Filling Up on Over-regulation

Moving to BC came with a number of cultural adjustments compared to living in Ontario. One of these differences is the way that drivers are able to pay for gasoline at a filling station. In Ontario, along with most other provinces, drivers have a wide range of options when it comes to how they want to pay for gasoline. Unfortunately, in BC, since February 2008, drivers have been limited to pre-paying for gas either at the pump or inside the store.

This new regulation stems from an incident where a gas station attendant that was run over and dragged down the road while trying to stop a theft of gasoline from his station in 2004. What needs to be recognized this that although the payment procedure for paying for gasoline in BC may have been susceptible to theft, no quantity of fuel theft is worth dying over for an employee of any wage. The issue in the case of this law is that there is a misunderstanding about the root cause of the employees death. The reality is that the employee made a decision to place himself in front of a fleeing car to try and stop the theft of fuel. This incident, while tragic, is much more about poor decision making on the part of the employee (or training on the part of the company) than a dangerous process for employees when collecting payment for fuel.

It is worth recognizing that this law that was put in place in response to the incident does technically solve the problem of drivers being able to fill up and drive away without paying. The issue is that the law is by no means the most efficient way of going about solving the problem of people stealing when filling up. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars of clothing stolen from retail stores around the country every week but you don’t see clothing stores requiring patrons to input their credit card when they enter the store.

The reality is that with the number of cameras around a gas station there is no way that a driver can possible fill up without their car (and themselves) being identified to the cameras. This in itself should be enough to follow up with charges.

It is extremely tragic that a gas station attendant died while on the job. The correct response to this situation should be to use the cameras to double down on security while training employees not to pursue thieves themselves. This would have provided an adequate, rational, solution to the issue at hand rather than the emotional overreaction we are left with.

Hayward Peirce Written by:

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