Digital Interchanges: Heating Fuel Associations Update Members Online

Sept. 1, 2000
THREE association web sites involved with the fuel oil and propane industry, two in Canada and one in the United States, are keeping their members posted

THREE association web sites involved with the fuel oil and propane industry, two in Canada and one in the United States, are keeping their members posted on the latest issues affecting their companies while offering practical advice for business needs. The Canadian Oil Heat Association, Propane Gas Association of Canada, and the New England Fuels Institute web sites list educational and training sources, provide links to other related sites, and discuss association sponsored insurance programs.

Those are just a few of the services that are available through the organizations' web sites. Each one has specialized pages that address issues directly related to their members, as well as information for anyone who may be researching the propane and fuel oil industries. The Canadian Oil Heat Association (COHA) takes marketing for its members seriously. The Markham, Ontario, association offers radio advertising through its web site. All the members have to do is access the site and make their way to pages that contain three radio spots prepared by the association's Marketing Committee. If members like what they hear (the audio ads can be downloaded for review), they can obtain the tapes for their use.

Subjects include "Are you worried about natural gas prices? Look at the new oil heat," "Are you paying too much for electric heat? Look at the new oil heat," and "Running out of hot water? Look at the new oil heat." Each ad leaves approximately six seconds for each company to add identification and a call to action. The association has other pages that discuss a radio campaign plan and how to work with radio station personnel.

Members can plan their radio advertising campaign with suggestions the staff has compiled. They are advised how to schedule ads for the most effectiveness, and where the tapes can be used, such as a company trade show booth.

The site has other pages filled with discussions of oil heating that can be used by members to market their product and answer prospective customers' questions in an informative way.

COHA is involved in heating oil issues that include research and technology, training and customer services, and other actions to insure oil heat is a competitive heating choice for Canadians. With those goals in mind, the organization has formed committees for technical development and education, government relations, marketing, membership, and symposium. The duties of each committee receives review on the site.

Sticking to its marketing strategy, the association has information for nonmembers who visit the site. There is a seven-question survey with yes/no answers that gives information while providing an e-mail address form for the site visitor. The questionnaire works in two ways - it engages the visitor while offeringpositive marketing data. For example, one of the questions asks: "Before you visited our web site, did you know that heating oil is light pink in color, not black?" This helps to change the image of the fuel as a heavy, crude oil-type product. The New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) represents more than 1,100 fuel oil marketers in the Northeast and adjoining regions. With headquarters in Watertown, Massachusetts, the organization fields a web site filled with pertinent information for its members and others. While keeping members up to date on the latest legislative action, the site lists educational sources that NEFI sponsors.

A newsline section analyzes current events affecting the industry, and a position paper looks at the last fuel oil season and discusses the issues. Both sections are filled with information to give company managers a lead on dealing with issues that impact the marketplace.

Among the educational courses listed are Basic Oil Burner Installation & Service Technician, a 160-hour course; Oil Heating Technician Plus, a 60-hour course; Commercial-Industrial Oil heat Technician, an 80-hour course; and Electrical Procedures (Applied Electricity) for Heating Technician, a 40-hour course.

Many of the services that NEFI offers its members are discussed. There is information on family and individual medical coverage, a dental program, life insurance, short and long-term disability, and property and casualty insurance programs. Also available are programs for mandatory drug/alcohol testing for drivers. The Propane Gas Association of Canada (PGAC) of Calgary, Alberta, serves as a leadership and advisory support organization for the Canadian propane industry. Members include propane producers, wholesalers, retailers, transporters, and manufacturers of appliances, cylinders, and equipment. The association acts as a forum and focal point for industry communications, government advocacy and safety, and regulations and compliance. Its web site reflects these goals.

One of the organization's units, the Propane Training Institute (PTI), can be reached from the PGAC site by a link. Thirty-one courses are currently available at PTI. Among them are courses for propane retailers, subjects on fleets and conversion, training in forklift construction, instruction on safety, and general education on propane awareness. Course instructors come from a pool of 800 who are part of the institute's licensee/trainer/examiner core. Training facilities are in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario/Maritimes, and Quebec. PTI certified trainers can be scheduled in other areas of Canada, if needed.

Because the course descriptions are so complete, it should be simple to decide on the appropriate one. For example, safety courses provide certification in transportation of dangerous goods, workplace hazardous materials information system (WHMIS), and service station safety. The safety courses are available in both instructor-led and self-teaching formats.

Also on the parent web site is a link to the LPG Emergency Response Corp. In Canada, the law requires anyone transporting liquefied petroleum gas to be covered by an approved emergency response plan. This arm of the PGAC meets that mandate. Information on its site discusses the operation and emergency response network.

Another arm of the PGAC is the Alberta Propane Vehicle Administration Organization, a wholly owned subsidiary. It is an Alberta-approved administrative organization and administers parts of the Motor Vehicle Conversions and Inspections Permit Regulations. It is slated to administer the propane industry's code of practice program.

Like other association web sites, PGAC has an extensive links page. In addition to Canadian sites, there are many sites listed for various organizations in the United States, including the American Gas Association and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America.

About the Author

Mary Davis