Should New Jersey Allow Motorists to Pump Their Own Gas?

By Michael Hill

Daliquē Myall just got hired pumping gas. He knows what “last hired, first fired” could mean if New Jersey allows customers to pump their own gas.

“I got God on my side. So, I’m going to find something,” he said.

Myall is one of about 5,000 mostly part-time gas-pumping attendants in New Jersey who could see their ranks shrink if the self-serve legislative bid succeeds this time.

“We believe there will be minimal job loss because we’re talking about allowing customers to pump gas where there is no attendant presently. So there’s nobody there that will be losing a job,” said New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store and Automotive Association Executive Director Sal Risalvato.

Risalvato says 77 percent of his 1,000 member gas stations voted to end the ban on self-serve last year because too often stations have empty islands blocked by cones, forcing drivers to wait instead of pumping their own gas.

“All we want to do is give the motorist a choice. Then there’s no reason not to give them the choice,” Risalvato said.

Sen. Paul Sarlo is one of three lawmakers who say it’s time to end the 1949 ban on self-serve in New Jersey while still requiring full-service options.

“It’s OK to have a conversation once in a while. It’s OK to stir some debate,” Sarlo said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says he opposes the self serve idea. He says as long as he’s Senate president in New Jersey this will not become law.

“This is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist right now,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney says it’s about convenience and jobs.

“You know, some people say they’ll all be reassigned different positions. That’s not true. They’ll be laying off thousands of people and there’s no need to,” he said.

“I just want to stay away from the fumes and the vapors,” said Jorge Gomez of Pennsylvania. “It’s convenient for me. I don’t want my hands to get dirty.”

“I used to pump my own gas in Pennsylvania so it really doesn’t matter to me,” said Ashley Parm of Trenton.

But, Risalvato says self-serve will become inevitable because in 2017, charge cards will have chips that will require customers — not cashiers or attendants — to enter their PINs to buy gas and a whole lot more.

“And while you’re there you might just want to pump your own gas and save 10 or 15 cents,” he said.

But for now, if the proponents of self-serve just wanted to rev up the discussion, they’ve succeeded. But if they thought their efforts would finally cross the finish line after 66 years, then they’ve apparently mistaken the accelerator for the brake pedal.