There may not be as many forecourts in the UK than there once were but most drivers still have a choice as to where they fill up. They could choose a forecourt because it is on their way to work, it could be the one at the supermarket where they shop or it could be the one where they can do an easy top-up shop at the same time.
However, another factor that shouldn’t be overlooked is choosing a forecourt because it is always clean and tidy, where disposable gloves are available, where there are paper towels and where there are bins that are not over-flowing with rubbish. It’s these little things that can be the most important for some people. After all, who wants to go into a forecourt shop and buy their lunch if their hands are covered in diesel?
Forecourt maintenance typically focuses on the big things such as are your pumps dispensing the right amounts of fuel but it should also include measures to ensure the site is clean and inviting. Indeed a new poll conducted by Jet, found that ‘looking good, clean and cared for’ was the second reason why women chose a specific forecourt site. This came second to ‘competitive pricing’.
“Cleaning pumps, the forecourt canopy and CCTV cameras is a big challenge that many retailers are not delivering but an annual clean really lifts a site and can help retailers retain more customers,” says Edward Wheeler, Eurotank Group managing director. “A cherry picker is costly to have on site so we recommend completing as many maintenance tasks as possible in one visit. We also use cherry pickers to carry out vapour recovery stage 1b testing, which is recommended annually.”
Barry Onions, head of sales at Petroassist UK, says forecourt maintenance is all about having the most appealing site in your area to attract and retain customers.
“Keeping your forecourt in good condition with regular maintenance is key to maximising your fuel delivery and profits. Keeping fuel pump filters clean is very important with modern bio fuels to ensure they are delivering fuel at the correct speed so customers have a fast fuelling experience. Many forecourts have invested in upgrading their fuels pumps in recent years to ensure they are not only giving customers the best experience but also gaining benefits from technologies such as automatic temperature compensation, media screens and outdoor payment systems.”
The forecourt canopy is a vital part of the site, protecting customers and pumps from inclement weather and also communicating your fuel brand. They are very costly to replace and therefore require regular maintenance to ensure they will last as long as possible.
However, Andy Kennedy, business development director at canopy experts Global MSI, says that often the only maintenance carried out is if the canopy gets hit and is damaged, or it starts to leak on to the forecourt. “Nobody thinks about the part of the canopy that is taking all the elements of the weather until after there is a problem. Once the issue is apparent by water coming through the structure, you may be in for an expensive repair as a serious failure may have already occurred.”
He says corrosion is the biggest concern and this happens more quickly if the paint coating is damaged or where trapped water is keeping the structure damp.
“One very common problem we find is dented roof sheets,” explains Kennedy, “caused by untrained people walking on the canopy roof. You don’t know this has happened until you have a leak (sometimes several years later) as trapped water eventually causes corrosion holes in the roof sheets. Another problem is blocked drainage causing an overflow into the canopy legs, leading to corrosion from the inside. As you can imagine, the legs are the main support and must, of course, retain their structural integrity.”
Impact damage is another common occurrence, where high vehicles hit the canopy, and poor maintenance can also be a problem.
“Regular maintenance schedules can be far cheaper than you think,” says Kennedy. “If the survey is carried out by a trained technical canopy engineer, they can often carry out small maintenance repairs at no additional cost on the survey attendance.” He also advises not to leave minor repairs until they become major or urgent incidents. “That small leak means the canopy integrity is already breached and wherever water is getting in, corrosion is taking place.”
Jet wash bay valeting
Eurotank Service Group recommends annual planned preventative maintenance for forecourts and has just added jet wash bay valeting to the list of services it can provide across its three divisions, Eurotank Environmental, Eurotank Installations and Europump Maintenance.
Jet wash bay valeting involves chemical cleaning of screens and machines in addition to the wash pits and silt traps using the company’s fleet of Rolba ADR tankers. The service can be provided at the same time as interceptor and drainage cleaning to keep retailers’ costs to a minimum.
Wheeler says: “This service is a natural progression for our forecourt cleaning division and enables customers to make cost savings by having one supplier provide multiple services during a single visit.”
Eurotank recommends that retailers have their interceptor and drainage channels cleaned every six months to prevent build-up of oil, silt, debris and other contaminants, which could lead to an increased risk of flooding of forecourt drainage systems and cause severe disruption to customers. Jet wash bays should be cleaned between two and four times a year, depending on how busy the valeting facilities are.
When it comes to fuelling equipment maintenance, Europump suggests retailers book an annual meter audit at the same time as having pump filters and belts changed, as well as vapour recovery stage 2 checks and adjustments. “Worn pump meters give away fuel because they drift in favour of the motorist, not the retailer,” explains Wheeler. “Annual meter audits establish whether the meter is worn by comparing the measure at full speed and then slow speed. We recommend replacing meters with a significant difference between the two measures.”