OPINION: Gas stations should be able to let drivers choose
My brother and I run a fourth-generation, family-owned Oregon fuel business called Bretthauer Oil.
We operate a number of fuel stations, including in Washington County as well as farther south in McMinnville and Newberg. Every day, we work hard to provide for our communities, employees and families, and we do whatever it takes to keep our customers moving.
While our industry is not one historically known as environmentally friendly, we take pride in leading efforts to change that by investing in eco-conscious fuels such as renewable diesel and expanding access to alternatives.
As companies like mine endeavor to meet the needs and challenges of society today, our state must do the same.
Gas stations across Oregon are struggling due to the labor shortage created by the COVID pandemic. Day to day, many are unsure whether they'll be able to open.
Without enough staff, station owners are forced to limit the number of available pumps, reduce their open hours or, worse, stay closed entirely if they don't have enough people available to open the doors, serve customers and attend to vehicles lined up at the pumps.
Fortunately, Oregon legislators now have an opportunity to provide relief to fuel retailers and drivers alike.
House Bill 4151 would allow gas stations statewide to offer drivers a choice between pumping their own gas or having a gas station attendant help them refuel. It would require a portion of the pumps to remain staffed by attendants, while opening some for self-service. This would ensure access for disabled customers and for those who haven't yet learned how to pump their own gas, as well as for anyone who simply prefers to have an attendant do it, and it would not reduce existing jobs.
With labor shortages anticipated to continue, it's critical to make this change now.
Legislators provided relief for fuel retailers and Oregon drivers in 2015, when they voted to allow self-serve gas during nighttime hours in rural counties and on the Oregon coast, and in 2017, when they decided to allow self-service at all hours in those rural counties.
For several months in 2020, self-service was also allowed statewide due to public health and staffing concerns early in the pandemic, and in 2021, the state again briefly suspended rules to allow self-serve gas during the historic summer heat wave.
And yet Oregon remains one of just two states that doesn't allow all drivers to pump their own gas, even though the rest of the country does it safely and efficiently every day.
House Bill 4151 strikes the right balance for the needs of all Oregonians. I invite others to join me and urge legislators to let drivers choose whether to pump their own gas or receive service from an attendant. You can send a letter and learn more at choiceatthepump.com.
Alex Bretthauer and her brother run Bretthauer Oil, a fourth-generation, family-owned business based in Hillsboro.
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