When you look at the data collected recently in the December 2008 Fuel Oil News SourceBook survey, the dominance of the residential business among our readers is clear. Roughly 80 percent of our readers’ business is residential with the remainder being divided up among commercial, industrial apartments and condominiums. The reasons for this include a much larger market size of residential customers, a more locked-in market and undoubtedly more residential than commercial opportunities in areas where gas is not an option.
One absolute key for the industry today is to take a long hard and serious look at diversification. Diversification can be exotic and involve business areas completely unrelated to home heating. It can be closer to home heating by offering alternative fuels and air-conditioning or by reaching out to the commercial customer. Stephen Bennett’s article on page 18 covers how fuel oil dealers approach the commercial market.
While the equipment may be the same in some areas, or at least similar, and the oil is the same, only delivered to a higher audience, the level of service required to maintain these customers is not. Not only does there tend to be more maintenance required, but that maintenance takes on an entirely new sense of urgency when having a single boiler down means 50 people go without heat or a business doesn’t open the next day.
In another notable development for new oil marketers who operate their own bulk plants, the New England Fuel Institute was successful in getting a troublesome issue resolved in an appropriate manner for the industry. A gray area in the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rules suggested that marketers provide secondary containment for trucks parked with product that would be sufficient to hold the contents of the single largest compartment. EPA Region I (New England) had begun reporting cases of enforcement of this obscure provision, imposing stiff fines on some heating oil markets. Under the new SPCC rule, petroleum trucks parked at bulk plants are not required to be parked within secondary containment structures. Instead, these trucks must comply with the general secondary containment provision, which requires containment of the “most likely” release’in this case, that would be a leaky valve or hose rather than a catastrophic release from a compartment. As a result, heating oil and other fuel dealers can now meet SPCC secondary containment requirements for parked trucks by providing release protection as simple as drip pans and absorbent.
Our congratulations go out to NEFI for its success with this effort, as well as to the other industry groups, such as the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, working hard to make sure we get SPCC regulations that not only effectively protect the environment, but do so in a commonsense way that reduces the direct impact on industry members and their customers’ prices.
On a final note, I would like to ask all of our readers to drop by and check out the new Fuel Oil News Web site if you have not done so already. You can find an update of news items, an archive of our editorial content and increasingly Web site specific content. It’s an easy place to find at: www.fueloilnews.com.
Fuel Oil News would like to note the following corrections to the SourceBook Manufacturer Listings:
Under the Roth Industries Inc. listing, the correct e-mail contact address is KatrinT@roth-usa.com.
The correct address for Testo Inc. is:
40 White Lake Rd
Sparta, NJ 07871
Contact: Info@testo.com <mailto:Info@testo.com>
Website: www.testo.us <http://www.testo.us>
Product categories: 165, 197