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American Shipper

Bloomberg aims to reduce truck congestion, promote air cargo

Bloomberg aims to reduce truck congestion, promote air cargo

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled proposals on Earth Day designed to make New York City “greener” — including plans aimed at reducing traffic congestion that could have major implications for the transportation industry.

   Bloomberg released a blizzard of 127 different proposals to improve the city’s environment by 2030 in a document called PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, which he highlighted in an address on Sunday.

   One widely publicized proposal would impose an $8 fee on automobiles and $21 fee on trucks that enter lower Manhattan from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

   That will probably have minimal impact on some segments of the trucking industry. For example, Dick Jones, executive director of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, notes that most draymen moving containers from marine terminals on Staten Island or New Jersey get to the outer boroughs or Long Island via the Verazanno Narrows Bridge or via the George Washington Bridge.

   But the implications could be dramatic for the large numbers of trucks and small package delivery vans from companies like UPS, FedEx and DHL that ply Manhattan’s streets and avenues delivering everything from food and clothing to stationery and computers.

   Larry Ravinett, senior vice president at National Retail Systems in Secaucus, said the costs would almost certainly be passed onto the clients of trucking companies, eventually being paid by consumers.

   In some cases, truckers make multiple deliveries of goods from out of the center city into Manhattan over the course of a day, so costs could add up if carriers would have to pay the fee each time they entered the zone outlined under the mayor’s plan.

   Ravinett noted that while some deliveries can be made at night or in the early morning hours, even trucks calling at off-hours are sometimes still in the city after 6 a.m.

   Most large trucks cannot enter lower Manhattan from New Jersey directly because of height limitations. But National Retail Systems maintains a fleet of “cut-down” trucks that can pass through the Lincoln Tunnel to reach stores in midtown.

   Ravinett notes that truck congestion in Manhattan may be aggravated by rules that prohibit trucks and vans from traveling on the FDR Drive or West Side Highway and force them onto avenues to reach midtown or lower Manhattan.

   He noted that for trucks to make deliveries in the evening, many retailers would have to change the way they do business. For example, a small clothing store that today would have some of their stocking or sales staff help unload a truck when it showed up during the day, might need to hire workers at night if they wanted to receive trucks from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

   The report does include some initiatives aimed at reducing highway congestion’s impact on the air cargo industry, which it says is “threatening the status of John F. Kennedy International Airport as one of the nation’s leading air freight hubs.

   “In the last decade, JFK has been losing cargo business to airports outside the region, primarily due to delays and congestion on the road leading to the airport,” the report said.

   It noted that in June 2006, the city, in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, created a private/public task force focusing on improving roadway access to JFK for passengers, employees and cargo.

   The group has recently issued several short-term recommendations.

   “These include: marketing the Cross Island Parkway as alternative to the Van Wyck Expressway for non-commercial vehicles, improvements to the Van Wyck Expressway, allowing 53-foot trailer access to JFK, and providing a southern route to JFK for commercial vehicles,” the PlaNYC report noted. “We will pursue these recommendations, and explore the long-term solutions the task force recommends in the future.”

   The report also said the city would explore creation of High-Occupancy Truck Toll or “HOTT” Lanes.

   “Around the world and in several states, truck traffic has been accelerated by the creation of new lanes dedicated to trucks, which pay for themselves through tolls charged for traveling on these lanes,” it noted. “In many cases, high-occupancy vehicles are allowed access for free, and in some, those driving alone can choose to pay a variable toll to travel on them.

   “On several of New York City’s main highways, the opportunity exists to explore this concept, using medians and in some cases service roads for additional lanes. Key bottlenecks where trucks encounters — and cause — congestion include the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the Staten Island Expressway, the Van Wyck, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The city will work with and support the New York State Department of Transportation, which controls these roads, to explore these self-financing lanes,” the report said.