Educate and protect propane tank customers

November 30, 2020 By    
tanks Photo: LP Gas

Customers must protect their tanks legally. Photo: LP Gas

We need to communicate to customers who own their tanks or are considering owning tanks that they are responsible for the tanks’ maintenance and safety, said veteran propane professional Chris Cafarella of Sharp Energy at a Mid-Atlantic Propane Gas Association event I attended about 10 years ago.

I learned two things that day:

  1. Many folks who own their own tanks have no idea about their safety responsibilities.
  2. Propane industry members have some really good ideas about tank safety based on their experiences.

So we went to work developing such information for owners of above- and below-ground propane tanks, and the robust sales and downloads proved that Cafarella was onto something.

During this process, I learned some lessons that I suspect could be important to anyone selling or leasing propane tanks.

First of all, many customers choose to own their tanks because it allows them to shop around and save a few pennies per gallon. But they do not realize that they are responsible, legally and financially, for maintaining their tanks in a safe manner. Informing them of such responsibilities will allow customers to make better-informed choices that could save both of you costly and time-consuming misunderstandings.

When speaking with potential customers, inform them directly and in writing about the many items for which they are responsible, as well as the additional safety services offered as part of gas delivery contracts. Communicate that your company may not deliver gas should they own their tank because of the potential liability of delivering propane into a system over which you have no control.

Action items

Here are other items to discuss with homeowners before they make decisions about leasing or owning their tanks.

Folks love to paint their tanks. We’ve seen everything from flying pigs to yellow submarines. And they do look super cool, no doubt. But many propane homeowners may not know that tanks must be painted with reflective colors. In addition, they should never paint over the data plate, valve gauges or warning labels. Otherwise, the tank may not be filled.

Inform customers of their responsibilities to protect their tanks. And I don’t mean those fake boulders some folks use to cover the tank for aesthetic purposes. Explain to them that in the case of an emergency, it will be difficult to locate the tank and that escaping propane can accumulate within the faux boulder. This may even be illegal in certain jurisdictions.

What I do mean is that they have to protect and secure their tanks and appurtenances from all sorts of extreme weather. For example, tanks located in flood plains must be anchored. This holds true for some earthquake-prone areas, as well.

As for underground tanks, their domes must be protected from any potential vehicle strikes, which can cause a potentially dangerous gas leak.

In addition, customers must protect their underground tanks from corrosion. In many states, if your tank was installed after Jan. 1, 2011, the tank must be tested as follows:

  • Within six months of installation.
  • 12 to 18 months after the initial test.
  • At least three years after a second successful test.

Educated customers are safe customers because such knowledge gives them peace of mind about their propane systems.

Such customers can also provide propane professionals with that same peace of mind, knowing that they are in control of maintaining the tank, providing value to their customers and limiting their liability.

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