Technology Tools for Multi-Site Environmental Compliance and Facilities Managers

By Tony Caputo, Warren Rogers

Some of the most-challenging positions within a multi-site c-store or travel center operation are in the areas of environmental compliance and facilities maintenance. Often, corporate staff can wear both hats as the company grows in both size and location count. For compliance managers, keeping up with the recurring inspections and tasks to meet environmental regulations can be daunting and difficult to keep up with. It also comes without saying how busy a maintenance manager can be keeping forecourts running smoothly while addressing ATG alarms, filter changes, tank cleanings, underground equipment, and dispenser repairs.

Today, environmental and maintenance managers may be reliant on spreadsheets and reminder notes to track their site equipment, repair needs, and required compliance testing. When the company was smaller in size, this tracking method may have been adequate, but may now result in missed deadlines, notices of violations, avoidable stress, and expensive, last-minute reaction to inspection and repair needs. In addition, forecourt performance can suffer with down dispensers, red tags, NOVs, and slow-flowing lanes through delayed or overlooked repairs.

Once a fuel operation reaches a certain size, an investment in technology can make a huge difference in managing the cost and complexities of compliance requirements and maintenance needs.  Today’s technology can help lean organizations to better-track, assign, and ensure that required inspections and repairs take place as expected. With the use of a web-based diary and document storage process in place, less issues can go unaddressed or overlooked.

Here are a few areas to consider in your search to improve technology within your company.

Document Storage

First and foremost, an efficient compliance and maintenance department needs easy access to documentation and the ability to store critical regulatory information. In the past, file drawers full of paper records, spreadsheets, and various other manual documents may have been adequate. But, as a company grows, records can be lost or difficult to obtain. As employees change roles, access to critical records may also be lost in the transition. When companies are acquired or acquisitions occur, quick access to records is a must to meet business deadlines. Often, these events can cause chaos and disruption in an organization when timeliness and response is a must.

Today’s technology can provide digital, cloud-based storage to consolidate and centralize critical records into a single location. Documents regarding inspections, annual UST registrations, remediation, repairs, and construction are just a few categories in need of safe, long-term, storage and easy access for critical personnel. Storage on paper, various external servers and hard drives, or worse case, on laptop or desktop hard drives, can spell doom when those records are needed quickly for review.

With a centralized digital storage system, administrators can also control access to protect the documents and grant permissions based on specific job roles and document needs.

Task & Inspection Tracking

The number of required inspections for a multi-site operator can be overwhelming and immense. In many cases, multi-state operators must keep up with unique state requirements as well. In fact, some cities and counties may burden the operator with additional inspection requirements. Tasks such as 30-day walk-throughs, line leak detector and sump testing, and annual equipment inspections can be challenging to keep up. Missed inspections may result in notices of violations and fines when they are not performed and/or properly documented.

These inspections can be tedious to track with manual systems in place. However, today’s technology can provide corporate staff with the tools needed to not only track specific inspection events but document the event as well. Inspections and repairs can be set up as electronic events in today’s diary-based tracking systems, scheduled, and tracked via online reporting. Multiple personnel can access and help to administer the tasks and 3rd party companies can be assigned to complete the work. In fact, 3rd parties can be allowed to securely-access the tracking system to see their assignments and upload the testing documentation and notes after repairs and inspections are performed. As a result, not only are the issues addressed, but company staff also obtain the necessary documentation for future reference and regulatory review. In some cases, payment can be made based on these results. With more-robust systems, as recurring events are completed, the next event is electronically created and scheduled to occur, avoiding missed inspections in the future.

One-time events can also be created, such as dispenser or sump repairs or remediation needs. More-robust applications allow the user to control the types of inspections and repairs that can be set up in the system, making the use of the system limitless and more user-friendly. Everything from cleaning the windows or paving the parking lot can be set up within the more-robust solutions.

Store Equipment Profiles

An additional benefit of a centralized, web-based platform is the storage of site-specific information. For large c-store and travel center operators, locations have been built over time, often over decades, with hardly two sites alike. The complexities of a location can be immense when it comes to tank, line, leak detection, dispenser, and other site equipment information. Often, this information is lost over time as systems and personnel changes, or acquisitions occur. Many technology solutions geared around environmental compliance and forecourt maintenance allow the user to store critical site equipment information within the online tool for quick reference as inspections and repairs take place. Once stored, these records can be updated as improvements are made and kept evergreen for future use.

In summary, lean staff and fast growth through acquisition require the use of technology to reduce costs and avoid missed deadlines and documentation. Company investment today can pay off for fuel operators tomorrow!