New Jersey is the only state in the US that doesn’t allow customers to pump their own gas — anywhere. At these full-service stations, there is always a gas station attendant on duty who fills up for customers.
Oregon is the only other state with a full-service law, along with New Jersey. However, Oregon’s laws are far less strict, allowing certain parts of the state to self-serve gas stations.
“It goes back to the mid-20th century,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Polling Institute. “There were forces at play that wanted to protect their interests vis-à-vis the smaller gas owners against mega-gas stations then under construction that would require self-service to be viable.”
Historically, staffed gas stations were popular in the first half of the 20th century. But by the 1970s, most states had switched to customers pumping their own gas. As these changes swept the US, a state ban on self-service in 1949 known as the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act prevented the Garden State from following suit. Oregon passed its own similar law in 1951.
In the original bill, the New Jersey state legislature cited safety concerns and rising costs for consumers as reasons against the move to self-service. But every time gas prices go up, bills surface that argue against full service. Considered a “political third rail” by many politicians, including Gov. Phil Murphy, it is one of the few legislative debates that does not follow party lines. Every bill so far has failed, but it hasn’t stopped support groups and politicians from pushing for change.
Watch the video above to learn more about New Jersey’s full-service gas stations, why self-service options aren’t finding a home in the Garden State, and what’s next for gas station owners.