can’t remember them all, don’t worry, says Deck. “Even if you forget some of this, we are here to take great care of you.”
Learn more about Acme Fuel at www.acmefuel.com or by calling 360-943-1133.