OOIDA denies Natso allegation about ‘hot fuel’ research

| Thursday, March 29, 2007

A group of truck stop owners, fuel marketers and motor carriers have formed a coalition to fight efforts seeking temperature-compensating fuel pumps, claiming that OOIDA disseminated bad data on the topic of “hot fuel.”

But nothing could be further from the truth, according to OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer and OOIDA Foundation Project Leader John Siebert.

Research conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology at more than 1,000 retail fuel stations during a 24-month period was used to determine the average temperature of the fuel in different states, Spencer and Siebert said.

“(The Kansas City Star) used verifiable data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to do its articles,” the OOIDA officials said in response to the coalition’s claim that the hot fuel data reported by the newspaper was “unverifiable.”

Siebert and the OOIDA Foundation contributed to and support that research.

Natso, an association representing truck stops and travel plazas, founded the new coalition called Partnership for Uniform Marketing Practices – or PUMP for short. Other coalition members include the American Trucking Association and 20 other groups representing petroleum and oil marketers as well as convenience stores, grocers and retailers.

Natso President and CEO Lisa Mullings stated in a press release that PUMP is conducting its own research into fuel pumps, temperatures and sales. The coalition has taken issue with consumer allegations that retailers are knowingly selling fuel at temperatures above 60 degrees without compensating for temperature fluctuations.

The 60-degree standard agreed to a century ago by the fuel industry and regulators defines the amount of fuel energy a 231-cubic-inch U.S. gallon contains. The warmer the fuel, the more it expands, thus decreasing the energy content in a standard gallon.

PUMP is opposing temperature compensation at the pumps, claiming that installing the equipment would be cost-prohibitive.

“They state that they are banded together to oppose temperature compensation at the retail pump, yet they also say they are wanting to do a fair and unbiased study,” Spencer said. “The first stance negates the second.”

Temperature compensation is the norm in Canada, where fuel temperatures average at or below 60 degrees. Retailers acted voluntarily in the 1990s to install temperature-compensating equipment.

Earlier this year in California, rumors were flying that pressure from big oil had caused a U.S. pump manufacturer to withdraw from marketing its temperature-compensation equipment.

That company, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, had received authorization from the California Division of Measurement Standards to sell temperature-compensating devices, but withdrew plans to market them, citing “logistics and a software problem.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, told a select group of reporters via teleconference that she has encouraged Gilbarco to get back in the marketing arena. Numerous calls by Land Line to Gilbarco have gone unreturned.

Another facet of the hot fuel issue is the more than 30 lawsuits filed by consumer plaintiffs against retailers and big oil. A panel of federal judges could decide as early as May whether to consolidate the individual lawsuits.

The consumer plaintiffs, many of whom are owner-operators and OOIDA members, are seeking class action status and millions of dollars in damages from what they claim are ill-gotten profits from the retailers and oil companies selling hot fuel.

– By David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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