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The Associated Press June 14, 2011, 3:57PM ET

Some 600 Ind. highway trucks switching to propane

Work has started on converting more than 600 state highway department trucks and cargo vans in Indiana so that they run on propane and use what officials predict will be about 500,000 fewer gallons of gasoline or diesel fuel a year.

The infrastructure for 115 fueling site across the state is already in place, said Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who highlighted the project during a visit Monday to a state highway department garage in Fort Wayne where one of the fueling stations is located.

"Indiana will have the nation's largest statewide propane fueling network, with nearly all of its operations being within 30 miles of a fueling site," Skillman said.

The state plans to convert 645 vehicles this year, Joe Rudolph, INDOT's technical service director, told The Journal Gazette. Those vehicles include pickup trucks used for construction sites, double-cab pickups used to transport workers and tools, cargo vans used for survey crews and signal technicians, dump trucks and even lawn mowers.

It costs $5,500 to $7,200 to convert each vehicle, but the highway agency expects to recover those costs in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle, Rudolph said.

A $6.3 million federal stimulus grant is helping pay for the work.

Productive Concepts Inc. in Union City is converting the state-owned vehicles, Skillman said. Manchester Tank & Equipment Co., with offices in Bedford and Elkhart, will supply the propane tanks.

Most of the converted vehicles will operate on propane, while the highway department said 19 plow trucks will be converted to use compressed natural gas as part of a pilot program.

The vehicles use conventional gasoline when started, but they switch to propane or compressed gas after warming up, officials said. If a driver runs out of propane, the vehicle reverts to using gasoline.

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