Firefighters Shouldn’t Be Hampered By Commercial Driver License Requirement

March 3, 2009

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Watertown) announced she co-sponsored legislation to eliminate the Commercial Driver License requirement for firefighters (A.6051). The bill permits volunteer first responders to operate emergency vehicles at any time.

“As it stands now, firefighters can drive to an emergency without having the CDL, but they need one to drive back to the station house,” Russell said. “It especially puts a strain on small volunteer fire departments in the North Country that already work with very limited resources – whether it is the cost to operate a volunteer department or finding responders available to meet our emergency needs. These departments are critical to our safety and we need to make it easier for them to do their job.”

Marty Hasset the St. Lawrence County Director of Emergency Services said, “With all the training requirements heaped on our volunteers, this CDL requirement is a burden that shouldn’t have happened.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows each state to provide a waiver for commercial driver license requirements for first responders. Historically, New York State law provides this waiver to allow firefighters to operate fire vehicles with Class D licenses. But in 2005, New York amended the statute and prohibited emergency service responders with Class D licenses from operation emergency service vehicles after a fire is out, for example.

Joe Plummer the Interim Director of Emergency Services for Jefferson County said, “This is really welcomed. It will allow the fire services in our county and around the state to operate without the concern of breaking the law.”

“Training to qualify for a CDL is expensive.” Russell said. “It adds an extra cost for local government and its professional departments and volunteer houses, which are considered employees of a municipality, even though they do not get paid.”

“This legislation will reverse the inadvertent requirement and bring all emergency responders under the protection of the law,” Russell said.