Lawmakers in New Jersey and Oregon are considering bills that would finally give drivers in those states the option to pump their own gas. But why was that practice banned in the first place?
Let’s start with the case in New Jersey. The Garden State’s ban on self-service gas stations, which are allowed in 48 states, began in 1949 when the New Jersey Legislature passed the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act. That law, enacted over concerns about the safety of consumers pumping petroleum themselves, was later followed by many other states. However, almost every state has since overturned their self-serve bans.
Some contend the New Jersey law was rooted in corruption, not safety concerns. There are also worries that young, inexperienced drivers run into trouble when visiting neighboring states and forced to pump their own gas for the first time (that was an issue for the author of this story when he drove in Pennsylvania as a teenager).
In both states, advocates say gasoline could be several cents cheaper if stations weren’t required to pay staff to pump gas. But thousands of jobs are also at stake if the practice ends.
That could all change now that lawmakers in New Jersey said Monday they intend to introduce legislation that would give drivers the option of self or full service at gasoline stations. That proposal comes about a month after a measure would allow drivers in rural parts of Oregon to serve themselves.
In some ways, these potential law changes could be a sign of the times. Roughly a year ago, a survey found that while Oregonians are almost evenly divided on self-service gas, voters under the age of 45 are strongly in favor of controlling the pump.