New Jersey has long been one of only states in the country where drivers aren’t allowed to pump their own gas. The other longtime holdout was Oregon, which now allows motorists in certain rural parts of the state to pump their own gas. One might say there’s kind of a charm to pulling up to the pump and asking the attendant to “fill it up, regular.” But that might change very soon. The A3105 measure, dubbed the Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act, is currently in the New Jersey Legislature. If passed later this year, it would mean that people would be able to decide if they want to pump their own, or stick with the full-service option.
If passed, this legislation would make it legal for someone other than an attendant to pump gas, give gas station owners the option to provide self-service, as well as full-service or a combination. Stations can provide a discount to customers who pump their own gas and the new law would require a “calling device” so a person with a disability can receive assistance pumping gas, as well as allowing those with disabilities to have their gas pumped by an attendant at a lower self-service price if offered. And lastly, counties and municipalities won’t be allowed to require or prohibit self-service options, leaving that decision to gas station owners.
This isn’t the first time the NJ legislature has tried to pass a similar measure, but it seems to have a lot of steam this time around. New Jersey Senator Declan O’Scanlon, talked to NJ101.5 about concerns of job loss for those attendants who work at stations, citing that many stations are suffering because they can’t get people to work. Fuel Your Way NJ has many arguments in favor of this new law, and the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association is also supporting the bill.
“By providing a hybrid model, we can give consumers the option to do what they prefer when it comes to filling their gas tanks, while also giving them the opportunity to save money,” Carol Murphy, (D-Burlington), said in a statement.
That being said, I’m personally not a fan. I have lived in New Jersey my entire adult life but grew up in Maine, and I have memories of freezing outside in the winter while trying to get the gas cap off to pump gas. Call me weak if you want, but I don’t miss those days. And while they say there will be full-service options, when I go to visit my family in Maine, it is nearly impossible to find a station that offers any kind of full-serve option at all, even at the premium cost. They can call it discounted, but it definitely means that those of us who prefer to have full-serve gas will have to pay more. And with already rising fuel costs, people (like me) will definitely be forced to pick the lower price.
But it isn’t only that. As a parent, when my daughter was an infant, it was a blessing to live in NJ and be able to quietly pull up to the pump and hand my card to the driver without waking my sleeping baby in the backseat. In the self-service model, I would either need to use a credit card, or drag a kid out of the car to go inside so I can stand in line to pay cash, or opt to pay the higher price for full-serve.
My local gas station (and many around the state) offer lower costs for people that pay cash. Will that change? Paying cash with self-serve is a pain. Not only do you have to know about how much gas you are going to use cost wise if you’re going to do a full fill-up, but you have to go inside to pay and stand in line. Arguments on how this is a time saver don’t really take that into account. Even now that my kid is a teenager, I enjoy the five minutes in my hectic non-stop day when I can sit and stare into space for a few minutes while the kind attendant pumps my gas.
My other big concern is safety. I hand my card or cash over to the same person or same station several times a month when I fill up my tank. I don’t have to get out of my vehicle and I don’t have to leave my car unattended to go inside to pay. I road trip a lot and I’m always nervous when I stop at unfamiliar spots and have to get out of the car to pump gas. I obviously know how to. I started as a teenager so my own mom and dad could sit comfortably inside the vehicle during inclement weather. But getting out of the car if I’m driving alone and handling my credit card and/or cash always makes me concerned. The only time I’ve ever had my debit card stolen was from a gas station during my travels where they copied the credit card details while I was paying. I know that’s not the norm, but since I’m mostly traveling alone, or with my teenage daughter, these are real concerns. Pulling up to a brightly lit station, with a helpful attendant is way more reassuring to a single person, or a parent alone in the car with a kid.
If this law passes, I know I’ll be teaching many friends how to pump gas (I’m usually the one who does it on road trips) as many lifelong residents of NJ don’t really even know how. The Fuel Your Way NJ says that it’s a myth that no one will be around to help, but if stations already have overloaded full-serve attendants or staffing issues, do you really think that will be the case for long? And it seems like only a matter of time before the full-service option goes away totally.
When I was a kid in Maine in the ’80s, there were both options and if you opted for full-serve it was awesome. The attendant would clean your windows and sometimes even check your windshield wiper fluids and oil. But now most have gone almost entirely self-serve. I can’t help but wish that New Jersey would keep the full-serve option across the state, it’s one of the unique things that makes New Jersey special.