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Fwd: Road Warrior: Rack Prices Jump, Inspection Trap, Green Amendment

April 18, 2024

Rack Prices for Gasoline See Big Spike

This week we had several members reach out to us to confirm the unfortunate truth that there was a huge spike in rack prices to start the week off, with the average price jumping nearly 25¢ a gallon to start the week. Every year, roughly around this time, we see an increase in wholesale prices tied to the mandated switchover from winter blend gas to summer blend. Summer blends are better for the air quality in our super-dense state, but also more expensive to refine, so they are only used in the warmer months, allowing cheaper fuel to be sold in the colder half of the year. 

Normally though, this increase in costs winds up getting spread out over the course of several days, if not weeks. For some reason, this year it hit big at once. The jump in average price from Friday night to Tuesday night was nearly 25¢ a gallon, with some brands like Gulf, Shell, Sunoco, and Exxon increasing by 25¢-32¢ in one day. 

In our database of rack prices going back to 2007, this was the second-highest two-day jump ever, with a hurricane in the Gulf responsible for the record (other than in 2022, when the Russian-Ukraine war caused several such spikes across the year). So while it's definitely true that we get a price increase tied to the summer blend every year, this jump was certainly unusual in sharpness. 

Frustratingly for those who needed a resupply, prices then dropped Wednesday night by 8¢ on average. 

Some might look to the fighting between Iran and Israel as a potential cause for an oil price spike, but it seems the markets have already priced some of that in, as well as an expectation that there won't be meaningful escalation. The price of oil is the lowest it's been in three weeks. 

While gasoline prices jumped, diesel prices actually dipped slightly in the same period. The average diesel rack was 6.5¢ a gallon below the average gas price on Tuesday, the first time that's happened since July last year. 

Undercover Sting Cars & MVC Violations–Things to Avoid!

We get a lot of phone calls at our offices. And when we hear from a member cited by state officials (whether it is DEP, MVC, DOL, Weights & Measures, or otherwise), we roll up our sleeves and get to work. In doing so, we try to reduce their exposure and limit their liability. And though results are never guaranteed, we frequently think through the member’s experience and wonder what could have been done differently, and how other members can learn from their mistakes.

Two weeks ago, we heard from a member who was cited by an undercover MVC “sting car” for an inspection violation. We ended up assisting the member at an informal hearing with state officials, and learned a few things we thought to highlight for other members to avoid.

Our member's violation stems from two very different origins – one was squarely on the shoulders of the shop manager; the second was on the inspector himself.

In this situation, an MVC sting car arrived at the shop asking for an inspection. We now know that the sting car was wired a certain way to throw off the inspector, possibly leading them to overlook something or fail to catch an issue. However, the inspection was never actually started; which gave the MVC official driving the undercover sting car enough justification to issue the violation.

That said, the violation was not entirely the inspector's fault. Rather, the shop manager had a hand in setting up a scenario that naturally led to the citation. So, what happened? Put simply, the shop was a victim of its own success and the shop manager did not communicate clearly enough with the inspector.

When the undercover MVC official arrived with the sting car and asked the manager for an inspection, the shop was already in a flurry of activity.  There were lots of customers waiting for their vehicles, and the impromptu stop only added additional stress to the short-staffed shop.

Rather than explain to the inspector that the customer was there for an inspection, the shop manager said “Can you please check out the vehicle?” and handed the inspector the customer’s paperwork. The inspector did so, pulled several diagnostic codes, and reported that he wouldn’t pass inspection due to the codes. At no time did the inspector actually speak to the “customer” (who was obviously the undercover MVC agent, watching this all play out from the sidelines).

The technician was later written up by MVC and was handed both a fine and an inspection license suspension.

What did he do wrong?  Well, he did not officially start or complete the inspection. What’s more, since the technician “checked out” the vehicle before the inspection was undertaken, it was technically “pre-inspected” using a handheld OBDII scanner; which also violates MVC procedures.

During our hearing, we explained what had occurred to MVC officials.  The auditors were sympathetic to the confusion, but could not altogether drop the violations against the shop and the inspector since a vehicle was presented for an inspection that was never completed.  

That said, we were able to reduce the initial suspension time and overall fines, in exchange for the technician submitting to retaking the NJ INL Emission Inspector Class and retaking the state’s in-class/”written” exam.

What’s the take-away from this experience?  From a general perspective, a series of small mistakes led to the violation, but it could have been avoided altogether.

First, the shop manager should have made the actual substance of the customer’s visit clearly known to the inspector.  Had he done so, the technician wouldn’t have “checked out” the vehicle, but would have begun/completed/ended an actual inspection.

Secondly, the technician should have been “clued in” that the vehicle was there for an inspection once the shop manager handed him the customer’s documents/credentials (license, registration, etc).  

If either of those were done, and better communication were exercised, it could have saved a lot of time and frustration for our member and his employees.

That aside, it should also be noted that while the ultimate fines/violations were reduced and revised, it still cost the shop owner money AND time. Not to mention that the technician has to take two days away from work (on the shop owner’s dime) to get retrained/retested.

Have you had a similar encounter with MVC or been written up for this kind of violation? Let us know and outline how the matter was resolved/what you learned from the experience. Sharing such details can help a fellow shop owner avoid a pitfall and learn from someone else’s mistakes. Feel free to email Nick at or call 732-256-9646.

“Green Amendment” More Radical Than It Sounds

One of the many groups that NJGCA works closely with in Trenton is the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute (NJCJI). This organization, formerly known as the Lawsuit Reform Alliance, is focused specifically on preventing the courts from running roughshod over business and property rights. They employ very smart attorneys to get into the weeds of what the impact could be of both court rulings and proposed legislation. Last month, one of their representatives testified extensively regarding the implications of a proposed 'Green Amendment' to the state constitution. It seeks to create a constitutional right to a “clean and healthy environment,” which the State of New Jersey “shall not infringe upon […] by action or inaction.” We include the below summary from their newsletter:

In both its written comment and during testimony, NJCJI took the position that while the Green Amendment was seemingly well intentioned, it could be easily abused to supplant both the Legislature and executive agencies as the primary makers of environmental policy in the State. NJCJI observed that private litigants could bring claims against the State under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (“NJCRA”) to enforce their nebulous rights to “a clean and healthy environment,” and thus upend the current regulatory regime.

NJCJI observed that the current process for developing environmental regulations begins in the Legislature, which sets environmental protection priorities. Through enabling acts, the Legislature then tasks executive agencies with developing science-based standards for meeting those priorities. Critically, the processes for developing those standards have built-in safeguards intended to permit a wide range of stakeholders to voice their concerns, while keeping governmental experts and staff in the policymaking “driver’s seat.” By contrast, the Green Amendment could be used to subvert the policy concerns of elected officials through litigation.

NJCJI explained that because the rights outlined by the Green Amendment are vague and ill-defined, an interminable number of meanings could be read into the amendment. Moreover, because the Green Amendment is self-executing, litigants would be able to wield it as a cudgel by bringing NJCRA claims against the State. Any private litigant who disagrees with the priorities set by the Legislature and standards developed by agency experts could bring a claim in court to enjoin the State. Given that prevailing parties to NJCRA claims are entitled to not only injunctive relief, but also money damages, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees, strong incentives exist to encourage plaintiffs and attorneys to file Green Amendment claims. 

In addition to granting private litigants the power to challenge the merits of environmental regulations, NJCJI opined that litigants may use the Green Amendment to force the State to affirmatively regulate human activities that conflict with their amorphous right to a clean environment. Even after studied deliberation and policymaking, if the Legislature and executive agencies elect not to act concerning certain human activities, litigants may assert NJCRA claims against the State on the basis that its inaction harmed the litigants’ Green Amendment rights.

NJCJI noted that the abuse of the Green Amendment by litigants could extend well beyond environmental regulations. Any action taken by the State, its agencies, local governments, or any entity operating under the color of law would be subject to an NJCRA suit pursuant to the Green Amendment. For example, NJCJI explained that a current major priority of the State has been encouraging the development of offshore wind power to meet energy needs in a sustainable and environmentally sound fashion. Despite the importance of these efforts, the Green Amendment could provide a powerful means for even a single aggrieved litigant to challenge offshore wind facilities so long as that litigant can assert those projects harm their environmental rights. Similarly, the State’s electric vehicle mandate could be challenged if litigants can demonstrate that the production and use of lithium-ion batters in vehicles impacted their right to a clean environment.

Despite pushback by NJCJI and other concerned stakeholders, the Green Amendment was voted out of committee with amendments, and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. These changes to the Green Amendment ostensibly address some of NJCJI’s concerns, but the fundamental problems with it, outlined above, still remain. NJCJI will continue to follow the progress of the Green Amendment and advocate against it to protect both the State of New Jersey and its business community against frivolous litigation and lawsuit abuse.

A link to the Green Amendment can be found here. A link to NJCJI's testimony can be found here, starting at the 1:07 mark. A link to NJCJI’s written comment can be found here.

Rack Averages

Date Rack Avg Avg w Taxes Low Rack
04/11 246.82 $3.0752 239.19
04/12 252.79 $3.1349 244.90
04/15 260.92 $3.2162 246.00
04/16 277.11 $3.3781 258.58
04/17 269.05 3.2975 251.10
Date Avg Retail Avg Margin Diesel Rack Avg
04/11 $3.28 0.26 272.04
04/12 $3.29 0.25 274.51
04/15 $3.34 0.21 271.40
04/16 $3.36 0.14 270.59
04/17 $3.40 0.02 262.91

News Worth Knowing:

Member Benefit Partner (MBP) Spotlight: CSG Law

A powerhouse business and public policy law firm, Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC understands the unique challenges facing New Jersey’s gasoline, convenience retail and automotive sectors – and, drawing upon the collective insight of our more than 160 attorneys, seeks to drive innovative and enduring solutions. Retail service station owners and operators benefit from our attorneys’ keen business acumen and multidisciplinary approach to client engagements involving:
•Environmental Compliance & Litigation
•Real Estate, Development & Land Use
•Litigation & Liability Claims
•Property Tax Appeals
•Franchise Law
•Intellectual Property
•Regulatory & Government Affairs
•Government Investigations & White Collar Defense

Contact: Mauro Tucci 973-530-2088 or Marissa Rauchway for Franchise Law specifically 

Available Real Estate

Station for Sale

Thriving High Profit Gas/Service Station close to Major Highway in Prime Location. 

This Exclusive Gas Station is the Sole Provider in the entire town, achieving a remarkable fuel profit of up to and sometimes over 1$ a gallon. Consistently selling 45,000 gallons monthly. Most fuel customers come from Highway so fuel prices do not have to be competitive. 

Also included with the Property is a Reputable High End Auto Repair Facility. Repair shop has all required Specialty and Diagnostic Tools for servicing mostly High End Vehicles. Advertising is no longer used do to an enormous Demand and large Customer Base. Repair Business has has potential for increased profitability and expansion, the business is open to experienced buyers for a possible partnership or profit sharing arrangement. Location is 1 out of 100. Fuel sales make 20-40K a month and repairs can do the same with the right operator. 

This one of a kind opportunity can include seller financing for those with High-Level Automotive or Gas Station Experience.

Contact Greg

Cape Harbor Shell

795 Route 109

Unit B

Lower Township, NJ, 08204

Contact: Jerry 609-425-8837 

Our Road Warrior newsletter is brought to you by the following Member Benefit Partners:

New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association
615 Hope Road, Bldg. 2, 1st Floor
Eatontown, NJ 07724


Phone: 732-256-9646

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