Gas Pump Trigger Latch

Yet another irritating thing about Rhode Island:

For some reason, the mechanisms for holding the squeezed trigger on a gas pump in position have been removed from almost all pumps in the state. I can’t figure out why they would need to do that.

Right over the border, in Connecticut, their trigger mechanisms are in place. I’ve noticed it’s about 50/50 in Massachusetts.

I grew up in Minnesota, land of 10,000 gas pump trigger mechanisms. So what’s the deal with RI?

Is it a state to state issue? Are Rhode Islanders more likely to top off and overfill their tank? I was at a Shell today, filling up, sitting there like a chump squeezing all $50 into my car when it started to overflow. Only after about a quarter of a cup spilled out, did it decide to shut off. So I don’t think removing the latch is to prevent overflow.

So why remove them?

Most gas pump fires are triggered by static electricity. The basic sequence goes like this:

  1. Driver gets out, grabs the nozzle (which serves to discharge any static he may have built up at this point), starts pumping and latches the trigger.
  1. He gets back in his car to make a phone call, listen to the radio, get out of the cold, etc.

  2. He gets out to remove the pump nozzle, sliding across the upholstery as he does so and in the process accumulates a large static charge

  3. He reaches for the pump nozzle which has filled the air around it with gasoline fumes, and just as he’s about to touch it, a spark jumps from his fingers to the nozzle igniting a fire.

Removing the latch prevents critical steps 2 and 3. Also, the pressure-operated turnoff mechanism which is supposed to stop the flow of fuel when the tank is full doesn’t always operate properly and potentially dangerous spills have occurred as a result.

Or not.

Gas station attendants don’t like mopping up spills and customers never let you know they’ve dumped it all over the island so avoidance of spills is probably the major reason for the latches being removed. Howver, most standard gas caps fit right into the trigger area to act as a lock anyway, FYI. :wink:

Any data on the actual instances of fires caused by static electricity? I used to live in NJ, where the gas station owners painted horrific pictures of what would happen if we were allowed to pump our own gas. Oddly enough, Pennsylvania, where you could, hadn’t burned to the ground yet.

Perhaps another reason for no latches is that it prevents people from driving away with the gas nozzle still in the tank. I know they are designed to be breakaway, but I’m sure they are a pain to replace.

BTW, I’ve never seen a pump without a latch in California.

ETA: My question is answered. Thanks.

Duh, its too hard to dial your cell phone while you fuel…

This was the first question I ever asked on the SDMB eight years ago. IIRC, the device is called a latch trigger mechanism and it is illegal at self-pump stations in Massachusetts and probably Rhode Island. People gave me the laws and everything. I think it is paranoia because full-service pumps in Massachusetts still have them and I can’t see one of the gas jockeys being much more of an expert on pumping gas than the average driver. I also don’t hear about too many pump fires caused by consumers in other states either. You do see the triggers on self-service pumps in Massachusetts on occasion but it is definitely not 50/50.

That sounds kind of dangerous to me. Wouldn’t that prevent the auto-shutoff from working?

*** Ponder

Heh. I think we’d be in far better shape if we forced all people using cellphones on the road to do it while fueling rather than while driving.

Not sure about other states, but in Texas the auto shutoff works the same if you’re holding the trigger as if something else (like the trigger latch) is holding it.

Mythbusters did a show about fueling fires. Their take is it does happen, and when it happens it’s usually because the driver wandered off and collected static as Q.E.D. described.

Another point from the Mythbusters show is that the worst thing to do if a fire does start is pull out the nozzle. I imagine having the trigger latch doesn’t help much when that happens.

Where in Massachusetts did you find dispenser nozzles with the latch? Per 527 CMR (the Massachusetts Fire Code) trigger latches are not allowed on self service dispenser nozzles. I know a rather large number of fire inspectors in the Commonwealth who would love to find latches in their towns.

The latches are also illegal in Rhode Island, particularly now after the adoption of the new fire code. I’m not sure if they’re allowed at full serivce dispensers, as Massachusetts allows. Either way, they’re not allowed at all at self service islands.

If you look closely at service stations in Mass. and RI, you’ll see fire suppression systems at all self service islands, but not generally at full service gas stations. In theory, gas station attendants are trained how to prevent and control gasoline spills, so the need for the suppression system is eliminated. In theory.

Yeah, my boyfriend told me about this little gem. I have a Wrangler and the rubber strap on the gas cap isn’t long enough to do this :frowning: Damned American cars…

:dubious: You don’t work for them do you? If I tell you where they are, you’re not gonna take them away are ya? C’mon…when it’s 17 degrees out and my jam is on the radio, sometimes a girls gotta make that out-of-the-way trip to that Sunoco on Rt. 6 in Seekonk :eek: DAMN!

I noticed that gas stations removed the trigger locks when they went to the emissions-control nozzles. Now that those nozzles are being phased out, the locks are coming back…

I have never had a pump latch fail, and who in the hell gets into their car while it’s being fueled? I never do, no matter the weather.
I think it’s more likely that they were removed so that people wouldn’t forget that the nozzle is still in their fill-hole before they drive off (which is probably more prevalent with credit card pump payments since you don’t have to go inside to pay).

Lots of people. Read the complete PEI report cited in the Snopes article above. And just because you have never had a latch fail does not mean that it doesn’t happen.

Depends on who you mean by “them.” I’m pretty good friends with one of Seekonk’s inspectors, but I don’t work there. I live in Swansea, work at a certain “colorful” airport a bit south of the big city.

I’m suprised he hasn’t picked up on that latch - he’s pretty good about code enforcement stuff.

After a brief look through 527 CMR 5.08, the Board now says that if you have a vapor recovery system with the bellows that automatically shuts the nozzle off when it extends, then you can have a hold open clip. Does the Sunoco in question have said type of system?

[mutters to self] I hate driving through Seekonk - town doesn’t know what state it wants to be…[/mutter]

I actually haven’t been to that Sunoco in a few months. I did notice the Mobile up the street used to have a missed latch. I was there recently and it had been removed :frowning:

They have the same cars in every state, and the same behaviors by motorists, why not make it federal. Either we all get them, or no one. Some poor guy went out of his way to invent a little mechanism to give a motorist some freedom while pumping and we just go and stomp on his dreams. Most people use that time to go inside and buy stuff, you’d think the stations would’ve fought for it more.

I seem to remember hearing on that Mythbusters episode that it’s mostly women who do this. But SmartAleq’s Snopes link seems to say there’s no support for this claim. Anybody have the Straight Dope on this? Any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, about whether women get into their cars while fueling and men don’t—and if so, why?

I’m a woman, and I get back into the car just about any time I have a latch on the pump (which, as you may have guessed, is very infrequently). If I do have a latch and don’t get back in the car, sometimes I just stand there, or wash my windshield and headlights if they’re salty.

I have also seen the Mythbusters and have experienced the door shock some people get when getting in/out of their car.

My reasons for getting back into the car are usually because of cold, laziness, or boredom. I’d rather wait for the gas to finish pumping while I’m sitting in the warm car, rather than standing there, bulking up my forearm.

Minor nitpick-that feature well predates self-serve gasoline. Long, long ago, when gas stations employed kids such as myself to clean windshields, check oil, and pump fuel (at ~ 30 cents per gallon) for customers, those devices enabled one kid to fill the tanks of several cars at once while performing the other tasks.

Now get off my lawn. :wink: