Ensuring Fair Pumping
"Unfortunately our personal car is an SUV, so when we do fill that up it's pretty pricey," driver Jamie Lyon said. "It varies anywhere from $50 to $75 each time we fill up. It's a big chunk of money."
This Tuesday, crude oil prices set a record high, reaching more than $97 a barrel, causing gas prices to rise as well. So, who's watching out for you when it comes to making sure that gallon of gas you pump is actually a gallon?
Under the Missouri Department of Agriculture the Weights and Measures Division checks every gas meter in the state twice a year to insure it's pumping an accurate amount of gas.
According to John Albert, Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures Investigator, the meter is what actually measures the gasoline. It is to a "pulser" that reads the lead out in gallons and in money value.
"We'll test five gallons on each meter, we'll return it to the storage tank. We'll do our safety inspection on the cabinet," Albert said.
Cabinet safety inspections look for risk of fires, spills and worn hoses. As part of the Fuel Safety Program, Albert and colleagues also check labels at the filling stations to make sure they are not misleading customers. The labels should include what type of fuel and the grade of fuel customers are purchasing.
The Weights and Measures Division investigates complaints about gas and pump stations. Albert says a jump in gas prices usually means a jump in phone calls and complaints, but the Department has no control over the price of gas. They only regulate how much gas you are getting.
"Our complaint have gone up substantially, but our validated complaints have not," Albert said.
Although prices are on the rise, the consumer is often not the one getting short changed when it comes to paying for gas. Sometimes, the stations are the ones losing. Although its not much, natural wear actually causes a little extra gas to slip through the meter.
"You're allowed 6 cubic inches plus or minus on this device. If it's beyond six cubic inches, we would issue a notice of violation giving them 14 days to correct the problem," Albert said. "If it's over 12 cubic inches, we would remove the device from service on inspection."
Six cubic inches is equal to about an extra 3 ounces for every five gallons you pump.
Missouri's standard of semiannual station inspections is better than most states, some don't even inspect stations annually. Each inspection follows a procedure that examines different aspects of the fuel quality. The inspections are based on regulations Most of the regulations and standards imposed by the Department of Agriculture are based on fuel quality regulations outlined by the American Society of Testing and Materials, ASTM.
If you have questions, look for the state seal on every gas pump. It should be dated no later than six months ago and has a phone number to call if you have concerns.