Regulations and Safety Standards

Regulation of portable fuel containers began in the early 80's with the development of standards by the American Society for Testing and Materials, now ASTM International, including the development of ASTM F 839-83 "Standard Specification for Cautionary Labeling of Portable Gasoline Containers for Consumer Use". This was eventually followed by ASTM F 926-02 "Standard Specification for Cautionary Labeling of Portable Kerosene and Diesel Containers for Consumer Use."

Other aspects of Portable Fuel Container performance and durability, including the adoption of the well accepted color coding by intended content (red: gasoline; yellow: diesel; blue: kerosene) were implemented through ASTM F 852-08 "Standard Specification for Portable Gasoline Containers for Consumer Use" and ASTM F 976-08 "Standard Specification for Portable Kerosene and Diesel Containers for Consumer Use".

These standards were developed in cooperation with industry, government and consumer representatives under the ASTM Committee F15 on Consumer Products and are the direct responsibility of Subcommittee F15.10 on Safety Standards for Flammable Liquid Containers. The present Chairman of this Subcommittee is the Technical Director of PFCMA; Philip Monckton and the PFCMA contributes financial and intellectual support to the work of Subcommittee F15-10.

These standards are voluntary consumer product safety standards - an approach used by the Consumer Product safety Commission (CPSC) when substantial compliance to a voluntary standard would be expected and the risk of injury would thereby be adequately addressed. See Section 7(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). The CPSC is responsible for monitoring compliance with voluntary standards.

The "Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act" was enacted on July 17, 2008 and establishes a mandatory consumer product safety rule by an Act of Congress. , as set forth in ASTM F 2517-05 "Standard Specification for Determination of Child Resistance of Portable Fuel Containers for Consumer Use." By mandating closures that resist access by children under age 5, the Act seeks to reduce hazards to children, including ingestions, fume inhalation, and the risk of burns from fires and/or explosions resulting from children interacting with, and accessing, or inadvertently releasing, the gasoline stored in gas cans. All portable gasoline containers manufactured on or after January 17, 2009 for sale to consumers in the United States must conform to the ASTM standard's child-resistance requirements for closures on portable gasoline containers.
ASTM F2517-05 established recognized requirements for determining the child resistance of portable gasoline, kerosene, and diesel containers intended for use by consumers. It also now includes (in ASTM F2517-15) aftermarket replacement and accessory products (such as spouts) in its scope. The standard broadly contains:

In addition it requires that "Containers and closures shall first meet all requirements of Specifications F852 and F976 where applicable" (para 3.1.1)

Compliance with a consumer product safety rule, intended "to prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk of injury associated with the product", is ensured by the provisions of CPSA s15 "Substantial Product Hazards." This obliges the product supply chain, from manufacturing to retail outlets, to report noncompliance with the ASTM performance requirements and test procedures incorporated in the rule and to provide a remedial plan. Prohibited acts, such as manufacturing and selling products which are not in conformity with the rule, are defined in CPSA s19, and CPSA s20 prescribes the penalty for infractions.

Environmental Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgates nationally applicable environmental standards under 40 CFR Part 59 "NATIONAL VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUND EMISSION STANDARD FOR CONSUMER AND COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS" in Subpart F - Control of Evaporative Emissions for New and In-Use Portable Fuel Containers

Portable fuel container means any reusable container designed and marketed (or otherwise intended) for use by consumers for receiving, transporting, storing, and dispensing gasoline, diesel fuel, or kerosene. For the purpose of this subpart, all utility jugs that are red, yellow or blue in color are deemed to be portable fuel containers, regardless of how they are labeled or marketed.

59.602 requires a certificate of conformity for portable fuel containers sold, distributed or imported into the United States. It also prohibits the sale of replacement components, such as spouts, that would affect the emissions controls of the containers (f). 59.615 describes how containers must be labelled to reflect compliance.

59.611 sets a limit of 0.3 grams per gallon per day under test conditions to determine permeation and diurnal venting (from 22.2C to 35.6C per 24 hour period) emissions. It also includes general requirements related to safety and functionality. It was amended in February 2015 to permit a manually activated vent provided it closes automatically when not in use.

While the requirements apply to metal, as well as plastic, portable fuel containers, section 59.605 excludes, based on inherent characteristics of the containers, containers approved under the Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, Subpart F Fire Protection and Prevention (29 CFR 1926.150 through 1926.152). Such cans generally have a flash-arresting screens, spring-closing lids and spout covers and have been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) promulgates Article 6 Portable Fuel Containers and Spouts (s2467) pertaining to fuel containers and spouts made or advertised for sale in California. An exemption can be made if use in California is not intended and reasonable precautions are taken to ensure it is not distributed in California. As above, safety cans are also exempted.

Under CARB a "Portable Fuel Container" means any container for receiving, transporting, storing, and dispensing fuel or kerosene unless they are labelled with language indicating they are solely intended for use with non-fuel or non-kerosene products (so-called utility jugs, addressed in a 2005 amendment).

CARB requires that, after July 1 2007, every portable fuel container and spout for sale in California is covered by an Executive Order certifying their compliance with CP-501 "Certification Procedure for Portable Fuels Containers and Spill Proof Spouts" which is incorporated by reference in s2467.8. Certified containers and spouts are identified with "Spill Proof System" labelling and spouts must indicate which containers accommodate them while maintaining CARB compliance.

CP501 requires content identification in addition to color coding (as in the ASTM standards). A diurnal emissions limit of 0.3 grams per gallon per day, as determined in testing following TP-502 "Test Procedure for Determining Diurnal Emissions from Portable Fuel Containers", is established for containers/spill proof spouts produced later than 2008. A vent is allowed provided it operates within this emissions limits (para 2.1).

It specifies "Spill proof" (para 2.6 - automatic closure) as: automatically close(s) when the spill-proof spout is removed from the target tank, seal(s) and remain(s) completely closed when not dispensing fuel, without retaining fuel in the spill-proof spout. TP-501 Test Procedure for Determining Integrity of Spill-Proof Spouts and Spill-Proof Systems validates this requirement as well as demonstrates that the container remains leak-free (including at 5 psig) as required by CP-501 para 2.5.

TP-502 includes a demonstration of the durability requirement (CP-501 para 2.4) consisting of at least two weeks of testing, at both the beginning and end of the preconditioning period, which consists of removing and replacing the spout and actuating the spill-proof closure multiple times while the spout, seals and mechanisms are exposed to fuel. The preconditioning period demonstrates permeation rate equilibrium prior to conducting the three-day diurnal test using a variable temperature profile.

ASTM F2517-15 (above) includes a requirement that child-resistant containers and closures first meet the feasible and appropriate spill resistance requirements in CARB CP-501, TP-501, TP-502, and EPA Regulation 40 CFR 59.623

Current Containers

At this time, all portable consumer fuel containers manufactured by the members of the PFCMA meet the required standards for safety.

Over the years, numerous safety and environmental features have been voluntarily added to the containers, most significantly, child-resistant closures and environmental improvements that do not allow vapors to escape. The industry was actively involved in each of these changes. Although the portable consumer fuel containers manufactured by members of the PFCMA meet all applicable regulations, the industry is committed to ensuring it is always using safe and appropriate technology and is continuing to review new designs in conjunction with ASTM. As done in the past, should a new safety standard or rule be promulgated, the industry will embrace it. The industry's goal is to provide consumers with the safest functioning method to transport gasoline.