|ODA inspection offers assurance, but motorists can help too
Gasoline prices in Oregon and nationwide show no sign of going down. At current pump prices, motorists are more than ever vitally interested in making sure they get what they pay for. Oregon Department of Agriculture inspectors continue checking motor fuel quality and the accuracy of more than 28,000 fuel dispensers statewide, which helps. But motorists themselves can take a more active role in getting the most out of every drop.
"Consumers should be aware of the price they are paying, how much they are purchasing, and know that our inspectors are out their checking as well," says Clark Cooney, deputy administrator of ODA's Measurement Standards Division. "There are always concerns when motorists have to pay more for gasoline, and rightfully so. A lot of money is being spent."
The amount of gasoline sold in Oregon each year and the corresponding amount of money spent by motorists is staggering. Based on fuels tax information provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation, more than 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline is sold annually. With an average price conservatively estimated right now at $3.65 per gallon, motorists in Oregon are projected to spend roughly $5.4 billion on gasoline this year. ODA inspections are designed to ensure that every drop of that motor fuel is fit for consumers.
"We are out there looking," says Cooney. "Our inspection provides a good assurance to motorists that they are getting what they pay for at the pump and that all businesses selling motor fuel are operating on a level playing field."
In 2010, ODA's Measurement Standards inspectors examined 26,276 of the 28,214 licensed retail meters located at gas stations around the state for accuracy. Only 1,240 meters were found to be "out of tolerance", a term describing an array of problems that require correction- about 4.7 percent of all meters. Of that total, only a fraction would be considered meters that may have been shorting the motorist. It's just as likely the motorist may have been given more gas than they paid for. Based on those statistics, it is clear there is no problem with gas pumps in Oregon being accurate.
On the motor fuel quality side, ODA inspectors routinely conduct field screenings from fuel dispensers across the state, making sure both gasoline and diesel meet national quality standards. Last year, ODA screened 3,675 gasoline samples taken in the field. Ultimately, only six failed the official analysis for one reason or another. That equates to a 0.16 percent failure rate. Looked at another way, 99.83 percent of the motor fuel in Oregon meets the standards for such things as proper octane rating.
"When it comes to octane levels, Oregon motorists should generally feel good they are getting what they pay for," says Cooney.
It wasn't that long ago that asking the attendant to fill the tank of an average size car might cost up to $25. That same pit stop can now run a motorist to nearly $60. Minivans, SUVs, and trucks are substantially more. That's why it's good that inspectors are looking at gas pumps and the fuel itself. But motorists can take some matters into their own hands by considering fuel-saving measures that maximize every gallon of gasoline.
It starts with the fill-up itself.
"When you are at the gas pump, be aware of the transaction," says Cooney. "Be present. I recommend that customers step out of the car and observe what is going on. Make sure the correct grade of gasoline has been selected and that the pump meter starts at zero when fueling."
In addition, there are several driving tips offered by ODA that can help fuel economy:
Don't drive any more than you absolutely have to. Make a list of places you need to go and combine them into one trip
Drive at or below the posted speed limit
Avoid jackrabbit stops and starts as they cause excessive and unnecessary wear on tires and brakes
Maintain proper tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can make your car engine work harder and burn more fuel. Tire pressure is usually posted on the inside of the driver's door
Use your vehicle's speed control to maintain an even speed whenever possible
Keep your vehicle properly tuned up, oil changed, air and fuel filters changed, transmission serviced, and other services up to date
Don't overbuy gasoline octane. Follow the recommendations in your vehicle's operator's manual. Typically, there is no benefit to buying higher gasoline octane than your vehicle needs
Remove unnecessary items from your vehicle and trunk. The extra weight- even a small amount- reduces fuel mileage, vehicle handling, and overall vehicle performance
Use a credit, debit, or customer loyalty card that offers rebates or reduced prices for fuel purchases.
ODA does investigate complaints related to motor fuel in Oregon. If you have questions or concerns, contact ODA's Measurement Standards Division at (503) 986-4670 or send an e-mail to . Consumers can also go to the division's web page at and file fuel complaints online.
Paying more dollars for a tank of gas these days means paying more attention to those things that can help motorists get the most bang for the buck- or the $3.70 or so per gallon now being posted.
For more information, contact Jason Barber at (503) 986-4767.
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