Distributors Face Oil Labeling Rules

Motor oil labeling guidelines have been updated once again, this time as the result of a unanimous vote at a National Conference on Weights and Measures meeting last week, which moved to require distributors of bulk engine oil to provide written documentation on the quality of oil on each delivery to oil change facilities effective Jan. 1, 2014.

This comes in the form of amendments to Handbook 130, the guidebook for metrology and motor fuel standards developed by the NCWM and published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Although many states do adopt NCWM recommendations and guidelines in their state regulations, NCWM itself can only provide recommendations and guidance.

Earlier this month, changes to the Handbook went into effect that required oil change facilities to provide their customers with information on the SAE viscosity, brand and API service category – and include a warning if the category is obsolete – for all packaged oil, and for all oil installed from bulk containers on each oil change transaction receipt.

However, groups such as the Automotive Oil Change Association and the American Petroleum Institute quickly moved to work with the NCWMs Fuels and Lubricants Subcommittee in addressing a loophole with the enforceable guidelines: Now that quick lube vendors are burdened with the responsibility of providing motor oil quality labeling, how will they in turn hold the distributors from which they receive oil accountable for documenting the quality and specifications of motor oil they purport to be delivering?

Thus it became clear that the guidelines needed to be extended to distributors, the next step up in the chain of supply. AOCAs policy advisor Joanna Johnson said that the vote to pass the amendment to extend the matching invoice requirements to distributors passed unanimously.

AOCA has been promoting paperwork parity in the bulk oil chain of custody since 2006 so we very much appreciate this opportunity to work with NCWM and API to finally achieve that goal, AOCAs president Patricia Wirth told Lube Report.

Thomas Glenn, president of Petroleum Quality Institute of America, told Lube Report that the changes will likely be very beneficial to the industry.

From what PQIA is seeing, distributors are doing a great job of letting their customers (the installers in the states to which it applies) know that theres a new law in enforcement with which they must comply, Glenn said. He said that most reputable distributors are aware of the law, despite reports he has received that some quick lube facilities arent yet.

Most of the distributors PQIA speaks with say theres no problem including the brand, API service classification and SAE viscosity grade on their delivery invoices, and many distributors already do so, Glenn said. From what I understand, its far from overly burdensome for distributors to include motor oil quality information – even the software companies that the distributors work with to provide labeling agree that its not a problem.

However, distributors pushing questionable product may have an issue with the new labeling requirements, and Glenn says this is a big step forward as it may help weed out some of the bad actors and protect consumers from off-spec, potentially engine-damaging motor oils. In addition, this requirement places an additional responsibility on blenders and others who, for example, buy line wash and sell it to installers with or without the understanding that it meets certain API standards when it doesnt.

Handbook 130 lists 20 states that may begin adopting the amended guidelines as regulations as of Jan. 1: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Currently, the law is not slated for the other 30 states, but Glenn suggests that distributors familiar with the law should work to inform all customers of the new regulations, regardless of state.