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NY ports tout $250,000/year driver pay in supporting under-21 CDLs

Post-pandemic freight demand also highlighted by New York drayage industry in quest for more drivers

Trucks at New York-area container terminal. (Photo: PANYNJ)

Truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 could be given the keys to a lucrative blue-collar career hauling ocean containers to and from terminals operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) if regulators lift commercial driver license (CDL) restrictions, according to the agency.

In comments filed this week with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in support of a pilot program allowing under-21 drivers to get an interstate CDL, PANYNJ Deputy Port Director Bethann Rooney emphasized that “seasoned drivers at the Port can make upwards of $250,000 annually,” with local truck drivers contributing toward $12 billion in annual tax revenues.

“It is one of the nation’s most productive, high-volume global port operations and is a conduit of global commerce with the capability of reaching 28 million consumers via drayage truck within just two hours of the Port,” Rooney stated. “The proposed pilot program would greatly support interstate commerce and economic resiliency by reducing a barrier of entry for qualified CDL-holders to enter the workforce and fill needed positions.”

Federal law currently prohibits drivers under 21 to haul freight beyond state borders, creating a potential roadblock for intermodal drayage within the New York-New Jersey port area where the over-the-road container supply chain reaches into several states.

Rooney also noted that businesses within the port area are “uniquely positioned” to participate in FMCSA’s proposed pilot program. “We are working with trucking partners to provide practical experience in order to prepare these students for entry into this segment.”

Best Transportation, a large intermodal trucking company based in Port Newark, New Jersey, is one of the area companies willing to provide an apprenticeship program for the FMCSA pilot.

“Best Transportation would request permission for a demonstration project to start a driver within the confines of the Port of New York and New Jersey where our company is located and our drivers work, travelling less than 30 miles per day,” Best Transportation President Thomas Heimgartner affirmed in commenting on the proposal.

The company would expand the new driver’s perimeter of travel to a 50-mile radius after a defined training period, Heimgartner said. “In effect this driver would be intrastate, which is currently allowed under New Jersey Law, but [would be] employed by an interstate carrier.”

The Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, also based out of Port Newark, pointed to a study released last month by the American Transportation Research Institute listing a shortage of drivers as the most critical issue facing the trucking industry. PANYNJ, which set an all-time monthly record for container volume in September, “needs drivers now more than ever, and the proposed pilot program … would help us increase our workforce.”

The association also agreed with the Port Authority that FMCSA’s pilot program would “provide a pathway to financial stability and career success for the young people in and around the urban communities adjacent to the port … especially those for whom college may not be an option due to systemic socio-economic obstacles,” asserted the group, which claims to move a majority share of the port’s container business.

“Young drivers who participate in the program will learn the skills they need, while earning an income that will allow them to have options that would not otherwise be available to them: working as a trucker can help pay for college or help them save for the purchase of their own vehicle.”

Comments on the under-21 pilot proposal must be submitted on or before next Monday.

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  1. Stephen Webster

    New York City minimum wage is _15.00 us per hour local truck drivers should make at 1.6 times that plus overtime and medical coverage. .any truck drivers make less than _$24.00 us per hour. Offer me _$24.00 U S per hour and a safe spots to park the truck with a electric plugs I will be available as will more truck drivers who have other jobs will come back to driving
    This just a made up job offer. Where do I apply ?

  2. Art

    This is a scam to further depress wages with cheap labor.

    Many port drayage drivers are misclassified as 1099 contractors but drive their employers truck, many have no work authorization.

    This is completely false.
    Local W2 jobs are paying average $20 per hour or $42k annual at 40 hours.

    Best Transportation treats drivers like slaves.
    There are countless articles about port driver abuse and very low wsges.

    Thats why there is a “shortage” because folks dont want to work in a sweat shop.

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.