Will We Really Have to Pump Our Own Gas in NJ? Why It May Not Be Likely Now

State Senate President Nicholas Scutari has opposed a recent bill that proposed adding self-service gas pumps in the Garden State—effectively killing the proposal.

Gas pumps
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It seems like New Jerseyans won’t be pumping their own gas anytime soon.

State Senate President Nicholas Scutari has opposed a recent bill that proposed adding self-service gas pumps in the Garden State—effectively killing the proposal.

“The people of New Jersey are very clear in wanting to keep the system we have now, and there is no data supporting any contention that moving to a self-service model would save residents money at the pump,” Scutari (D-Union) said in a statement this week to the New Jersey Monitor.

A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that an overwhelming 73 percent of New Jersey residents “prefer” to have their gas pumped for them, when asked whether they’d rather pump themselves or keep full-service.

Scutari, who has the power to determine which bills reach the floor, did say that his mind could be changed about gas pumping. “If the public sentiment changes or there is, in fact, data showing that it would dramatically reduce costs, I would reconsider,” he told the Monitor.

New Jersey is the only remaining state that completely outlaws self-service at gas stations. Ever since 1949, attendants statewide have been required to pump, but the recently introduced Bill A3105 would allow gas stations to offer full-service and self-service options.

Prior to Scutari’s statement, New Jersey Assemblywoman Carol Murphy emphasized that the bipartisan bill, on which she is one of four primary sponsors, would give drivers a choice—not a mandate—at most stations. The bill, as currently written, would require stations with more than four pumps to maintain a full-service option between 8 am and 8 pm. “Let me stress that it is optional,” Murphy says. “If someone doesn’t want to pump their own gas, they’re not going to have to” more often than not.

The bill also says stations “may offer” a discount to self-service customers. There is an expectation that they would.

“They won’t have any choice but to offer the discounts once competitors offer it,” says Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association (NJGCA), which is backing the bill. “It’s just the nature of the game. Right now, with no self-serve, if a competitor goes out and lowers the price, you have to lower your price.”

The bill also says gas stations would have to assist disabled drivers at no additional cost.

In the past, attempts at legalizing self-service have failed in New Jersey, but Murphy believes that the savings component, as well as faster lines, would inspire drivers to pump at a time when oil prices are high and gas stations are suffering from staff shortages.

“You see the orange or yellow cones or something blocking [pumps] off because they don’t have the workers,” Murphy says. “[Drivers] don’t want to wait in line for 10, 15 minutes for an attendant to come pump the gas for them because they can do it themselves.”

Governor Phil Murphy’s office declined to comment on the bill to New Jersey Monthly, citing the legislation’s pending status. Governor Murphy, who has typically avoided the idea of self-serve in the past, could sign the bill into law or veto it once the state Senate and Assembly pass it.

Risalvato said the ban on self-serve has been hurting New Jerseyans for years, and without much justification. It was actually his NJGCA that pushed for the ban decades ago after Irving Reingold, an enterprising Hackensack station owner, started offering self-serve at a 3-cent discount in 1949. He says the move infuriated competitors, who turned to intimidation tactics – including shooting up Reingold’s Route 17 station – before getting the NJGCA to lobby lawmakers.

“My organization went right to the legislature and said it’s not safe, you can’t do it, made up all kinds of crazy s–t, and had the law passed,” Risalvato says.

Carol Murphy says that if it becomes legal to pump your own gas in New Jersey, she would use full-service to show support for gas station workers who may be worried about their jobs. If the full-service line were long, she would use self-serve so that other drivers can get back on the road sooner.

“If you want me to come and pump your gas, I’ll be more than happy to,” she says. “I want to make it as easy as possible for people to get their gas.”

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