The warmer liquid gets, the more it expands, right? To put
it simply - if the fuel that flows from the nozzle of a gas/diesel pump is too
warm, you don't get as much Btu bang for your buck.
For years, consumers have been ripped off by fuel sold at
temperatures warmer than the national standard of 60 degrees, according to
plaintiff groups involved in five lawsuits filed in December 2006 in federal
The devil is in the details, and while a little piece of
pump equipment known as a temperature-compensation device does not change the
temperature of the fuel, it does "compensate" for warm, expanded fuel. So why
don't fuel pumps in the U.S. all have one?
At this point, temperature compensation is not mandatory,
and the sale of "hot fuel" is not illegal. The consumer plaintiffs want to
change that because, according to an investigative series in The Kansas City Star, hot fuel costs
consumers between $1.7 billion and $2.3 billion per year.
It looked like an equipment manufacturer called Gilbarco
would lead the charge to a technological fix in California, but last week, a
company spokeswoman confirmed Gilbarco would not be bringing its already-certified
equipment to market due to technical and logistical problems.
But, another company is standing by that knows the ropes.
Officials with Kraus Global of Canada are moving to get
their equipment certified by the California Division of Measurement Standards.
That would make Kraus Global the first company to market
temperature-compensation devices in the U.S., a move that could be the first
step toward essentially ending the sale of "hot fuel."
"With any product in any new market, the first one out of
the gate will do well. We want to try to get to that," Kraus Global spokesman
Gord Wedel told Land Line.
Kraus Global supplies the majority of
temperature-compensation equipment at Canadian fuel pumps. Canadian business
moved voluntarily in the early 1990s to include the equipment as a cost-saving
"It was the oil companies in Canada that pushed for it,
because of the (lower) fuel temperature," Wedel said.
U.S. retailers claim a full-scale switch to temperature
compensation would be cost-prohibitive, and that the equipment would need to be
certified in each state.
The National Conference of Weights and Measures has a
scheduled vote in July on a model regulation for states to voluntarily
implement a temperature-compensation program at retail pumps. The annual
conference is scheduled for July 8-12 in Salt Lake City.
The earliest possible vote relating specifically to
certifying temperature compensation equipment could not happen until July 2008.
?Dennis Johannes, director of the California Division of
Measurement Standards, said California continues to work ahead of the national
weights and measures group by certifying equipment like what Gilbarco did and
what Kraus Global hopes to do.
"A lot of times, companies will have us test equipment and
approve it, and maybe it goes in the marketplace and maybe it doesn't,"
Johannes told Land Line. "They have
to be approved before they can be sold here in California for commercial use."
Plaintiff groups in the five U.S. District Court lawsuits in
California, New Jersey, Missouri and Kansas want to see temperature
compensation become mandatory at the federal level.
The groups of plaintiffs, all seeking class-action status,
include owner-operators and OOIDA members. OOIDA is not a party in the
lawsuits, but OOIDA Foundation Project Leader John Siebert is contributing
research to the legal teams.
Siebert presented his research at an interim meeting of the
National Conference of Weights and Measures in January and was instrumental in
getting the vote for voluntary temperature compensation on the group's July
"Temperature compensation is available, it is the correct
way to do it, it is the equitable way to do it, and it is going to happen,"
Siebert says with confidence. "They will try to slow down the train as much as
possible, but they won't stop it."
- By David Tanner,