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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Little-known, little-understood law has thousands of firefighters breaking the law
Updated: 02/23/2009 07:10 PM
By: Brian Dwyer

JEFFERSON COUNTY, NY -- "It has to be something that happened accidentally because it's taken four years before anybody discovered it," Adams Fire Department Member Bob Simpson said.
Accidental or not, it's happened. While making amendments on federal highway standards back in 2005, to ensure funding, New York State eliminated an exemption that allowed firefighters to drive their fire trucks in a non-emergency capacity. Without the exemption, a commercial driver's license is needed to do so. Anyone is still allowed to drive to an emergency, but driving back, getting gas, or taking part in a parade is actually illegal without the CDL. It's estimated thousands of firefighters do not have one and have been technically breaking the law. Local departments say they're just learning about the law, but do have a big problem with it.
Assemblywomen Russell Said of the law:
"Given all of the requirements we already place on our local volunteers, adding this I think would put would put all of our volunteer departments right out of business," State Assemblywoman Addie Jenne Russell said of her support of the possible bill.
Senator Aubertine said of the law:
If we allow our firefighters to drive these trucks in the most extreme and stressful of situations, they ought to be able to drive the fire truck back from the scene, in a parade or when training. This is an example of unintended consequences in a comprehensive bill which we certainly need to revisit,"