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Guest Opinion

Legislators should give consumers a choice on pumping

In the grand scheme of things, giving drivers the ability to pump their own gas may not seem like the most pressing issue facing the Oregon Legislature this year, but for small businesses like ours, it’s a matter of survival. It’s time for lawmakers to provide critical relief to gas stations and allow drivers the choice to pump their own gas if they want to.

House Bill 2426 would let drivers statewide pump their own gas – a choice already available to Oregonians in many counties today. The bill would not get rid of gas station attendants, who would still be available to help customers who are elderly, disabled or prefer to have someone pump their gas for them. In larger counties such as Deschutes, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties, at least half of a gas station’s pumps would be designated for attended service, while drivers could also choose a self-service lane and fill up without waiting for help.

This legislation does not take anything away from anyone; instead, it expands options. It would ensure our gas stations remain open for customers who need to refuel their vehicles. It protects attendants’ jobs while easing the pressure they face when understaffed or confronted by drivers who are in a hurry or prefer self-service. And it ensures attendants are still available for those who need or prefer them.

Labor shortages have been well-publicized over the past few years, but no other industry faces a workforce mandate quite like ours, as it remains illegal for drivers in many areas to pump their own gas. This creates an unnecessary burden for business owners, employees and customers alike. Imagine if it were illegal to carry and load your own groceries into your car. While many grocery stores offer carryout services for customers, they are not mandated to do it for you.

The workforce shortage has no end in sight. This is not an issue of pay – our businesses offer compensation that is competitive with other types of retailers and stores. There simply are not enough people available and willing to do this work. And many Oregonians would prefer to pump their own gas anyway. Polls have consistently shown a majority of Oregon voters want the option of self-serve gas.

Today, Oregon is one of the last two states where drivers are still not allowed to pump their own gas – unless they are in the 18 rural counties where self-service is already permitted, or if they are refueling a motorcycle or diesel vehicle, or filling their tank during a public health or natural disaster, such as when the state has temporarily allowed motorists to pump their own gas over the past three years.

It’s time to simplify Oregon’s confusing patchwork of gas station regulations. We urge legislators to pass House Bill 2426 and give drivers a choice.

Louis Hernandez is a veteran who lives in Portland and owns gas stations in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

 

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