For much of its history, freight was brought to New York City by ship and by rail. The City’s street grid was laid out when goods were loaded onto horse carts at the water’s edge, not onto semi-trailers at warehouses far outside the City. As shipping and rail freight faded from the New York City in the mid- 20th Century, goods movement shifted to trucks. Today, of the 400 million tons of cargo that enter, leave, or pass through the City each year, more than 90 percent is carried by truck. Accommodating this level of truck traffic on streets that were laid out in the 19th Century is a huge challenge, one that is further compounded by the fact that New York City blocks lack back alleys. This oversight by the City founders forces all deliveries and garbage collection to happen in our streets, which are often already crowded with pedestrians, vehicles, and cyclists.
And the challenge is only growing. The increase in e-commerce and home package delivery has further increased truck volumes: Between 2010 and 2015, one major freight industry company saw a 29 percent increase in deliveries to residential areas in New York City. As the City’s population and job base continue grow, so will the demand for goods and services. The New York City economy depends on the efficient movement of freight, but at the same time truck traffic contributes to air pollution, noise, and congestion, and creates safety challenges for pedestrians and cyclists. A number of communities, like the South Bronx, have historically experienced a disproportionate share of the negative impacts of truck traffic.
To alleviate these impacts, DOT is committed to making trucking greener and more efficient through smarter technology, better enforcement, and partnerships with freight haulers, receivers, and other industry stakeholders. These efforts will support the City’s OneNYC freight goals, which also envision shifting more freight from trucks to rail and barge. We are in the process of developing a citywide freight plan to improve our understanding of how trucks operate in the City and to scale up our data-driven freight management program. The agency is also seeking to use sensor and camera technology to promote a culture of compliance with truck routes, loading regulations, and overweight and over-dimensional rules.
Improving our freight network is vital to New York City’s continued economic and population growth. Our goal is to support the economy while also minimizing adverse impacts on local communities.
Freight Management Best Practices in London
© Transport for London
London is a global leader in urban freight management and its experience offers valuable lessons for New York City. London requires the use of electric delivery vans in certain parts of the city, and freight bicycles are often used for last-mile deliveries. Additionally, companies that win city contracts must use clean trucks that are equipped with technology to reduce drivers’ blind spots. These changes, as well as a requirement that all trucks have sideguards, make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists on London’s streets and improve the air quality along congested freight corridors.
Technology also plays an integral role in London’s freight management, with enforcement agents using closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to monitor compliance with delivery rules. Agents monitor the cameras and issue summonses to drivers for double parking, parking too long in loading zones, and blocking the box. By leveraging technology to better manage its transportation network, London is able to ensure that freight and people reach their destinations in a safe and timely manner, while improving neighborhood quality of life.
Improving Compliance on New York City Streets
In New York City, overweight and over-sized trucks threaten public safety and our transportation infrastructure. The trucks’ longer breaking distances and reduced stability, combined with their greater mass, can lead to severe crashes. Studies have also found that the useful life of pavement can be reduced by up to 25 percent if just one to three percent of trucks are overweight. Given these risks, DOT has deployed Weigh-in-Motion (WIM) scales that can weigh trucks as they drive over highways and alert authorities to overweight trucks in real time.
In coordination with regional partners, DOT installed a WIM system on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in 2014. The resulting data showed that almost seven percent of the thousands of trucks that use the bridge each day were overweight. This dramatic level of non-compliance with weight restrictions has serious implications for the condition of our highways and bridges. DOT plans to expand the number of WIM systems across the City to discourage trucking companies from violating the law.