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Would you want to pump your own fuel?

‘One of the strangest things about driving overseas, is having to pump your own fuel. Would you want to?’ asks Lance Branquinho.

Would you want to pump your own fuel in SA?

2018-01-16 10:01

Image: iStock

Lance Branquinho

Cape Town - Since New Year’s, the people of Oregon can finally pump their own petrol. Would you want to do the same in South Africa?

It’s the oddest thing about driving in another country. Not the absence of intolerance. Not the case of driving on the opposite side of the road, operating controls with unfamiliar intuition due to the steering wheel being on the left side too. No. None of this. 

The strangest thing about driving overseas, is having to pump your own petrol – or diesel. In most of the world, where people can afford new cars and have quality roads to drive them on, and a reliable energy infrastructure to fuel them from, petrol is not pumped by an attendant. You do it yourself.


Would you want to choice to pump your own fuel? Would this practice work in SA? Email us and tell us why!


A compromise between automation, convenience and independence sees hipsters and investment bankers, all handling the hose and pressure handle with aplomb, fuelling their own vehicles. Without assistance. Strangely, in the country which prizes automation, convenience and independence more than most, there are two states of the US where attendants still fuel your car on the forecourt: Oregon and New Jersey. 

Well, at least, that was the case until 1 January 2018, when Oregon finally declared that its residents will now have to get out and pump their own unleaded or diesel in counties with fewer than 40 000 inhabitants. New Jersey, remains the last place in the world’s greatest car nation, where you don’t have to get your hands contaminated by the smell or taste of fuel when running near empty.

Is filling-up bad for you?

The consequence of Oregon’s new petrol station laws has irked some Oregonians. Typically, irrelevant hysteria has been channelled to social media.

The concerns are that fuelling your car is a health hazard, dangerous, can expose one to opportunistic crime and will prove an impossible task to master for the elderly or disabled. Of course, this conveniently ignores that millions of other Americans (and Europeans, for that matter) pump their own fuel each day, year after year, without suffering calamitous consequences: either setting themselves on fire or dying from fuel poisoning. 

Would it work in SA?

As South Africans, we often look to America for inspiration. We certainly import and consume most of their entertainment as if it was our own. But what would happen, here, if there was the option, or a decree, to pump your own fuel? 

If you were given the choice of pumping your own fuel at a self-service petrol station, for a discount of a few cents per litre, would you? In a country with the unemployment issues that South Africa has, vanquishing the job security of thousands of petrol attendants is not an insignificant consideration. But that aside, would you want to pump your own fuel?

Potential spillage…

I think most of us would not.

The behaviour is too ingrained: you step out to buy something at the convenience store or remain seated at the wheel, navigating social media on your Smartphone, whist an attendant fuels your car. Anybody who has ever raced cars and worked with bunkering and transferring fuel from barrels, will know that the smell does linger on one’s hands. Especially with diesel. And if you are on your way to an expensive dinner appointment, or a braai (where food is eaten by hand), you’d prefer somebody else to deal with the potential spillage issue. 

Curiously, in a world where we desire ever greater convenience and are told that automation will make most traditional jobs disappear soon, the petrol attendant is not something I cannot imagine most South African motorists doing without. 

So, if you go on vacation to America, and need to do any driving, best confine it to the garden state of New Jersey, where it’s just like home – and somebody fills up for you. 

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Read more on:    lance branquinho  |  south africa  |  fuel  |  fuel price

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