Every day across Alabama, inspectors weigh and measure consumer goods and raw materials. The accuracy of those measurements is vital to maintaining a healthy economy.
“Our job is to protect the public,” says Stacy Boshell, a unit manager for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI).
Boshell oversees the Weights and Measures division of ADAI, which regulates the accuracy of anything that determines the quantity, size or count of a consumer good – from the extraction of raw materials in coal mines to the produce scanners in grocery stores.
Economically, one of the most critical areas regulated by these inspectors is at the gas pump. ADAI inspects equipment at gas stations as well as the terminals used by gas distributors in the fuel industry.
“The purpose of a measuring device is to create an equal means of trade for both parties,” Boshell says. “In other words, if an inaccurate device is not hurting the consumer, it’s hurting the business owner.”
ADAI also checks the accuracy of scanning devices in the supermarket, in taxicabs, and at large-scale mail and delivery services such as UPS and FedEx.
Because the need for accurate measurement, weights and measures affects such myriad industries, inspectors undergo a rigorous screening process.
“It takes a unique individual to be an inspector,” Boshell says. “On a day-to-day basis, they don’t have someone telling them to do this or do that. That’s why when we hire, we look for self-starters who are familiar with the industry they’ll be inspecting.”
While the professionalism of inspectors is fundamental to this department, new technologies are changing and shaping the way the inspectors deliver their services. The immediate access to information through smartphones and tablet computers helps increase accuracy and efficiency.
“There are so many laws that deal with weighing and measuring accuracy,” Boshell says. “In the past, that information was not readily available to inspectors in the field. Having that information in hand makes our people more efficient and more accurate.”
Boshell notes big operational changes revolving around the use of technology are coming in 2012.
“We work for the taxpayers,” he says. “And if expanding our technology can help us get them more bang for their buck, then we are all about it.”
Alabama Weights and Measures Statistics
Approximate number of gasoline pumps throughout the state of Alabama.
Approximate number of heavy capacity scales in service in Alabama. These scales measure large amounts of raw materials. One such example would be the scales found in lumberyards.
Approximate number of high-speed meters in service in Alabama taking a variety of measurements on everything from household gas use to miles traveled by taxicab drivers.
Approximate number of lightweight capacity scales in service in Alabama. These scales measure small weights such as post office packages or produce scales in grocery stores.
How to Report a Problem
ADAI weights and measures inspectors engage in regular annual and semi-annual inspection routines. However, if an unexpected problem is anticipated or arises, it takes priority over routine inspections. If you are aware of any such instance related to weights and measurements, please call (334) 240-7133 to report it.