SALT LAKE CITY — As many Utahns top off the gas tanks in their cars on their way out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, state inspectors say drivers are almost always getting their money’s worth at the pump.
Inspections from Jan. 1 to May 25 involving roughly 12,000 gas pumps found 98 percent dispensed gasoline accurately, according to officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s Weights and Measures program.
Additionally, the program reported 90 percent of inspected pumps during that timespan were free of errors related to condition, malfunction, tampering, pricing and labeling.
“We’ve improved efficiencies, we have newer equipment, better equipment, additional inspectors, our inspection time intervals have increased, and we believe that those efficiencies have helped with the compliance rates,” Weights and Measures program manager Brett Gurney said. “Utah citizens can be confident as they travel that the measurements that are taken at the pump are accurate.”
It’s a tireless job for inspectors, who conduct unannounced, random inspections at the state’s 1,100 gas stations and 31,200 individual gas pumps.
Jeff Jolley said his assigned area is the Salt Lake Valley, and he inspects 9,000 gas pumps per year. He said he tries to test three stations every day, which adds up to about 12 to 15 stations a week.
“I have a lot of consumers come up to me and ask me what I’m doing,” Jolley said. “They thank me for being out."
Inspectors check to make sure calculations are accurate, that the octane rating is right, that there hasn't been tampering and that prices match.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Larry Lewis said the ultimate goal is to ensure fair transactions for drivers and businesses alike.
“That’s the bottom line for this program, is to keep a balance, because we don’t want the consumers to have an advantage over the businesses, and we don’t want the businesses to have an advantage over the consumers,” Lewis said.
Gas stations are held to a fairly tight standard in dispensing, he explained.
“The plus or minus in the tolerances is very narrow,” Lewis said. “Any kind of failure is only a failure of 2 or 3 ounces for a 5-gallon gasoline pour.”
Lewis said cases where someone is trying to rip off drivers are extremely rare, and most problems boil down to mechanical-type issues.
“Sometimes you’re going to be paying more and getting less at the pump and that’s why we’re here — to prevent that,” Lewis said.
He encourages drivers to avoid surprises by following such steps as comparing prices at the pump with prices on road signs, looking to see if the price per gallon remains constant during pumping, multiplying the price per gallon by the number of gallons purchased to see if the number matches the one showing on the pump, and double-checking receipts.