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Editor’s Letter


The column that usually appears in this space, Need to Know, is written by Tom Glenn, president of the Petroleum Quality Institute of America. Glenn also runs his own lubricants industry consulting business, Petroleum Trends International, and publishes Jobbers World newsletter. He brings the experience of 40 years in the lubricants industry to each of his columns.

Because its helpful for readers to understand whose opinion is set on the pages before them each month, and PQIA is a visible part of Glenns current work, heres a primer on the organization and its role in the industry.

PQIA is a limited liability corporation founded in 2009. Glenn enlists the help of support staff to run the Metuchen, New Jersey-based organization. Its mission is to serve lubricant consumers by testing and reporting on the quality and integrity of engine oils and transmission fluids in the marketplace. The institute expects its work will motivate manufacturers to ensure that whats in a bottle matches the label and is appropriate to the applications for which its being marketed.

In addition to protecting consumers from potential damage to equipment caused by off-spec lubes, PQIA believes that sniffing out and pointing to problematic products can help ensure a level playing field for industry stakeholders.

The organization collects samples from retailers and sometimes automotive service centers, sends them to an independent laboratory for testing, assesses the results and makes the entirety of its testing data public. All reports, favorable or unfavorable, are available on PQIAs website (

Samples are purchased in stores and online. While the institute aims to collect samples nationally, resources constrain such efforts, said Glenn. He pointed to plans to increase in-store sampling next year in regions west of the Rocky Mountains and in the Gulf Coast region.

The third-party laboratory that examines PQIAs samples is one of the oldest and largest in the U.S. but has requested anonymity. Other ISO 17025:2005 accredited laboratories are used to confirm results on samples that dont meet specifications. Next year, the labs will add high-temperature high-shear viscosity testing for samples of certain viscosity grades, Glenn noted.

When test results reveal problems with a product or its label, that information is further publicized through press releases and television and radio interviews, and may also be reported to regulatory authorities. About 75 percent of motor oils that PQIA has tested have no problems. Among the remaining 25 percent, the most common problems are related to viscosity, volatility, additives, contaminants or labeling issues.

In addition to reporting problematic products to government agencies such as the National Conference on Weights and Measures and state agriculture departments, PQIA has worked with such agencies to ensure that off-spec products are recalled, discontinued or reformulated and that deceptive labels are corrected.

PQIA is funded by industry stakeholders that choose to become supporters. At the time of writing, supporters included the four largest additive manufacturers, 20 lubricant manufacturers based in the U.S. and elsewhere, and 16 lubricant distributors that carry brand name and private label products to the entire continental United States.

Blender and packager supporters pay an annual fee ranging from $2,500 for companies that sell under 10 million gallons per year to $25,000 for those that sell over 75 million gallons. Additive makers pay $25,000 and distributors $1,800.

Supporters agree to abide by PQIAs code of business conduct, which includes statements on product quality and integrity as well as antitrust and bribery, intellectual property and consequences for noncompliance. Additive companies must conform to both the American Petroleum Institutes Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (API 1509) as well as the American Chemistry Councils code of practice, which allows the ACC to audit companies candidate data packages.

Before accepting support, PQIA reviews a companys samples, product data sheets and other material and conducts random site visits. We have declined and dropped support from some for a number of reasons related to code violations and sample test results showing issues, Glenn said.

The organization is also guided by an advisory board composed of 11 members from lubricant and additive manufacturing companies and distributors that meets annually. Advisory board members are also supporters, and all must sign the code of conduct. Members rotate every two or three years.

What makes PQIAs efforts necessary when API, the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and government agencies have their own compliance programs? Glenn emphasizes that PQIA takes a more public approach by publishing its test results and including details such as product brand name, while maintaining a focus on the end consumer.

He also noted that the institute is working to make its program more consumer friendly, including making changes to its website and sample test reports and adding to its Quick Reference Guides.

PQIA continually strives to improve its program and welcomes suggestions and constructive criticism, Glenn said. He can be reached at (732) 494-0405 or

Caitlin Jacobs

Managing Editor

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