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Pump your own gas? NJ ban on self-service fuel might be going away

Colleen Wilson |

New Jersey’s holdout as the sole U.S. state that still requires an attendant to pump gas could be in jeopardy – again.

A bill, inconspicuously dubbed the “Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act,” could be the legislative unraveling of a 73-year-old ban on allowing gas station patrons to stick a nozzle into their car and administer their own fuel.

The new bill was introduced with bipartisan support Monday afternoon by Assembly members Carol Murphy, Ned Thomson and Annette Chaparro. Senate Minority leader Steven Oroho signed on as a co-sponsor.

This legislation, if passed, would give gas station owners the option to provide self service. It would:

  • No longer make it unlawful for someone other than an attendant to pump their own gas
  • Allow gas stations to offer full-service fuel, self-service fuel or a combination
  • Allow gas stations to offer a discount to customers who pump their own gas
  • Require a “calling device” so that a person with a disability can receive assistance pumping gas
  • Allow those with disabilities to have their gas pumped by an attendant at a lower self-service price if it is offered
  • Not allow a county or municipality to require or prohibit self-service options

“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,” Murphy, D-Burlington, said in a statement.

As other bills have come and gone over the years to lift the ban, one of the arguments against lifting the prohibition was that it would eliminate part-time jobs for thousands of New Jerseyans. But given the job market shift since the pandemic, that might not hold the same weight as it once did.

“It is shameful that so many gas stations have had to close even during daytime hours, because they do not have enough staff to keep their stations open,” Chaparro, D-Hudson, said in a statement.

Gas attendant Julio Echeverria pumps gas into a car at Lukoil in Fair Lawn on 05/10/21.

Meanwhile, New Jersey – and the rest of the country – is rapidly trying to expand its electric vehicle market by adding charging stations as more people are buying battery-powered cars.

Perhaps the ban’s undoing will simply come down to just following what the other 49 states have done.

“Motorists in every other state are able to pump their own gas, and if a consumer wants to choose to not wait for an attendant, that choice should not be denied to them by state law,” Thomson, R-Monmouth, said in a statement.