Fuel Smarts

Trucking Groups Battle Over Hot Fuel Issue

March 26, 2008

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The American Trucking Associations is part of a group fighting against the use of automatic temperature compensation equipment in retail fuel sales, while the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association is pushing for the devices
in what it calls the "hot fuel" issue.

ATA and the Partnership for Uniform Marketing Practices, or PUMP coalition, recently requested that California prohibit the use of automatic temperature compensation equipment at the pump. They said because the state has no regulations regarding the use of these devices, which are intended to compensate for volume changes of fuel at various temperatures, it could be abused by the retailer (only turned on when it is advantageous to the retailer) and confuse customers.

On the other side of the issue is the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, which since 2005 has been challenging the departments of weights and measures in all 50 states to require fuel temperature compensation at retail gasoline and diesel pumps. The National Conference of Weights and Measures declined to take action and so OOIDA began its own media campaign to bring attention of the problem to its professional trucker members, the general public and consumer advocacy groups.

As OOIDA explains it, "'hot fuel' refers to the expansion of diesel fuel or gasoline when it is delivered, stored and dispensed at temperatures higher than the government standard of 60 degrees. That is the temperature/volume used in the petrochemical industry to measure all petroleum liquids. At the 60-degree standard, a gallon of fuel delivers a certain amount of energy, or Btu. But expanded by higher temperatures, that same amount of fuel delivers less energy. The warmer the fuel, the less Btu and fewer miles to the gallons a vehicle will get. Consequently, if a vehicle averages 6 miles per gallon, 200 gallons of 98-degree fuel is going to carry you 36 fewer miles than 60-degree fuel.

Last year, the National Conference on Weights and Measures rejected a measure allowing states to require that retailers adjust fuel transactions according to temperature. But California's Energy Commission is doing a cost-benefit analysis on implementing automatic temperature control devices at retail fuel stations.

One of the members of the PUMP collation is the truckstop/travel center group NATSO, which contends that ATC devices would make it impossible for motorists to "compare apples to apples when using outside signs to determine where to buy fuel." (Most PUMP members are involved in petroleum product marketing.)

ATA and other PUMP members are against temperature compensation devices at the pump, saying that any impact of temperature variances is eliminated through competitive pricing. They also argue that there has been no third-party study on the economic effects of temperature compensation. The Government Accountability Office is currently studying the issue.

OOIDA has a web site devoted to the issue at www.turndownhotfuel.com. NATSO has a section of its web site devoted to the temperature compensation issue at www.natso.com.

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