We have all been there……It’s July, 95 degrees outside, and your car is on empty. The last thing you want to do is stop for gas in the heat!  After working through the dispenser prompts, inserting your credit card, and picking the grade desired, fuel begins to dispense. Yes, and I got my discount! However, after about 3 minutes, your tank is only half full.

How did this happen?! I have things to do! It is so hot out here! Why me?!… you scream with your internal voice (hopefully)!

Often, when customers encounter slow-dispensing fuel lanes, their response is to short fill their tank and drive to your competitors to top off, perhaps never to return to your fuel station. When a dispenser or two is blocked off due to repair and your site is busy, your customers are more prone to drive to your competition as well, only compounding your profitability issue.

Of course, in the perfect world, every lane is open and dispensing properly! The optimal standard for the proper dispensing of fuel is between 8 and 10 gallons per minute for gasoline or automotive diesel grades. For over the road diesel and large trucks, the standard is even higher at 35-50 gallons per minute.  If all goes well, the average fueling transaction should be quick, 2-3 minutes for automotive grades and 5-8 minutes for large trucks fueling at a high-flow diesel facility.

As we know, time is money! The more time that drivers take to fuel their vehicles, the less time they have to visit inside your store or accomplish other tasks. Frustration can also lead to a lower opinion of your fueling location and business. Unfortunately, with a slow-dispensing or out-of-order fuel lane, you are not only reducing your customers’ free time, but your store’s overall profitability.

At Warren Rogers, our research shows that an underperforming fuel lane can decrease your average transaction size across ALL transactions by up to 10% or more.  When a dispenser is bagged or coned off, your total number of site transactions can decrease by up to 10% or more as well, even when you have other dispensers available. It is during peak traffic times that this loss increases even more.

On the inverse, a high-performing dispenser flow rate can increase not only your average fuel transaction size, but lead to more transactions over time, especially during peak times when the fuel lanes are busy.

“Photo of a young man watching filling his gas tank, watching in disbelief as the flow rate is so slow, it will take quite a while to fuel his vehicle”.

Such incidents occur more often than we think in today’s busy fuel operator world. But can go undetected or unreported for some time at an average gas station. Why is that so?

There are many technical reasons that a fuel dispenser could be dispensing slowly.

  • The dispenser needs a filter change due to water, sediment, lax maintenance, or a multitude of other reasons. This can affect one or all dispensers, depending on the issues at hand.
  • The line leak detectors have gone into slow-flow due to the detection of a potential leak or loss.
  • The tank submersible pump is under-performing and in need of repair. This is more likely to only occur when the site is very busy, often going unrecognized by store personnel. Or, due to manifold or tank siphoning issues, where applicable.
  • The dispenser could need additional repair to its hardware, software, the hose and nozzle, or emission control system.

A modern gas station broken fuel pump with a Sorry Out of Service sign and lock.

And there are just as many reasons why a dispenser or fuel lane may be blocked or closed off.

Quite often, a fuel operator is dependent on the manual reporting of issues in the forecourt. When slow fueling occurs at the fuel dispensers, frustrated customers may bring it to the attention of store personnel, often the cashier. There may be delays in the cashier’s communication of those issues to the store manager until the complaints become overwhelming. At that point, once they are informed, the store manager may be required to report the issue manually via a phone call to the company’s maintenance desk, 3rd-party repair company, or input the repair request into a work order repair system. In any case, dramatic delays can occur between when issues begin occurring and when they are finally resolved when using manual detection reporting processes.

Today’s technology can give you an edge against your competition while benefiting your customers AND profitability! Remote monitoring applications can provide you with close to real-time flow rates to let you know when a dispenser’s flow is not meeting your standard of expectation. You can then attack the cause and change out only the filters in need, often before it becomes noticeable and frustrating to your customers.  Dispenser sales can also be electronically tracked, and the operator informed when certain dispensers are not transacting after an expected time range, indicating that a dispenser may be out of service.

In summary, as more and more operators conduct acquisitions and grow their store counts, technology does not always keep pace. Suddenly, you are overwhelmed with customer complaints, excessive and costly emergency repairs, and declining sales. Strongly consider your path going forward by making the proper investments in technology to improve the forecourt experience, staff efficiency, and profitability……all at the same time!