For as long as anyone can remember, several rural counties in Oregon have had laws on the books that require anyone who needs gas to have it pumped for them. If you don’t live in one of those counties, the new law that just took effect giving residents of those counties the opportunity to pump their own gas probably didn’t affect you all that much. However, the reaction to House Bill 2482 in the affected counties has been large-scale panic.
For decades, rural Oregonians have had their gas pumped for them. So entrenched in daily life is this tradition that many people in the areas affected don’t even know how to pump their own gas. Having a service attendant pump your gas has been as common in these counties as going to church on Sundays or grabbing coffee with a friend. However, as convenient as having your gas pumped can be, it’s easy to see how there would be times when you’d want the ability to pump your own gas.
House Bill 2482 went into effect not to do away with the current system but to give people the opportunity to pump their own gas when the station isn’t staffed or when there’s a long wait for gas. In counties with less than 40,000 people, drivers can now pump their own gas any time of day. Three counties are an exception; in those counties you can only pump your own gas after business hours, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The law was changed to help those who might need gas during the late hours of the night. However, the law also helps in another way.
Let’s say you live in one of these counties and your car runs out of gas during the night. You’re driving home at 9 p.m. and you realize you have to get gas. No station attendant is working, but you don’t have the authority to pump your own gas. So what would you do?
The standard practice had been to call the police or the Sheriff. They would come down with a small can of gas and make calls on your behalf to find out where the nearest open service station was.
As you can imagine, this is quite a drain on the police force. Giving people the opportunity to pump their own gas during off-business hours means they can get on their way faster and the cops can focus on more dire situations.
A local TV station opened a proverbial can of worms by posting on their Facebook page and asking people to react to the new legislation. The responses varied from total outrage to calls of discrimination and downright unwillingness. One woman said “I don’t even know HOW” and said she didn’t want to smell like gas. Another said “I REFUSE to pump my own gas” and went on to say that pumping gas should only be done by “qualified people”. Others complained that they shouldn’t be expected to pump gas in the gold, that transients would hurt them or mug them if they got out of the car at a gas station, and questioned “What are disabled people and seniors going to do?” Still more concerned Oregonians said that it would slash employment because the people who pump gas would be fired or put out of a job.
Reaction aside, the actual law isn’t that drastic. First of all, it doesn’t require that gas stations offer self-service pumps. If a gas station wants to continue operating the way they always have, that’s entirely up to them. The only thing it does is give those who live in areas with a low population the option of offering self-service pumps to their customers since it’s not always feasible to have someone on-site full-time.
Secondly, the law isn’t going to eliminate jobs. Most gas stations have convenience stores attached, which will have to be run by attendants and cashiers. Also, even if a station decides to offer self-service pumps that doesn’t mean they’re required to eliminate service pumps.
The fact of the matter is that many convenience store and gas station owners were in favor of the bill because it allows them to free up their staff. For many, their business is the only source of fuel and snacks in an area as big as 100 miles. Allowing customers to pump their own gas can free up their staff to help with other matters, increasing customer service, as well.
Just about every service station is either keeping things the way they are or simply adding self-service options to the services they’ve been offering for years, warranting the panic and outrage unnecessary.
If you’re having trouble pumping gas, we can’t help you there. But we can help with other driving-related matters.
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