Ohio bill seeks to broaden fuel quality testing

March 4, 2020

Wendy Parker


When you pump a gallon of fuel, chances are you’re getting a full gallon – but is it a gallon of quality diesel or a gallon of mystery-fuel that could cause thousands in repair bills? That depends on what fuel quality testing programs are in place.

In 47 out of 50 states, you can be assured periodic fuel quality checks from government representatives of weights and measures programs. Ohio, Nebraska and Alaska are the three states that don’t have defined statewide fuel testing programs, according to Dusty Rhodes, the Hamilton County auditor in Ohio.

In Ohio, “charter” or “home rule” municipalities or counties are allowed to pass legislation enhancing state law, but they cannot change or disregard the state laws. Only Summit County takes advantage of that ability to enhance laws and tests for fuel quality.

Some lawmakers in Ohio hope to expand the programs to additional counties.

Ohio HB499 seeks to authorize all counties to implement a motor fuel quality testing program. Sponsored by Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, the bill is co-sponsored by four Democrats and one Republican.

According to Summit County Fiscal Officer Kristen M. Scalise, this legislation would provide a higher level of consumer protection.

Scalise said part of the fuel quality testing the representatives of her office do is for sediment – which falls to the bottom of the tanks – and water contamination that might not be recognized by the consumer until it’s too late. She sees this as one of the preventable burdens for the fueling public.

“When you are one of only three states that don’t have fuel quality testing, there’s a problem,” Scalise told Land Line. “And I think the problem (in Ohio) is lobbyists in Columbus holding this up.”

Specifically, groups like the Ohio Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, might not support this legislation. Requests from Land Line for comment went unanswered. This news wasn’t surprising to Scalise.

“I don’t think they want any more oversight or people telling them what to do,” she said.

What the big chains say

However, three truck stop chains did weigh in on the topic of fuel quality at their locations.

Joey Cupp, director of environmental for Pilot Travel Centers, Knoxville, Tenn., sent this statement:

“Pilot Co. is committed to providing our guests with top quality fuel, products and services. We continuously monitor all of our locations and fuel tanks in order to maintain the highest quality for our guests. In addition, we are proud to partner with Clean Fuels, the largest fuel quality company in the U.S., to develop the most comprehensive fuel quality and preventative maintenance program in the industry.”


Brian Kernke, general manager of fuel quality for Love’s Travel Stops, Oklahoma City, Okla., forwarded this:

“Love’s Travel Stops makes sure professional drivers have quality fuel at all times. Love’s is a member of the Diesel Fuel Quality Council, has a department of fuel quality with degreed chemists, and has an in-house fuel testing laboratory.”


Tina Arundel, manager of corporate communications for TravelCenters of America, Westlake, Ohio, responded with this:

“TravelCenters of America implements a detailed product verification process to help ensure the proper delivery of diesel, biodiesel, gasoline and DEF at our more than 260 locations. Our site employees work closely with delivery drivers and are held to the highest standard for accountability in ensuring the right product is placed in the proper tanks.”


Key roles of delivery driver, fuel desk manager

These assurances are in addition to any government-required fuel quality testing (or lack thereof) in all 50 states. However, TravelCenters of America’s reply speaks directly to one of the most prevalent problems when it comes to the occurrence of contaminated fuel.

Our site employees work closely with delivery drivers and are held to the highest standard for accountability in ensuring the right product is placed in the proper tanks,” is directly related to training – not only the driver delivering the fuel, but the fuel desk manager responsible for accepting the delivery.

OOIDA senior member Bill Rethwisch provided a quick tutorial on fuel hauling. He owns Rethwisch Transport and has been hauling petroleum products in and around Tomah, Wis., since 2009.

“Some of those tankers have as many as four compartments,” Rethwisch said. “The driver is 100% responsible for pulling the order from the fuel terminal. They’re responsible for knowing what’s in the trailer when they deliver it.”

Rethwisch runs a variety of compartmental tankers, with three being the most in his fleet. He trains his own drivers to draw a picture of their pickup as its loaded.

“It sounds silly, but it works,” he said. “There are a million different ways to load a multicompartment trailer. It’s easy to make a mistake.”

Rethwisch said experience and training are definitely issues when it comes to a driver unloading the wrong thing into the wrong tank.

Pledges support for fuel quality testing bill

For the time being, HB499 has been referred to the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee. Summit County’s Scalise has pledged her support for the fuel quality testing bill and if asked to testify, said she will.

“It would be nice if we could get some of the fuel-haulers behind this,” she said. “I believe the more diverse amount of support we get, the better the chances are of it passing.”