Professional truck drivers can be forgiven if they get the impression New York City has it out for them. Consider these recent developments:
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his proposed executive budget steep fines and other penalties for tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles driving on the parkways in the metropolitan area.
- New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio recently created a special police unit to crack down on overweight trucks on the aged and infirm Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, part of Interstate 278.
- Members of the New York City Council introduced a regulation that would expand a requirement of side underride guards on some trucks fulfilling contracts with the city, e.g. garbage trucks and snowplows.
de Blasio signed an executive order Jan. 31 creating the BQE Truck Enforcement Task Force within the city’s police department. Task force members started on Monday, Feb. 3 increasing enforcement against overweight trucks de Blasio said are hastening the deterioration of the BQE.
Originally built in the 1940s to handle 47,000 vehicles a day, the BQE now is an essential daily route for more than 153,000 vehicles, including some 15,000 trucks. In his executive order, de Blasio said “outside consultants hired by the New York City Department of Transportation concluded in 2016 that if the (BQE) is not reconstructed by 2026, weight restrictions may need to be added to the structure, including diverting all truck traffic to local roads.”
He also justified creating the task force by saying sensors monitoring BQE traffic found “many trucks are operating in violation of existing weight restrictions.” A statement from de Blasio said those sensors “have determined that some trucks along the roadway are more than double that weight, as much as 170,000 pounds.” Under state law, NYPD can issue violations to overweight trucks with penalties as high as $7,000 per violation, according to the mayor’s office.
Truckers can expect driving difficulties on the BQE because of two construction projects. The city is going to begin making repairs to a retaining wall at Hicks Street on the BQE starting this spring with work to be completed by the end of the year. Work is also expected to begin this summer on the mile and a half long, three-tiered section of the BQE known as the cantilever. This unusual bit of highway construction extends from south of Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street north of the Manhattan Bridge and carries eastbound and westbound traffic on separate levels under the pedestrian walkway known as the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Work on the cantilever is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
“The BQE is one of the main arteries of our city, which is why we are immediately increasing enforcement against overweight trucks and addressing the highway’s most pressing structural issues,” said de Blasio. “I applaud the expert panel for putting forward several solutions (to) preserve the BQE, and we will continue to explore the next steps necessary to keep New Yorkers safe and moving.”
In response to a growing number of high-profile accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists being struck and injured or killed by trucks, the city council approved a bill requiring side guards on trucks fulfilling contracts with the city such as garbage private trucks contracted by the city to plow snow. The new law is effective Jan 1, 2021, but does not apply to trucks conducting private business.
The owner or operator of contracted vehicles without side guards could face penalties of $10,000 per city contracted vehicle and $500 for each day without a side guard for 30 days.