By Steve Klein
There’s nothing simple about being a tow truck driver at Central Iowa Towing & Recovery — not when your job involves calculating the load limits, resistance and angle of approach needed to safely pull a big rig out of an interstate ditch.
There’s also nothing simple about operating a 62,000-pound tow truck while pulling a vehicle that weighs 80,000 pounds. That’s 142,000 pounds rolling down the road.
While the job can be tough and challenging, Dustin Tapp, owner of the Ames-based company, wants to keep his fuel simple. He wants fuel that is readily available, cost-effective and performs well.
He’s found all of that in biodiesel.
“I’ve experienced the cost of my overhead going down with biodiesel. The cost of what appears to be emissions-caused breakdowns going down. We’re not losing any fuel mileage. And it’s a less expensive fuel,” Tapp says. “That should be enough to sell anyone. Lowering your costs while keeping your income the same? Makes sense to me.”
Fuel That Performs
Tapp started Central Iowa Towing & Recovery in 2014 as the sole employee operating out of an old farm shop with one truck. He’s grown it into a business with three locations, over 35 employees and nearly 50 trucks ranging from light to heavy duty that operate throughout the contiguous United States.
The company does plenty of traditional tow jobs, but it’s really made a name for itself with its ability to tow heavy-duty trucks. This includes transporting tractors across the nation on behalf of trucking companies in addition to responding to accidents and breakdowns.
“Our trucks are emergency response units to a degree,” Tapp says. “They can get called out at any given time, any temperature and in any given condition. We can’t afford to put just any fuel in them or do anything else that would negatively affect our performance.”
Until 2018, the fleet ran on No. 2 ULSD. Tapp gave biodiesel a try after hearing about the renewable fuel’s performance and financial benefits. Now the fleet typically runs on B11–11% biodiesel and 89% petroleum diesel. The biodiesel is produced and supplied by Renewable Energy Group (REG).
“Making the switch was simple,” Tapp says. “We used our same storage tanks and changed the filters out. The vehicles didn’t notice a difference, and our fuel mileage is where it’s always been.”
If anything, they’ve noticed performance advantages with biodiesel, including no fuel injector issues since switching. Biodiesel provides the lubricity needed to protect components like injectors, which ULSD doesn’t.
“We put over 100,000 miles a year on some of the trucks, and they need the power to run themselves and also tow a large truck. REG and biodiesel have given us what we need,” Tapp says. “The performance of our trucks cannot suffer from anything, and we’ve had good luck with biodiesel.”
Steve Klein is senior manager, marketing, at Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG). REG is an international producer of cleaner fuels and one of North America’s largest producers of advanced biodiesel. REG utilizes a global integrated procurement, distribution and logistics network to operate 12 biorefineries in the U.S. and Europe. In 2020, REG produced 519 million gallons of cleaner fuel delivering 4.2 million metric tons of carbon reduction.