NYSDOT backs off route restriction plan; big win for truckers

| 4/13/2010

For nearly two years, small-business truckers, large motor carriers and other industries that do business in upstate New York have been fighting a proposed route restriction that would have proven costly to their livelihoods if enacted.

On Monday, April 12, the New York State Department of Transportation announced it would not pursue its proposed regulation to restrict commercial vehicles longer than 45 feet from seven key state routes – 41, 41A, 90, 38, 79, 89 and 96 – in the Finger Lakes region.

About a year ago, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association joined 28 business groups in a coalition founded by the New York State Motor Truck Association to fight the restriction. It would have posed serious financial concerns for truckers and other businesses in the form of higher transportation costs and increased costs of doing business.

In December 2009, OOIDA and NYSMTA both filed comments opposing the proposed restriction after the rule-making notice was published on the New York State’s Register. The NYSDOT cited as one reason it was 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.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said the NYSDOT’s decision not to pursue this regulation is a “win for the people of New York and for truckers who are just trying to grow our economy during very difficult times.”

“We are very pleased to be part of the coalition that fought this regulation by clearly articulating the impact this restriction would have on the trucking industry,” Joyce said. “We are grateful for our New York members for their active involvement in this critical issue.”

Karin Kennett, deputy director of the NYSMTA, said this was the best outcome the coalition could have hoped for at the end of a lengthy two-year battle.

“This was not a one-person effort by any stretch,” she told Land Line on Tuesday. “A whole bunch of different industries were involved who knew that this trucking restriction would impact their businesses as well.”

OOIDA Senior Member Terry Button of Rushville, NY, and OOIDA Life Member Lou Esposito of Duanesburg, NY, attended meetings and met with state officials to educate them on how this proposed restriction would impact their small trucking operations. They say they are relieved the NYSDOT is backing off pursuing this restriction.

“When you start looking at restricting access to major state roads, it’s a problem,” Esposito said. “Forcing truckers to start running out of route just to appease the towns would have been very costly to the trucking industry, and it’s tough enough already to do business in this state.”

Button told Land Line on Tuesday that he’s pleased with the NYSDOT’s decision to not pursue the restriction.

“A lot of people – OOIDA members, New York State Motor Truck Association members and other businesses – came together, and we were all working toward the end result to fight this,” he said. “I personally called on other OOIDA members, including Kevin Johnson, Gary O’Brien and others (who all live in the Finger Lakes region) to visit with officials about how this would affect their businesses.”

According to the transportation agency’s presentation to the task force, they received 1,815 comments on this issue. At least 50 percent of the comments the agency received opposed the proposed regulation.

Joyce said truckers have had two key wins in the past week. First, the Federal Highway Administration decided not to allow tolling on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, and now the NYSDOT’s has decided not to pursue restricting truck traffic in the Finger Lakes region.

“In both instances other states were looking to see what these states’ outcomes were going to be on these issues, and in both instances the truckers won,” he said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer