N.J. Fuel Retailers Association Calls on Governor to Temporarily Allow Self-Service

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WALL TOWNSHIP, N.J. — To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the state of New Jersey should temporarily suspend its prohibition on self-service gasoline, according to the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience, Automotive Association (NJGCA).

The trade association represents hundreds of independently owned motor fuel retailers across the state.

The danger is primarily due to the interaction with customers and the exchange of cash or credit cards back and forth, according to a statement by the NJGCA. Fuel attendants wearing gloves who do not touch their faces may protect themselves, but the novel coronavirus could transfer from a sick driver's method of payment and be transferred to the attendant's gloves, and potentially to the payment cards of future drivers.

Oregon relaxed its prohibition on self-service at gas stations on March 28, leaving New Jersey as the only state in which drivers are fully prohibiting from pumping their own gas.

A survey of NJGCA members found that their primary concerns include:

  • Employees that work as gas attendants do not feel safe having contact with customers who may be infected with coronavirus, as it is impossible to maintain a six-foot distance while interacting with drivers during the fueling process.
  • Many drivers have the same concerns as gas attendants and do not want to break the six-foot social distancing guideline. Members reported many instances in which drivers insisted on pumping their own gas and refused to allow attendants to touch their credit cards.
  • It is becoming more difficult to staff gas stations as the virus continues to spread. Gasoline sales have fallen dramatically, but NJGCA members are trying to remain open to serve those who are still required to go to work at essential businesses.

"A temporary suspension of the laws that prohibit motorists from pumping their own gas would allow motorists to fill their own tanks and take their own hygienic precautions in order to avoid spreading Coronavirus," said NJGCA Executive Director Sal Risalvato. "This is as simple as providing sanitizing wipes for customers to wipe gas nozzles which is exactly what grocery stores are doing with shopping carts. It is otherwise impossible for gas attendants and motorists to maintain the six-foot social distance that is currently required."

The NJGCA reached out to N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy in a letter requesting the prohibition suspension.

"This is not a problem that our neighbors in New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania have had to deal with, it is a uniquely New Jersey problem that only you can address," Risalvato wrote in the letter. "I believe that you should take the action that I am requesting, it will prove to be another demonstration of just how serious your efforts are to persuade New Jersey citizens to avoid physical interaction whenever possible."