More comments sought on proposed truck ban in upstate New York

| Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just days before the comment period was scheduled to close on the New York State Department of Transportation’s proposed regulation to ban trucks from key routes in the Finger Lakes region, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association received confirmation that the transportation agency was again granting a comment-period extension.

This is the second time the NYSDOT has extended the comment period on the proposed regulation that would ban trucks from seven state roads in the Finger Lakes region

On Tuesday, Nov. 24, OOIDA submitted a letter to the NYSDOT asking for additional time to prepare its comments, which was granted later that same day. The New York State Motor Truck Association previously requested the first comment-period extension back in September after filing a Freedom of Information Law request for additional documentation from the NYSDOT to use in preparing comments.

The NYSDOT’s new deadline for comments will be Monday, Dec. 14.

OOIDA has been working closely with the New York State Motor Truck Association to fight the state transportation agency’s proposed plan to restrict truck traffic. Both groups agree their members will be severely affected if the regulation is enacted and trucks are forced to run more miles, burn more fuel, and pay costly toll fees by sticking to the New York State Thruway.

“Based upon its consideration to date of the NYSDOT’s proposal, OOIDA believes that the proposed limits on large truck access to certain state roads in the Finger Lakes region could have a significant adverse impact upon its members’ operations,” according to OOIDA’s letter to the NYSDOT. “OOIDA also firmly believes there are other less punitive means for reducing large truck traffic on the selected roads.”

Mike Joyce, director of legislative affairs in OOIDA’s Washington, DC, office said this proposed restriction couldn’t come at a worse time for small-business truckers who are struggling to survive as freight rates continue to drop and as fuel and equipment costs continue to rise.

“This just doesn’t make good economic sense to move forward with this regulation,” Joyce said.

While the proposed regulation was aimed mainly at restricting the large number of garbage trucks which use these secondary roads instead of the New York Thruway, this restriction would apply to all heavy trucks that use these routes.

“We are certain there are other options out there that would better serve our members than forcing drivers to use the New York Thruway,” Joyce said.

Joyce said the NYSDOT should consider alternative options rather than banning trucks from certain key routes in upstate New York. He said a more favorable solution would be to offer incentives for garbage haulers to run the Thruway instead of these secondary routes, such as a reduction in toll costs or a reduction in the ton-mile taxes truckers must pay.

While the NYSDOT admits there will be “adverse” financial effects on small-business truckers, the agency is still pushing forward with the proposed rule.

“Independent truck drivers and small trucking firms that operate on tighter profit margins would also be impacted by increased cost associated with using longer routes,” according to the NYSDOT’s notice that was published on the New York State’s Register on Aug. 26.

“Small businesses receiving truck deliveries may also be adversely impacted by higher rates resulting from the higher costs incurred by trucking companies as a result of the rule,” the notice stated.

On Friday, Nov. 13, OOIDA sent out “Call to Action” alerts to members in the state of New York, as well as to members in nearby states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The Association is encouraging members to contact the NYSDOT, Gov. David Paterson and state lawmakers (if the members are from New York) to let them know that small-business truckers oppose this plan.

The NYSDOT cites as one reason they are pushing for the ban that it would be environmentally “conducive” for the communities in the Finger Lakes region who depend on tourism.

“A reduction in large truck traffic will contribute to an environment conducive to these activities,” according to the rule-making notice published on the New York State’s Register.

However, for small-business truckers who are already seeing their profit margins dwindle, this could be the death knell for their trucking operations.

Comments can be submitted via e-mail to mailto:truckregcomment@dot.state.ny.us?cc=RegComments@gorr.state.ny.us or mailed to:

Yomika Bennett
Director of State and Local Relations
New York State Department of Transportation
50 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12232

To provide comments to the NYSDOT via phone, call 518-457-2345. Callers should simply state that they want to comment on the draft regulation, and they will be transferred to someone who will take the comment for the record.

Out-of-state truckers also are urged to contact Gov. David Paterson either by e-mail or by calling him at 518-474-8390.

Here are the seven routes that will be affected by the ban:

  • Route 41 in Cortland and Onondaga counties;
  • Route 41A in Cortland, Cayuga and Onondaga counties;
  • Route 90 in Cortland and Cayuga counties;
  • Route 38 in Cayuga County;
  • Route 79 in Broome, Tioga, and Tompkins counties;
  • Route 89 in Tompkins and Seneca counties; and
  • Route 96 in Tompkins and Seneca counties.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer
clarissa_kell-holland@landlinemag.com

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