Regulators Want Warnings on SA Oils


The National Conference on Weights and Measures voted last week to add lubricants to the list of materials covered by its Handbook 130. The handbook, which serves as a prototype for states regulating consumer products, now calls for warning labels on containers of obsolete engine oils. The new rules also say that lubricant marketers must provide documentation of performance claims upon request.

Proponents said the measure should eventually further the integrity of automotive lubricants and help ensure that they are fairly marketed.

Since weve been working on this, weve had feedback from groups in the lubricant industry which tells us there are some issues of competition, said Dennis Johannes, chairman of the conferences Laws and Regulations Committee and an official with Californias Division of Measurement Standards. This is basically something that can serve as a model regulation for states that want to address such problems.

The national conference is an association of state weights and measures regulators and industry representatives. The group, working with the federal governments National Institute of Standards and Technology, promulgates NIST Handbook 130 Uniform Laws and Regulations in the Areas of Legal Metrology and Engine Fuel Quality, which includes rules about the packaging and sale of products ranging from foods to building materials to precious metals.

The handbook includes a section with Uniform Engine Fuels, Petroleum Products, and Automotive Lubricants Inspection laws and regulations. Since its adoption in 1995, the section has focused on the monitoring and testing of automotive fuels, although it was always intended, as the title implies, that lubricants and other oil products would be added.

A conference committee worked for two years drafting the rules for lubricants, which were approved July 14 at the conferences semi-annual meeting in Pittsburgh. Among the changes, the new provisions would require packages containing one gallon or less of motor oils that do not meet active API service categories to bear cautionary statements included in SAE J183. For example, labels for API SA oils would have to advise that they contain no additives, are not suited for most vehicles built after 1930 and could damage modern engines. Labels for SB and SC oils would say they are not suited for engines built after 1963 and 1967, respectively.

Another provision would require packagers and blenders of transmission fluids, upon request by state regulators, to provide documentation backing up any performance claims on their products label.

The handbook itself is not law but is meant to offer model regulations that states can adopt. Different sections have been adopted to varying degrees – the uniform fuels rules less than some others. The new rules on lubricants automatically become law on Jan.1, 2005 in states that have adopted that section by reference. According to NIST, only three states have done so: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and West Virginia. Ten other states have adopted laws based on the uniform fuels regulations, while 31 have adopted their own rules. Though they are expected to have little immediate impact, Johannes said he expects the new regulations on lubricants – or others similar to them – to gradually find their way onto the books in the latter two categories of states.

As issues arise, this regulation will be something that is easy for states to use, whether they adopt it as is or use it as a starting point to write their own laws, he said. But it takes someone pushing the issue for those states to deal with it.

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