SPECIAL REPORT: New York revises truck ban plan after feds weigh in

| 11/10/2008

Monday, Nov. 10, 2008 – Officials with the New York State Department of Transportation announced recently that they are revising its plan to force heavy trucks off certain state roads.

This revision comes after the NYDOT received word from the Federal Highway Administration in late September that the state’s federal funding might be in jeopardy if the proposed truck ban regulation became law as previously written.

Spokesman Charles “Skip” Carrier of the NYDOT told Land Line Magazine the agency has been “in communication” with the FHWA regarding the proposed changes to the state’s truck ban, which now focuses on restricting heavy trucks on seven specific state highways – instead of the original 60 state routes proposed previously.

“The Federal Highway Administration has reviewed what we published in this latest revision and we are continuing to have discussions with them,” Carrier said.

In May, Gov. David Paterson directed the state DOT to come up with a plan to keep large trucks – 45 feet or longer – off state routes. In June, the state agency rolled out a plan that would cost truckers an estimated $10 million more a year in fuel, tolls and operating costs to route around the state roads.

The plan is to get the revised regulation to the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform by the end of November, according to Carrier. He said that state office must then review the proposed regulation before deciding whether it will be published in the state’s Register. Once published, there will be a 45-day public comment period.

Carrier said trucks would be allowed on these seven routes with exceptions, which would depend on whether truckers needed access to their delivery or pick up points; truckers needed access to fuel; or there was an emergency situation where truckers needed access to repair services or rest.

“We understand there may be some unexpected situations that come up where truckers need to be on these routes, but the idea here is that the interstate and the national network are where we would like these large through trucks to be,” he said. “We have tried to strike a balance that would accommodate the need for commerce and the need for trucks to deliver goods and materials in a timely and efficient way with the need to give these communities a sense of environmental quality that is unique to that region of the state.”

Revised plan still not a good one for truckers
One of OOIDA Board of Directors, Senior Member Terry Button of Rushville, NY, said he has serious concerns with the state’s revised plan to ban trucks from certain state routes. He sent a letter to Gov. Paterson, NY DOT Commissioner Astrid Glenn, Sen. Charles Schumer, and David Gantt, chair of the Committee on Transportation.

Button, who is a lifelong resident of the Finger Lakes Region, has an extensive farming and hay-hauling operation. He said the state’ proposed plan, if passed, is a “continuation of policies that make our state less competitive on the national and international playing field.”

“It’s like they are talking out of both sides of their mouth here,” he told Land Line Magazine on Monday, Nov. 10. “Out of one side of their mouth, they keep talking about wanting to develop this region into an economic center with tons of new jobs. Then out of the other side of their mouth, they want to restrict truck traffic and not allow any finished products in or any raw products out of here. How can you promote new jobs if you don’t allow trucks in or out?”

Since the proposed regulation was announced several months ago, Button said he’s had a lot of time to think about other options so all truckers are not punished for what is considered primarily aimed at the trash trucks who travel through the Finger Lakes region.

Button said one option is to give trash trucks an incentive for using the New York State Thruway and sticking to the National Network, instead of using shortcuts.

One way might be to give trash trucks an exemption from their highway-use tax, as the state does for milk haulers and log haulers in the state.

“Everything comes down to money in the trucking industry,” Button said. “You have to push the pencil to be as cost-effective as you can and still make a profit. Our state has recognized the importance of recognizing milk trucks and log trucks as important to our state and we offer them an exemption. Why not for trash trucks?”

Button said he doesn’t have to pay a highway-use tax on the New York State Thruway, but he’s liable for 4.62 cents per mile once he’s on the interstate or any road once he’s off the Thruway.

“So why not possibly offer these trash trucks a monetary exemption to stay on the longer way around instead of taking the short cut,” he said. “If they have to run more miles and burn more fuel and its going to cost more highway-use tax, let’s do something to help them. And compensate them instead of punishing all heavy trucks that use these state roads.”

Click here to read the revised draft truck regulations and to find out which seven state routes would be affected by the proposed plan.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer