Rural electric cooperatives across the Midwest are lobbying Congress to make a temporary rule change permanent to ensure your lights get back on quickly during a power outage. Terry Bruns, general manager of the Estherville-based Iowa Lakes Electric Coop, says a law passed last year to restrict over the road truckers from excessive hours behind the wheel initially lumped utility vehicles in with 18-wheelers. For long-term storm outage situations, Bruns says utility vehicle drivers would only be allowed to be behind the wheel for 14 hours and would then have to stand down for a mandatory ten hours of off-time, which could extend the outages for customers. He says utilities have gotten a -temporary- exemption from the law, but that runs out in a few months. Bruns says they’ve been discussing the matter with members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation and he’s confident the exemption for utilities will become permanent. He says utility workers aren’t like long-haul truckers and shouldn’t be subjected to the same strict rules. He says the highest priority during a storm outage situation is restoring the power. He says “Our line people are linemen first and they drive a large vehicle as a secondary portion of their job responsibilities.” Bruns is in New Orleans for the National Electric Cooperative meeting, running today through Wednesday.
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