Gunther: Assembly Passes Legislation Allowing Firefighters to Operate A Fire Truck Without a Commercial Driver License

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D, C-Forestburgh) announced passage of legislation she sponsored that will allow firefighters without commercial driver licenses (CDL) to carry out non-emergency official duties involving department vehicles (A.6051-A). The legislation is designed to further rectify existing laws that forbade trained firefighters without CDL’s from driving trucks in any capacity apart from answering to an emergency.

“This convoluted law has hindered firefighters in their training and in carrying out official capacities that aren’t emergencies, such as parades,” Assemblywoman Gunther said. “Firefighters are highly visible, active members of our communities, and it’s important that they be able to drive trucks without fear of penalty.”

Under previous law, firefighters were allowed to drive a fire truck to the scene of an emergency but could not drive the apparatus in parades, training exercises or non-emergency situations unless they held a commercial driver license. In this year’s budget, 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).

Assemblywoman Gunther said this new legislation takes the amendment a step further to allow emergency workers to carry out all aspects of their jobs without incurring the expense or inconvenience of securing a commercial license.

Gunther helped ensure quick passage of the legislation in light of upcoming Memorial Day observances and festivities so that non-CDL drivers can operate fire trucks in local parades. Moreover, the non-CDL drivers would be able to freely participate in training exercises, funerals, hydrant maintenance and commercial building inspections.

“I am extremely glad to see the Assembly pass this legislation in time for Memorial Day,” Assemblywoman Gunther said. “I urge Governor Paterson to sign our bill into law before this weekend’s festivities.”

The legislation would also bring New York in line with federal regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which grants states discretion in exempting CDL requirements of firefighters and other operators of commercial motor vehicles. By conforming to federal regulations the state would preserve approximately $31 million in federal highway aid.