New Jersey's 39th Legislative District

Senator Gerald Cardinale

Senator Gerald Cardinale

Cardinale: The Case for Self-Serve Gas

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The following editorial by Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen, Passaic) about the benefits of giving motorists the choice of whether they want full or self-service at New Jersey gas stations was published by the Asbury Park Press on May 21, 2015:

Sen. Gerry Cardinale says consumers deserve the choice of full- or self-service gas filling. (©iStock)

When I’m driving around Bergen County and my gas light comes on, I enjoy being able to pull into a local service station and have my gas pumped by an enterprising teenager. As a senior citizen, I appreciate the convenience more now than ever.

I know there are many New Jersey natives who feel the same way. However, over the years I have been in elected office I have heard from many drivers who would love the convenience of pumping their own gas. I’m not going to let my feelings stand in the way of the rights of others. Neither group’s preference should be cavalierly dismissed by their elected representatives.

It is a simple matter of preference and it’s silly that New Jersey will soon be the only state in the country where that freedom of choice doesn’t exist. The legislation that my Democratic colleague Paul Sarlo and I introduced last week would finally let motorists decide for themselves by legalizing both full- and self-service at New Jersey gas stations. Those who want to pump their own gas could do so, and those who prefer not to could choose full-service.

Supermarkets, department stores and eateries are moving more and more to a self-service model. Some shoppers choose the self-checkout line, to pour their own cup of coffee or bag their own groceries to save time. Others prefer the convenience of having an employee handle those tasks. Not only are motorists in New Jersey not given the choice to serve themselves but they face a $500 penalty for doing so.

It is time for this antiquated prohibition to end.

However, I want to make it crystal clear that while this legislation would legalize the self-service option, Sarlo and I were careful to include provisions that require that full-service continue to be offered at the same price as self-service at all stations for those who aren’t able to pump their own gas. In no way are the disabled and elderly going to be left to fend for themselves or be forced to pay a higher price.

Our bipartisan legislation, Senate bill 2944, allows service stations to continue to offer full-service to all customers for as long as they want. In fact, it requires that full-service be offered to all drivers for at least the next three years. If consumer demand is there, there’s no reason to think stations won’t continue to offer full-service for all who want it. There is a lot of competition for the consumer dollar and if one station owner chooses to ignore a segment of the market, you can bet the competitor down the block will be only too eager to capitalize on the opportunity to attract more customers.

By offering self-service at New Jersey gas stations motorists will be able to save money and time and stations will no longer have to close off pumps because they don’t have enough attendants on duty. More stations will also stay open later at night especially in urban areas.

The tired argument of critics that it’s unsafe to let motorists pump their own gas simply doesn’t hold up anymore. A lot has changed since New Jersey’s self-service ban went into effect in 1949. Just look at the 48 states where drivers fill up every day without incident. If there is a concern for safety it should be about the danger experienced by attendants holding wads of cash. It’s a sad reality that they too often are the victims of violent robberies. The fact that most of these workers are paid minimum wage shouldn’t make their lives and safety any less of a concern.

I hope that the staunch defenders of the status quo will consider that there are a large number of drivers who have asked for this choice for decades. It’s time we give it to them.

Personally, I’m going to keep going to a full-service station. You can decide for yourself how you’ll choose to fill up, because, after all that’s the point.

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