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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Lebrun and common sense

How not to make an argument: Fred Lebrun writes a particularly muddled column - even by his standards - in today's TU. His subject is the state's abolishment of "Class C" driver's licences, which are for vehicles like tow trucks and dump trucks. According to Lebrun:
On its face, a quietly enacted but profound recent change in the state's motor vehicle licensing law is nothing short of insane...any yahoo off the street with a passenger vehicle license can [now] operate a tow truck in the middle of a snowstorm on I-90. Very comforting.
Yes, he calls it insane. As in "you'd have to be insane to agree with this change if you knew the facts." Now let's go to the facts Lebrun presents:

First, he recaps the types of licences in New York:
An ordinary passenger car driver's license is a Class D license.

A Class A license is what tractor-trailer drivers have, requiring training, specialized road-testing, extensive written tests and a pretty high level of scrutiny by most employers.

A Class B license is for trailers and heavy trucks like cement mixers.

A Class C, which has just been largely done away with, is for vehicles from 17,990 pounds to 26,000 pounds. Let's call this the semipro level. That's for a vehicle up to 10 times the weight of the average passenger car, like moving vans and modest-size dump trucks.
Ok. So the huge rigs are Class A and Class B, Class D covers ordinary vehicles up to 17,990 pounds, and Class C covers vehicles between 17,990 and 26,000 pounds. As Lebrun puts it (quoting someone against the change):
"As of now, anybody with a regular Class D license, like my 18-year-old daughter, with no training, no experience and no road test in a truck can legally get behind the the wheel of a dump truck up to 26,000 pounds,"
Ok. That's true. But prior to the change she could have gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle that weighed 17,989 pounds, no? A Honda Accord weighs about 3,100 pounds. A Jeep Cherokee weighs about 3,900. So before the law change, anyone could have driven a vehichle six times as large as a regular car. Now they can drive a vehicle up to eight times as large. It just doesn't seem like a big deal to me - doesn't LeBrun have to argue for a lower weight restriction on the Class D licence if he wants to make this case?

But wait, there's more. At this point in the article, Lebrun strangely begins to make the case in favor of changing the law:
New York was the only state in the nation that had anything like a Class C license. The federal licensing system starts commercial licenses at 26,000 pounds. Anywhere else in the country, a regular driver's license is all you need up to 26,000 pounds.
In other words, every other state, as well as the federal government, has an insane licensing policy. But wait, there's more yet. Lebrun speaks with a man who is knowledgable about why the change was made:
"Originally, it was the moving industry in New York City that came to us on this," Joyce said. "They were having a hard time finding qualified drivers. New York tried a two-year pilot project with movers in New York City, and found no statistical difference in the number of accidents or incidents.
Ok. So right smack in New York City - some of the worst driving conditions available - the change was test-run and there were no problems. Insane. And finally, the coup d'grace:
In the past, obtaining a Class C license required obtaining a learner's permit, passing a written test and taking a $40 road test in a truck.
What? No specialized training? Just an extra road test? If the old Class C licencing involved the specialized training that the A or B licence requires, Lebrun might have a point. But it didn't.

Ok, so let's recap this thing:

1) Lebrun thinks it's insane to get rid of Class C licences becuase
2) it will allow the average driver to operate vehicles like tow trucks
3) which are between 19,990 and 26,000 pounds, even though
4) the average driver can already drive a vehicle that is 19,989 pounds,
5) a full six times bigger than a normal passenger car.

This is a problem even though:

6) every other state already allows it, and
7) New York pilot tested it for two years with no problems.


8) we should keep a worthless written and road testing system that
9) is a nusiance that most people don't ever bother with
10) and creates an economic problem by shorting the number of people
11) who can drive moving trucks in New York City.

Yes, Fred. Insane.
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At 9:31 AM , Blogger democracyinalbany said:

I've found its best to ignore Lebrun or at least not bother to respond because his arguments and points rarely make sense. In my opinion, he jumped the shark when he wrote his column apologizing for the police chief lying and including the rationale that it was no big deal because we get lied to in Albany all the time by all public officials.    

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