LBM dealers trying to deliver building materials into New York are wondering if they haven’t become a new source of state revenue, given the stepped-up enforcement of linkage laws by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Although the issue is being addressed in the New York State legislature by a bill brought forth by the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA), lumberyard delivery drivers are playing cat and mouse with state troopers while their bosses are fighting $1,000 citations in court.
Each state has its own limits on weight and length for commercial trucks. Most fall between 40 ft. and 60 ft. New York is at the low end — 40 ft. — the typical length of a lumberyard delivery truck. The problem comes when you mount a forklift or an articulated crane or another piece of equipment on the back to unload inventory. That adds a few feet to the trucks length or “linkage.” Which is OK in Connecticut and Vermont, where the limit is 46 ft. But once these drivers cross into New York, they’re often likely to meet up with a state trooper and maybe a portable scale in order to undergo an inspection and receive a citation. LBM dealers have told Jeff Keller, manager of legislative and regulatory affairs for the NRLA, that a certain highway patrolman waits at the border between New York and Connecticut waiting for violators.
“They know the guy,” Keller said.
The NRLA is trying to address the matter with a bill in the New York State legislature, but these legislative fixes take time. (More on that later.) Meanwhile, pro dealers are coping in a variety of ways: fighting the citations in court, modifying their equipment or finding “alternative” routes to avoid being pulled over.
Jay Balkan, one of the owners of U.S. Lumber in Lynbrook, N.Y., is fighting a $1,000 “overlinkage” citation right now, with the help of a lawyer. His drivers have been cited “three or four times,” he said, and each time the fine goes up. Balkan’s trucks are hitting against an even more restrictive regulation enacted in New York City: Commercial trucks, including any piggybacked equipment, cannot exceed 35 ft. in length.
“As soon as you cross the border from Long Island to Queens, the DOT stops you and inspects your truck,” Balkan said. Measuring the length is only