The grip of recession rarely provides any small business with an opportunity to pass on lower costs to customers and stay afloat at the same time, but logistics entrepreneur and self-styled ‘man with a van’ Andy McGarvey is one of the few to manage it – primarily thanks to the financial savings his courier business has made running his Ford Transit on cheaper LPG autogas.
Andy’s van was supplied with a factory-fitted LPG system when he bought it with 10 miles on the clock in 2003. In the 11 years since then, he’s racked up a further 225,000 miles on regular jobs travelling between his Preston base and London – and has saved more than £20,000 in fuel costs compared to running the equivalent petrol or diesel model.
“When the recession hit, I was able to cut my prices because I was using LPG,” says Andy. “At the time I also had a diesel Mercedes Sprinter 311CDI with about 50 per cent more loadspace than the Transit, but everyone went for the cheaper Ford, because it cost less even if it needed two trips that the Mercedes could have done in one.”
Explaining what attracted him to the LPG-powered Transit in the first place, Andy explains: “As a logistics company I’m always looking for new opportunities to cut costs. I also need to know if it will work, if it will do half a million miles!”
Since he got it the Transit has delivered on those expectations in spades – and more. Not only has it saved Andy a huge amount of money; it has proved incredibly reliable over 11 years and more than 225,000 miles. With a laugh, Andy admits: “I’ve had to call the AA out maybe 30 times because the door lock has jammed, and only once for the LPG – and that was only because we’d run out of petrol it uses to start up before switching to gas!”
Andy goes on to make an even bolder claim for the benefit LPG autogas has given him. “LPG costs me about half what petrol or diesel would,” he begins. “To get to north London from Preston is 230 miles, which costs £38 on gas but would cost £80 in petrol. The last six years have been very tough financially and without the big savings I’ve made using LPG I’d have gone bust. I’ve kept my head above water thanks to LPG – so it’s no exaggeration to say it’s been a real lifesaver for me.”
It goes without saying that Andy would wholeheartedly recommend LPG autogas to other courier and logistics business like his – as well as the big name companies. Not only can firms significantly reduce their operating costs and offer more competitive pricing to customers; on a more subjective level Andy says that his LPG van is a dream to drive.
“It runs so smoothly and quietly on gas,” he enthuses. “I’ve been driving in London for years and this is the only vehicle that people almost step in front of and say ‘Oops, I didn’t hear you coming’ because it doesn’t chug along like most vans!” In fact, it’s so enjoyable to drive that Andy confesses he always took it out in preference to Mercedes Sprinter before he sold that van.
Andy would have another LPG-powered Transit in a flash – if only Ford offered one. “I looked into buying a new one but Ford stopped doing its own LPG models, which was a massive disappointment that I hope Ford is reconsidering,” he sighs. “To be perfectly honest I’d buy another used van that’s been converted to gas rather than change to diesel now. Once you’ve made the move to gas you’ll never go back.
“My goal, in about five years, is to have 10 vans, with three people in each, running on LPG, and serving the north west and London like I do at the moment – I don’t want to be Eddie Stobart. He should be using LPG though!”
It’s hardly necessary to ask Andy if he plans to carry on using LPG autogas, so obvious is his keenness for the fuel. He beams: “I’ll use it until the day I die. I think it’s the greatest thing, and I don’t know if the person who invented it is still with us but I take my hat off to them. The only exception I’d make would be if I won the lottery, then I’d have an electric Mercedes SLS!”
Even then, Andy wouldn’t part with his trusty LPG Transit. “If I get a nice apartment in Manchester I’ll take the van apart and put it together again in there – it would make a great office.”