OOIDA asks states to require fuel temperature compensation at the pump

| 3/30/2005

Seeking a fair deal at the fuel pump, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has asked the departments of weights and measures in all 50 states to require fuel temperature compensation at retail gasoline and diesel pumps.

Speaking on behalf of America’s professional truckers and the motoring public at large, OOIDA officials said the requirement is necessary to ensure that consumers are provided equity in the marketplace when buying petroleum products, which expand and contract with temperature fluctuations.

In January, at the interim meeting of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, representatives of OOIDA challenged state officials to adopt measures to implement temperature compensation at retail pumps. As was the case in previous years, the state officials decided to not address the issue. Ironically, 2005 marks the Conference’s 100th year of pursuing equity in the marketplace.

OOIDA officials believe the primary reason state officials continue to ignore this issue is that their customers – the fuel retailers – oppose its adoption, and consumers are unaware of the facts or their financial impact.

In the March/April issue of Land Line Magazine, OOIDA launched its first phase of a media campaign directed at consumers and outlined the facts they should be aware of. Those facts are:

  • Petroleum products expand when hot and contract when cold. This change can be as much as 3 percent per 40 degrees F of temperature change. Factors affecting product temperature can include: refinery process heat, air temperature and, in the past, ground temperature of soil surrounding retailers’ storage tanks;
  • Aware of that fluctuation, the petroleum industry, as a standard operating procedure, uses computerized temperature-compensated measuring systems to equate all petroleum products to a standard temperature of 60 degrees F for measurement purposes – all measurement of petroleum product volumes, that is, up to the point where the fuel is dispensed into retail outlets’ storage tanks;
  • When a petroleum product expands and contracts with temperature, there is a corresponding change in its energy capacity, as measured in British Thermal Units (Btu). Warm fuel will produce less Btu per gallon, and cool fuel will produce more Btu per gallon. Retailers buy and pay for wholesale fuel that has been temperature-compensated to 60 degrees F where its Btu rating is what is advertised on the pump. However, if retailers sell fuel that is warmer than 60 degrees F, the consumer is receiving less energy capacity per gallon than is labeled on the pump; and
  • All digital retail pumps currently manufactured in the United States, and in-service nationwide, have the capability of dispensing temperature-compensated fuels. That function, however, is currently not being used.

John Siebert of the OOIDA Foundation explained at the recent national conference that retailers dispensing “hot” fuel can actually sell more fuel – 3 percent more for every 40 degrees above the 60 degree industry benchmark – and collect and keep 3 percent more in fuel taxes from consumers than they paid at the wholesale level. The converse is true of contracted cold fuel.

“In the best of all possible worlds”, Siebert said, “the volume of fuel sold above and below the 60 degree F standard would be equal and it would all come out in the wash, so to speak. However, the majority of the United States has temperature averages well above 60 degree F standard and ground temperature is rarely a factor any more because of double-walled tank construction and the short amount of time fuel is in those tanks before being dispensed.”

Siebert pointed out that several European countries have adopted temperature-compensated retail fuel sales as national policy. And Canada has a voluntary program with nearly 85 percent acceptance of retail temperature compensation.

There are some members of the National Conference of Weights and Measures that believe ignoring temperature compensation at retail outlets is not in keeping with their mandate of equity in the marketplace. OOIDA is encouraging all fuel consumers who have an opinion on this topic to contact their state’s weights and measures official.

On its Web site, the National Conference on Weights and Measures lists all state weights and measures officials, including their addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. That Web site is: www.ncwm.net/statewmdir.pdf.