Why Can’t You Pump Your Own Gas In Oregon?

why can't you pump your own gas in oregon

In a few places in the US, self-serve gas stations are still banned. Thus, gas filling station attendants are still employed in these areas. Hence, you can’t pump gas in Oregon

But, why can’t you pump your own gas in Oregon

Is it illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon

Let’s uncover this riddle.

Does Every State In The US Have Self-Service Gas Filling Stations?

self serve gas stations
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

No, not every state in the US has self-service gas filling stations. In the two states – New Jersey and Oregon, there’s a ban on self-service pumps. There is also a ban on self-service or self-serve gas stations in the town of Huntington in New York.

Therefore, you may not even know how to pump your own gas if you live in Oregon, New Jersey, or the town of Huntington in New York. 

Here, the customers will surely come across an attendant at the gasoline pumps. This is because it is (for the most part) illegal to do so.

A Brief Glance At The History Of Gas Stations In The U.S.

To understand the ban on self-service gasoline pumps in Oregon, allow us to take you back in time. Letting customers pump their own gas was unheard of in 1964.

Moreover, according to state fire rules, it was illegal in most parts of the country.

The earliest filling stations in the US were usually found in general stores, where gasoline was dispensed in buckets and channeled into cars. 

The majority of those stations were nothing more than hand-operated roadside pumps manned by attendants.

However, two periods of gas shortage in the 1970s (1973 and 1979) resulted in increased fuel costs.

As a result, several full-service gas stations were forced to close permanently as customers sought lower prices.

So yes, there used to be a time when only full-service gas stations were in force. But huge oil crises primarily led to their discontinuation.

That being the case, full-service stations and their attendants are now considered somewhat nostalgic in most areas of the United States.

In the United States, the vast majority of drivers do not hesitate to self-serve the gas.

Can You Pump Your Own Gas In Oregon?

self service gas station
Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn on Unsplash

No, you can not pump your own gas in Oregon; at least in most counties of Oregon. Oregon, is, in fact, one of the few states that prohibit drivers from pumping their own gas, followed by New Jersey and Huntingtown. 

Regardless of being prevalent for a long time, self-serve gas stations have become controversial in many counties and towns. 

In these places, filling station attendants are still employed at gas stations. 

State laws prohibiting the stations generally include wording like “no person other than service station owner or authorized employee shall use or operate any motor fuel dispensing equipment at any service station.”

Let’s go through a detailed list of reasons that led to the ban on self-service gas stations in Oregon and still hold the same law in place:

Why Is It Illegal To Pump Your Own Gas In Oregon?

It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon due to the following reasons:

  • The risk of fire
  • Lack of expertise of citizens
  • Lack of awareness
  • Traffic accumulation
  • Protection of citizens from toxic fumes
  • Possibility of job loss of gas attendants if self-service gas stations are allowed and set up.

Here is a detailed overview of the reasons that led to a ban on self-service gas stations and why you can’t pump gas in Oregon:

Reason 1: Protection From Toxic Fumes

Poisonous fumes from gas tanks can be unsafe for consumers. Furthermore, small children left alone at a self-serve gas station can be vulnerable to a dangerous environment.

This is one of the major reasons why the State holds it illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon.

Reason 2: Risk Of Fire

gas tank with fire warning
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The most common criticism of self-service stations is that they pose a fire risk and explosion.

Customers were likelier than attendants to smoke while pumping gas and spilling gasoline. This could lead to catastrophic fire and therefore casualties.

Reason 3: Lack Of Expertise

It was also claimed that the drivers are untrained to notice required repairs and flaws in the motor or other working parts. And thus, if a trained attendant does not inspect their vehicles, it will lead to a hazard. 

Moreover, some citizens or travelers may be lacking expertise in filling their own gas. This could pose numerous risks, therefore, the law.

Reason 4: Lack Of Awareness

Claims have been made that the driver, particularly if elderly (or if the weather is poor), might refuse to wipe the windshield. Thus, they may fail to preserve their own driving eyesight.

However, when there is a gas station attendant filling the gas, they could do the occasional wipe and cleaning.

Reason 5: Traffic Accumulation and Property Depreciation

old gas tank
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

It is stated that excessive traffic congestion at the stations may arise if self-service was allowed. This may make accidents more likely.

Also, according to reports, fewer attendants will result in a deterioration in station cleanliness and, as a result, property depreciation. 

Reason 6: Inadequate Job Opportunities

The idea that several existing stations will go out of business and a number of filling station staff or gas attendants will lose their jobs is implicit in anti-self-service station arguments but only seldom articulated.

Read More: Why Doesn’t Utah Have A Jack In The Box?

Let’s understand how the State came up with the reasons above in order to impose a ban on self-service gas stations.

Below is a sketch of Oregon’s history of gas pumps in a chronological event.

The History Behind Oregon’s Ban on Self-Service Gas Pumps

In 1951, Oregon became the first state to outlaw self-service due to concerns about people handling volatile chemicals.

Many states had similar laws at the time for the same reason. Over and above that, gas station pumps had fewer safety features.

In the 1970s, self-service became popular. It was driven by fuel shortages, reducing wait times, and lowering costs. These benefits made self-serve gas stations seem more appealing. 

However, Oregon’s statute remained in place.

Partial Reversals In The Oregon Laws

Nonetheless, in 2015, the state made exclusions for specific locations. These include distant rural areas and tribal territories, in this fashion.

Thus, Oregonians have been able to pump their own gas in rural areas of the state since 2015.

The Current Law In Oregon

Since 2018, Oregon residents living in rural counties with populations under 40,000 are allowed to pump their own gas. This development was met with criticism and skepticism by many Oregonians.

Why Did Oregonians Oppose The Change in Law?

The bill to allow self-service for counties with a total population of 40,000 or less made Oregonians furious. 

Even though the change in the law was only expected to affect a small number of people, Oregonians flocked to social media to voice their dissatisfaction.

They were concerned about issues they may face with self-serve gas stations.

When word of the move spread, Oregonians began to protest on social media about how unsafe it was to pump gas. They felt only qualified gas-pumping attendants should be permitted to do so.

Many people claimed themselves to be incapable of understanding how to pump gas and the dangers of doing so incorrectly. 

Elderly people who had been enjoying the services of full-service gas stations were concerned about the same.

Furthermore, many Oregonians did not want to go to work smelling like gasoline.

However, the Oregonians received serious and whimsical replies from the inhabitants of the rest of the counties. 

This prompted their social media posts to become viral over the weekend. Many of the replies claimed to be joking. Still, the irony was missed by many of those who rebuked Oregonians for not wanting to or understanding how to pump their own gas.

A Failed Attempt To Lift The Ban On Self-Service Pumps In Oregon

House Bill 3194, introduced in 2019, attempted to broaden the law. It allowed any gas station in the Oregon state to designate up to a quarter of its fuel pumps for customers who want to fill their tanks on their own. 

However, the bill failed to pass the House of Representatives.

Letting People Pump Their Own Gas At The Onset Of The Pandemic

A year later, in response to the COVID pandemic in 2020, the Oregon state enabled self-service for two weeks statewide as the country dealt with the epidemic’s onset. 

Oregon let people pump their own gas during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak. The law relaxed its control on the pump once more.

According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, the amended rule was intended to allow social distancing.

It also aimed to reduce exposure for gas attendants during COVID.

The Temporary Lift of Ban In 2021

During the summer of 2021, the state permitted people to temporarily refill their own tanks.

In Portland, the temperature had risen to around 112 degrees. 

Due to the unusually high temperatures, Oregon made a two-day temporary adjustment to its restrictions, prohibiting consumers from pumping their own gas.

Then, as decided, every self-serve gas station site was banned. Yet again.

What Did The Oregonians Feel?

Time and again, during these amendments, many Oregonians had to find out how to pump their own gas when the ban was removed, possibly for the first time in their lives.

Furthermore, they had to leave the comfort of their air-conditioned vehicles to fill up their tanks.

On the plus side, this modification prevented gas station employees from potentially standing for hours on black asphalt in the hot heat, although for a short period.

Were the Oregonians delighted with this change? What was their reaction?

Many Oregonians said they don’t want full-service gas stations to go away.

There were various reasons for this: accessibility for individuals with disabilities or elderly Oregonians not wanting to get out of their car in the rain.

Where Can You Pump Your Own Gas In Oregon? Where Are Self-Serve Stations Available In Oregon?

Residents in Oregon can now pump their own gas at stand-alone gas stations in counties with fewer than 40,000 population. Clatsop, Tillamook, and Curry County are some places where you can pump your own gas in Oregon between 6 PM and 6 AM.

What Counties In Oregon Can You Pump Your Own Gas 24×7? 

Counties like Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Jefferson, Gilliam, Morrow, Wheeler, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Baker, Crook, Lake, Harney, and Malheur allow self-serving gas 24×7.

What Counties In Oregon Have A Ban On Self-Service?

Umatilla, Columbia, Washington, Yamhill, Polk, Lincoln, Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Linn, Benton, Lane, Deschutes, Coos, Douglas, Klamath, Jackson, and Josephine have permanently banned self-serve. You can’t pump your own gas in these counties of Oregon.

This is because of the new law that took effect on January 1, 2018. The current law allows drivers to pump their own gas in a few counties. 

So, is it legal to pump your own gas in Oregon?

Yes, it is legal to pump your own gas in Oregon, but only in selective areas. If you’re in a city like Portland, Salem, Eugene, or Medford, you’ll still need a gas station attendant to pump your gas – pumping your own gas in these counties is still considered illegal.

What Happens If You Pump Your Own Gas In Oregon?

The State Fire Marshal can punish gas stations for up to $500 for allowing someone to pump gas through a complaint-based system. The fines collected go to the general fund of the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

And what if you’re not able to pump gas in Oregon because of some disability?

Gas stations must provide equitable access to fuel for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Oregon law. 

Customers with disabilities must be provided with refueling assistance at stations that offer self-service assistance.

Moreover, if an attendant is not present at the pumps or is otherwise unable to determine if a person with a handicap requires assistance, the station must post a sign instructing people with disabilities on how to alert an attendant for refueling assistance.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Pump Gas In Oregon?

It depends on the self-serve gas stations themselves. Some self-service gas stations have warning signs that say, “persons under the age of 16 should not be permitted to operate this fuel dispensing equipment.” There is, however, no law prohibiting kids under the age of 16 from pumping gas. 

Thus, signs like the one above are almost certainly intended to safeguard young children from harm while also shielding stations from liability.

Does That Mean Oregon Will Never Completely Lift The Self-Service Gas Filling Prohibition?

gas attendant pumping gas
Image by andre costargent from Pixabay

As evident in Oregon, there has been an age-old debate about whether it is time to enable self-service gasoline pumps. Although nothing can be said for sure, it is more likely that Oregon would keep you from pumping your own gas in the near future as well.

Oregon is still one of the two states prohibiting customers from self-serving fuel at the pumps.

The other state which does the same is New Jersey. You’ll find an attendant at every fuel station.

Lawmakers are concerned about the residents’ safety in Oregon and New Jersey.

At the beginning of this year, though, the conversation had taken place in the midst of a global pandemic and a statewide labor crisis.

With the passage of a new bill by state lawmakers, Oregon might no longer have been one of the last states to outlaw self-service gasoline.

As per the 2022 bill, Oregon’s rule prohibiting self-service at petrol stations could be overturned. 

The bill came at a time when gas stations had difficulty filling open positions due to significant labor shortages. 

This bill would have helped gas stations trying to stay open due to labor shortages, station attendants rushing to serve the waiting customers, and drivers who are delayed in line at the pump.

The bill would’ve allowed gas stations to provide drivers with the option of self-serve or having a station operator pump their own gas. 

A fee might have been imposed if a gas station owner did not have an attendant on hand.

Moreover, whether the driver chose self-service or relied on an attendant’s assistance, the gasoline cost would’ve stayed the same.

The Latest Development

However, the law allowing gas stations to offer self-service fuel has hit a roadblock that will be difficult to overcome.

Oregonians have complained about the long waits at the state’s full-service-only islands for years.

During the pandemic, complaints have grown as gas stations, like most other companies in Oregon, have struggled to find personnel.

The Oregon Fire Marshal said the department requires $543,376 for the 2021-23 budget to regulate consumer pumping, so House Bill 4151, which “authorizes self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable substances at retail dispensaries,” has been postponed.

In this way, if not locals’ disagreement, a fiscal deficit served as an obstacle to the implementation of this bill.

So, Oregon’s exceptionalism could not be bet against. Yet again. We suppose so.

The Bottomline

  • Self-service gas stations have been a topic of disagreement among the people of Oregon and New Jersey.
  • The government has proposed a transition from full-service fuel stations to self-service fuel stations every now and then for brief durations.
  • Oregonians were allowed to pump their own gas temporarily in 2015, 2018, 2019, and 2021. Now, there’s at least one attendant at all the fuel pumps.
  • The permission to access pumps on your own was not allowed to a few rural and tribal areas in Oregon in 2015. However, the COVID pandemic and a severe heat wave forced the government to allow self-service in 2019 and 2021, temporarily.
  • These amendments have constantly met with differences of opinion, including the current law, with most residents not wanting to pump their own fuel.
  • As per the current law, Oregon’s residents are permitted to pump their own fuel only in counties with a population up to 40,000 each.
  • However, in 2022, a bill was proposed to allow gas stations to provide drivers with the option of self-serve or having a station operator pump their own gas.
  • Julie Fahey proposed a bill for bringing a “modest change” trying to strike a balance instead of enforcing a “dramatic shift.”
  • But, as stated by Oregon Fire Marshal, a fiscal deficit in the budget to regulate self-service prevented the implementation of this bill.
  • Thus, Oregon is still one of the two states where pumping your own gas is still illegal.

Swati Jaiswal

Swati Jaiswal is a dedicated traveler and an even dedicated individual who specializes in travel, digital marketing, & health and fitness niches. Passport stamps and coffee stains are her badges of honor.

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