The idea that one gas pump at your favorite stop might be better than the next probably never entered your mind. But there is a difference as one gas island might pump slightly more than another. Or maybe less than another.
Just ask the 19 inspectors of the Petroleum Storage Tank Division at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission whose job is making sure the tens of thousands of gas pumps across Oklahoma dispense the correctly-calibrated amount. In other words, make sure that a gallon is a gallon.
“We average two inspections a year for most pumps,” explained Matt Skinner, a communications spokesman who’s preparing to shoot a training video for the Corporation Commission. “Our inspectors did 70,649 pump calibrations in fiscal year 2012 and 631 were out of calibration.”
Any motorist can check to see if a gas pump is giving more than a gallon or less than a gallon. A white sticker is attached to each gas pump and it will indicate a plus or minus calibration. Inspectors use a 5-gallon calibration can that looks something like the old dairy cans of years ago.
“They have to be plus or minus within 6 cubic inches of a perfect 5 gallon measure,” according to Skinner. “Anything above or below the 6 cubic inches has to be fixed.” But Skinner quickly adds that if the violation is to the plus side, notices of violations are not normally issued to the service station owner because it’s already the owner’s loss in too much gasoline being pumped. The sticker to the left shows the pump is dispensing slightly more than one gallon of gasoline—-which is good news for the consumer.
“Ninety-nine percent of the violations are dismissed,” explained Skinner. “We file a N-O-V or Notice of Violation and give the owner a certain amount of time to fix it.” Anything over 12 cubic inches is fixed immediately and the pump is red tagged. “But we get great cooperation in the field–obviously nobody wants the reputation of short-changing customers.”
The state inspectors also do more than just verify the calibrations of each gas pump. They check for ethanol as well and do fire safety inspections of the operations for the State Fire Marshal’s office. Environmental compliance inspections are carried out and the officials also check for water in the gasoline. “We found 307 water violations last year and investigated 745 complaints,” continued Skinner. Some of the other complaints involved quality issues. Oklahoma is also believed to be one of only two states where the state inspectors in the field check for correct octane rating.