The Business Council of New York State, Inc., supports the above referenced legislation which would amend section 214 of the state Transportation Law to exclude drivers of utility trucks from "hours of service" restrictions. This change would grant a limited exemption from current Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for utility workers who also happen to drive utility trucks as an incidental part of their work while being engaged in the emergency restoration of utility services.
Currently, the limitations imposed under DOT regulations strictly govern the hours utility workers can operate their vehicles even though the primary work being performed in such situations is the emergency restoration of vital utility services - not the operation of motor trucks. The "hours of service" regulations were developed and designed to prohibit persons from driving motor trucks for unreasonably long periods of time without rest. Utility repair workers spend a relatively small portion of their time driving these vehicles. Additionally, crews are often comprised of two or more workers thus allowing for a sharing of the driving responsibilities. They are not primarily truck drivers but rather repair men who only incidentally operate trucks while preforming emergency repairs and thus spend only a fraction of their time driving.
Current federal law mandates that utility vehicle drivers be governed by the same hours of service regulations (due to the weight of utility repair trucks) as other long-haul truck drivers. However, federal regulations allow states to suspend the application of federal rules if the state determines that an emergency exists. Under this provision, numerous states have enacted limited and well-defined exemptions such as the one being sought in New York State under this legislation.
The nature of emergency utility repair work - the clearance of dangerous electricity hazards and downed wires, the curtailment of power, and the emergency restoration of electricity and natural gas - is vital to other emergency restoration efforts and the safety, health and well-being of the people effected by natural disasters and unforseen emergencies.
For the above mentioned reasons, The Business Council supports S.6182-E/A.9747-E and respectfully requests it enactment into law.