Self-Service Fueling Debuts in Oregon

Rural retailers report higher overnight sales as ban partially lifted

LAKEVIEW, Ore. -- Nearly eight months since self-service fueling began in Oregon, initial reports suggest that drivers have it pretty much figured out.

Oregon, which along with New Jersey was one of only two states to prohibit self-service fueling, passed legislation last year to allow the practice on a limited basis, beginning this past January. Specifically, only fuel retailers in counties with populations of 40,000 or fewer can offer self-service fueling, and only between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The motivation behind the legislation: Give residents of these rural areas overnight access to fuel without forcing gas stations to provide 24-hour staffing, which could be expensive and challenging in sparsely populated areas.

Eighteen counties in Oregon, most in the eastern half of the state, have populations low enough to qualify. One of these is Lake County, which has fewer than 8,000 residents and is in the south central part of the state. According to theLake County Examiner, area gas stations are reporting an increase in late-night sales since the law took effect.

At Lakeview Shell, which sits on Highway 395 in Lakeview, Ore., an employee oversees fuel sales up to 11 p.m. and then reopens the store at 4 a.m. For the five overnight hours when the store is closed, fuel sales from customers pumping their own gasoline have trended into “the hundreds of dollars” since self-service fueling began.

“So far we haven’t had any issues with the self-serve laws, though the first few days we were curious what would happen,” Maria Licea, manager of Lakeview Shell, told the newspaper. “The first couple nights it was small, but we’re now seeing numbers increase.”

Licea said that before self-service fueling began, Lakeview Shell employees opening the site would often find customers waiting who had camped overnight to refuel so they could continue their travels.

Legislators in New Jersey introduced two bills last year that would have lifted that state’s self-service fueling ban, which had been in place for 70 years; however, neither came up for a vote, mainly because of a lack of political will and public support for the idea.

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