The Wastefulness of New Jersey's Gas Pumping Restrictions


Driving through New Jersey, we stop for gas and sit for a few minutes until the attendant comes to fill our tank.  My son tells me that is because New Jersey has one of the most wasteful restrictions in the Union: there is no self-service gasoline; all gas must be pumped by an attendant.  This wastes drivers’ time — it’s almost always quicker to pump gas oneself.  The labor of the attendants is thus devoted to generating economic waste and could be spent productively elsewhere rather than in promoting economic inefficiency.

Perhaps at one time the restriction was based, as they usually are, on health/safety, or perhaps on preventing pilferage.  But today, with credit-card pumps and few (no?) cases of people burning themselves pumping their own gas, the restriction has no rationale—other than protecting the attendants’ jobs.


It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon too. One particularly crusty gas attendant explained to me it is because "some...politician's son blew himself up" but I have no idea if its true!

Justin Dearing

It used to be dangerous to pump your own gas. Not so much anymore.

From a gas exposure issue, having a handful of people constantly exposed to gasoline vapors and gas on the skin probably heads to more health problems than having the entire driving population occasionally exposed.

From a practical perspective, you can usually pump your own gas close to the NY border if you beat the attendant to the pump. Suburban and rural gas station attendants will get mad though.

Brad Johnson

As someone who grew up in New Jersey, it has always been presented to me as a jobs creation scheme. Because of the region's oil refining capacity, gas prices are still among the nation's lowest despite having paid laborers fill the tanks.

You seem to suggest that eliminating these jobs would allow gas pumpers to work at something more beneficial to society. Since most gas station workers are unskilled immigrants or high school students, I'm not sure that is a reasonable assumption. If those jobs aren't there, the workers would be displacing other unskilled laborers in other fields. If this recession has taught us anything, it should be that not everyone can have a job just because they want one.

Eric M. Jones

...and the reason I am not allowed to do YOUR job is...?


I agree. I also wonder how much the price of gasoline/in-store items would be lowered if the costs of these employees were deducted. Seems like a waste from the gas station owners point of view too.

Steve S.

As a Pennsylvanian, and an part time oil speculator (when I drive through NJ), I have always been fascinated by mandatory full serve policy. I dated a girl who worked in the industry, and she explained that having a gas station attendant pumping customers' gas results in a lower insurance premium for the gas station owner - thus resulting in a lower price per gallon of gas for the consumer.

I've never felt that it was an inconvenience to have someone else pump my gas, maybe that's because its a bit of a novelty for a Pennsylvanian.


Yes, I live in NJ. It's a law to create more jobs.

David Bohannon

These days I live in the mid-Atlantic and have occasion to drive into NJ fairly frequently. One thing I've noticed, is that on the whole, gas in NJ is often cheaper than in surrounding states. The rational I've been given is that the insurance involved in operating a gas station is significantly less in NJ due to the mandatory full-service requirements.

Maureen Fox

I wish we could get rid of all those useless jobs, maybe then we could get unemployment up to 35, 40% maybe more! Some things I admittedly prefer to do myself, but it's getting to the point where retailers are eliminating all those cashier jobs, and service has suffered, all for what? Higher profits? Higher return on investment $? Do we even see, as a society, where this is leading us?

Steve S.

Sounds like an argument from a Luddite.

Navneet V.

Living in southern NY, I do find it very annoying that if we drive a mere 5 minutes south, we have to waste another 5 minutes for an attendant just to get gas that is cheaper.

cp crowell

Gas in NJ is cheaper on average than anywhere else in the country. Employing people and providing a service which does not hinder costs is irrational? Your time is THAT important that you can't wait but you have the time to publish your opinions online? Plan your time a little better so you can have time to think intelligently before you write!


This creates jobs! It's effect on safety may or may not bear out - it would be an interesting study to read.

Also, New Jersey is not the only state with this restriction; at least Oregon also requires this.


What about the wastefulness in NJ's neighbor PA? I am a native Pennsylvanian that spent 8 years in Virginia and I cannot express how frustrated I get when I need to buy beer. In PA, you must buy any beer greater than 144oz at a Beverage Distributor. You can buy six and twelve packs from various restaurants (usually pizza shops) or Wegmans, which has gotten plenty of flack for it. The distributors, well, they only sell cases and kegs - that's it. Talk about antiquated, inefficient, and absurd! Change the laws!!


As a European, whenever I travel to the States I am amazed afresh at the number of people doing jobs that, frankly, just don't need doing. Last week at JFK I waited in a long queue for taxis. Part of the cause was that THREE people were employed to 'organise' the taxis as they came in and out of the rank. The resulting overkill of whistling, waving forward approaching taxis, and lecturing drivers who dared to pull in too close to / far from the kerb made the whole process incredibly slow - not to mention frustrating as hell for the people waiting for a cab. The drivers surely would have earnt more - and each passenger waited less - had those three people been sacked.


This law makes some sense between November and March when the wind is howling.


Right, but your argument hinges on the opportunity waste of drivers' lost time (and its inherent value) dwarfing that of economic cost of fewer jobs and less widespread wealth, for gas station attendants.

Lord knows that savings wouldn't be pumped anywhere but Big Oil's pockets.


I live in Oregon and I never wait for an attendant more than about a minute to get my gas pumped. It's certainly worth my time to not have to get out, get my hands dirty, etc.

I'd be interested in knowing if insurance costs are actually lower if attendants pump the gas.


If it is to create jobs then NJ should eliminate ATMs. That would create a lot of bank teller jobs!

It really is ridiculous to think that the rest of the population can be trusted to pump their own fuel, but not people from Jersey.


My wife and I used to go to a more expensive station (in Southern Europe) for the full service which we preferred. It no longer exists. It seems that either all stations are full service by law, or none of them are due to (perceived) economic benefits.

For those not accustomed to the benefits of a full service station, consider my usual routine up until the neighborhood station closed: Drive up, hand the keys to the attendant (remember - he was my neighbor), go have a coffee and a muffin, come back to the car and pay the attendant, drive off. This is much better than self service, any day.

If you haven not learned how to use a full service station in the correct manner (and thus failed to obtain the benefit), then you should write a post entitled "Please educate me, I am ignorant".

Oh, I forgot to mention that the attendant cleaned my windshield for me, free of charge, EVERY TIME. How much more expensive was the gas? About 2 cents per liter. Did I tip? Certainly!