CDL Rules for Firefighters Dropped

Legislation will preserve $31 million in federal aid
May 20, 2009

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) announced Assembly passage of legislation that will correct a controversial state law that allowed trained firefighters to drive trucks only in case of an emergency (A.6051a). This prevented firefighters from driving the trucks in training exercises, parades, funerals, or other non-emergency situations.

“This regulation was bureaucracy at its worst and had to be corrected,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee. “It’s absurd to think that a firefighter without a CDL is qualified to drive a truck to an emergency, but not to a training exercise or in a parade.”

Earlier this year, legislators corrected a technicality in the law that permitted first responders with a valid class-D driver license to legally drive an emergency vehicle to the scene of an emergency but required only those with a CDL to drive the truck back to the station (Ch. 59 of 2009). However, the correction in the law did not permit firefighters without a CDL to drive the apparatus in parades, training exercises, or non-emergency situations.

“There’s more to a firefighter’s job than just answering emergency calls. They’re highly visible, active members of our communities, and it’s important that they be able to drive trucks without fear of penalty,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee. “This amendment will give firefighters the freedom to participate in the entire range of their duties.”

This new legislation takes the amendment a step further to allow emergency workers to carry out all aspects of their jobs without securing a CDL. Under the legislation, non-CDL drivers would be able to freely participate in training exercises, funerals, hydrant maintenance, and commercial building inspections.

The legislation would also keep New York in conformity with federal regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which grants states discretion in exempting firefighters and operators of other emergency motor vehicles. By staying in conformance with federal regulations, the state would preserve approximately $31 million in federal highway aid.