If you are anything like me and you live in Southern California you are probably concerned about the gas prices. I often find myself driving further just to get to the gas station that has gas for ten cents cheaper per gallon. Because every penny counts when you are fueling up a large vehicle, right? So then how would you feel if you paid $40 only to then find out that you only got $34 worth of gas because the pump was not working properly? You could have used that $6 on a big gulp and a hot dog! Or picture this: you picked a gas station that said “$3.40 per gallon” on the big sign in front of the station but then when you pulled up to the pump you found out it was actually $3.50 per gallon. How would you feel?  I would feel completely taken advantage of!

Maybe these seem like little things to some people but it is the seemingly insignificant things that help keep the gasoline market fair and balanced for every consumer. I mean, it’s not like we can go to our backyard and dig up some petroleum to put in our truck if we are unhappy with the gas station. We need to rely on the government to regulate and monitor gas stations so that things are always fair and balanced. That’s where the idea of “weights and measures” comes in.

Here in California, the Division of Measurement Standards administers several programs including Metrology, Type Evaluation, Measurement Compliance, Petroleum Products and Weighmaster Enforcement. Weights and measures officials check the accuracy of packaged commodities, meters, scales and gas pumps and ensure pricing accuracy. They help ensure that we are getting the product that we expect and enforce California laws and regulations regarding fuel standards – creating uniformity, fairness and honest competition in the marketplace.

The Division works closely with county sealers of weights and measures who, under the supervision and direction of the Secretary of Food and Agriculture, carry out the vast majority of weights and measures enforcement activities at the local level. Ensuring fair competition for industry and accurate value comparison for consumers are the primary functions of the county and state programs.

Inside each gas pump housing is a meter that determines the quantity of fuel dispensed. Inspectors test each fuel meter by dispensing five gallons into calibrated measuring containers, first at the fast (or open) speed, and then five gallons at the slow (restricted) speed. They compare monetary computations, check the tamper-proof seal on the meter adjustment is intact, and inspect various other required regulatory activities. They also enforce the quality, advertising and labeling standards for most petroleum products and test the quality of automotive products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, motor oil, and brake fluid.

Because of the inspections and investigations conducted by weights and measures officials, consumers can have confidence when shopping. The primary functions carried out by the Division of Measurement Standards are ensuring fair and honest competition for industry and accurate value comparison for consumers. So even if you decide to drive all around town looking for the best price, you can be confident that each station has been thoroughly tested and monitored. You can even look for the official seal from the inspector or ask to see the official certificate, just to be sure.

Just remember, "fair and honest" at the pumps means:

  • commercial fuel pumps like those found at your local gas station must function correctly to deliver the amount of fuel for which you are charged.
  • the pricing at the pump should be clearly visible and should match the pricing information displayed on the signs.

Gasoline pumps are some of the most consistently accurate devices that are tested but if you suspect there is a problem with a service station or fuel pump – contact your local county weights and measures office to report it.

If you also live in Southern California and are looking for more information check out the California Division of Measurement Standards here or visit your county's website - you can find the Riverside County Weights and Measures Department information here.