Oregon Lifts Restrictions on Adults Refueling Their Own Vehicles

After years of marginal reforms, a severe labor shortage, and displacements caused by natural disasters and the pandemic, Oregon politicians have finally agreed to allow self-service gas stations throughout the entire state.

The Oregon Senate passed H.B. 2426 last week, allowing all gas stations to designate at least half of their gas outlets as self-service, allowing motorists to fuel their vehicles if they are up to the challenge. It also eliminates the requirement that a gas station attendant deliver the nozzle to motorcyclists before they pump gas.

The measure, which was passed by the Oregon House in March, now awaits the approval of Democratic Governor Tina Kotek. For many years, Oregon was one of two states in the union (the other being New Jersey) that mandated full-service gas stations, meaning that most drivers were required to have an attendant fuel their vehicles.

Supporters of the full-service mandate assert that it is an effective job creation measure, a consumer protection measure, a necessary health and safety measure, and a valuable cultural peculiarity. Reformers have had to proceed with caution when arguing that motorists and gas station proprietors deserve more autonomy in their fueling relationship.

Oregon Lifts Ban on Adults Fueling Cars
Oregon Lifts Ban on Adults Fueling Cars

Do you know that the Lane County Sheriff’s Office arrested a woman accused of murdering her mother on a Saturday afternoon? On June 24, LCSO was informed that a homicide may have occurred in the 9400 block of Highway 126 in Mapleton:

In 2015, the legislature passed a law permitting the use of self-service pumps overnight in rural counties, where motorists are sometimes stranded at gas stations that are not open 24 hours a day. In 2017, they struck again with a law that allowed gas stations in the same municipalities to offer self-service pumps at all times.

However, that was as much transformation as the state could handle. In 2019, the legislature failed to pass a measure that would have permitted gas stations to designate half of their pumps as self-service.

The mandate was temporarily relaxed as a result of the pandemic’s emergency conditions. The Oregon Fire Marshall, who enforces the full-service requirement, issued a two-month moratorium of the full-service requirement in March 2020. It included the following asterisks:

For example, most gas stations still required attendants to enforce social distance. Only gas stations that are open for at least 10 hours per day and have posted signs describing appropriate fuel pump operation could eliminate their attendant. These stations would also be required to provide proof that there are no employees present to supervise filling-up vehicles, as well as an audit by the State Fire Marshal.

This suspension of the full-service requirement expired in May, but the temporary deregulation appears to have shifted the Overton Window with regard to whether adults entrusted with driving a motor vehicle could also fill up their own gas tanks.

According to The Oregonian, the Fire Marshal issued a suspension of the full-service mandate in 2021 and 2022 due to heat waves and wildfires that made it more hazardous for pump attendants to stand outside all day. This resulted in a second attempt in 2022, supported by a polished astroturf campaign by Oregonians for Choice at the Pump, which was more successful.

This effort was thwarted, however, when a late-game financial analysis revealed that the Oregon Fire Marshall would need an unexpected $550,000 to regulate “consumer pumping.” Legislators who supported the initiative struggled to locate the necessary funds, and the initiative ultimately failed. This year everything came together.

Persistent labor shortages resulting from the pandemic have prompted gas stations to continue pressing for the expansion of self-service. Legislators argued that the public was also warming up to the concept.

Rep. Julie Fahey said –

“Oregonians are getting better, [and] more and more familiar with pumping their own gas, and they are becoming more and more supportive of the idea of having the choice of whether they can pump their own gas.”

Not everyone was in agreement.

Oregon Ban on Adults Fueling Cars

Scott Bartlett said in written testimony

“I deeply admire the crew of attendants who serve us in South Eugene at our local Chevron station. They comprise all races, genders and ages. This bill has the capacity to fire 50% of them ultimately.”

The state was not prepared for a complete libertarian approach to fueling vehicles. The new law restricts station proprietors to converting only fifty percent of their pumps to self-service. The remaining portion will require an attendant.

During a February public hearing on the bill, a representative from the gas station industry stated that it would be better for station owners to be able to go completely self-service. In response, the committee chair, Representative Dacia Grayber (D-Portland), stated that the only reason the bill was receiving a hearing was due to its 50 percent full-service mandate.

She said –

“We’re not in the business of jobs destruction.”

In the 48 states where market forces have been permitted to operate, full-service filling stations have virtually vanished. Strangely, these states have not been left with hordes of permanently unemployed and destitute pump attendants, and it’s not because they all migrated to Oregon to staff its state-created full-service pumps.

These employees have since moved on to other jobs, many of which are likely more lucrative, productive, and comfortable than operating gas pumps for customers. They do not require state governments to create employment for them in order to be gainfully employed.

And if full-service defenders’ claim that Oregon customers place a higher value on the full-service gas station experience than customers elsewhere in the country is accurate, gas attendant positions will remain. Oregon may have partially dialed back its requirement for self-service gas pumps, but it should have gone further.

Neon Martin

Neon Martin is a talented content writer with a passion for crafting engaging, informative articles on a wide range of topics. With a keen eye for detail and a love of language, Neon has honed their writing skills over several years of experience in the field.Neon's work can be found on Focushillsboro.com, where they contribute insightful articles that explore the many facets of life in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas. Whether delving into local events, highlighting community leaders, or sharing tips on living a healthy and fulfilling life, Neon's writing always captivates and informs.

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