(A guide to trucking in the Northeast)
As someone who is investigating the opportunities in truck driving careers, you undoubtedly have heard the horror stories about trucking in the Northeast. The stories of overcrowded roadways, lack of parking spaces and the constant fighting to jockey into position so you won’t miss your exit, are all true. A driver has not lived until they have experienced trucking in the Northeast. This area of the United States is one place that the truck driving schools cannot prepare you for. Even seasoned drivers will stop beforehand and psych themselves up before tackling what lies ahead.
The major problem of driving in this area of the United States encompasses several areas. The first problem, obviously, is the enormous amount of traffic. Thousands of vehicles are doing battle to get to wherever they are going. Traffic jams, accidents and, within the cities, pedestrians EVERYWHERE! Within the boroughs of New York City, it is no easy task to get 18 wheelers down streets that are packed with hundreds of cars and thousands of people, and which were originally built in the mid 1800’s!
The second problem area causes much aggravation and stress within the truck driving field. There is simply no where to park. Once you get past a certain area, parking becomes obsolete. Without trucks, America stops. Yet, in areas such as the Northeast, they provide nowhere for these drivers to stop and rest or simply even to catch their breath. Also, once you’ve reached your origin or destination, space is usually so cramped, that it can literally take hours to just get backed into the dock to get loaded or unloaded. The stories can go on and on about the Northeast. In recent years, many drivers have started to refuse to run to this area. Other problem areas too numerous to expand on include the high toll rates, the gutted, worn out road surfaces that will shake your teeth out, the hate-filled, disrespectful sentiment displayed toward the trucking industry and the outright dangers of entering into the boroughs at certain times of the day.
Years ago I had a delivery scheduled for 4:00 A.M. in the Bronx. Not knowing any better, I ran on in and found the place and parked out front on what seemed like a deserted street. It was 2:00 A.M. Within minutes drug dealers were all around my truck, using it as a blockade to shield themselves from the police cars that went by every thirty minutes or so. Eventually, a man in his mid-twenties came up to my window and motioned for me to roll it down. Lowering it about a fourth of the way, he offered me drugs, as he jumped up on the steps of the truck. I politely refused, so then he offered me his “girlfriend” who was standing a few feet away. Again, I politely refused. He then explained that I would have to pay $20 in order to park there. I told him that I would just leave, having no idea where I would go to. He then said, “Hey, asking for $20 is better than armed robbery, isn’t it?”. I looked back at him and as his eyes hardened and his hand went into his coat pocket, I knew that this situation was worsening. So what did I do? I laughed. I just laughed and said he was absolutely right and I handed him the $20 and then drove back up to the Turn Pike and parked along a very heavily traveled, well-lit spot. As my 4:00 A.M. schedule slipped by, I slept until the sun came up and headed back to the customer. I explained why I was late and got unloaded and learned a lesson about trucking in this area of the country.
As a new driver, inexperienced in truck driving, these are the mistakes you do not have to make. Now, after years of trucking and having gone through the Northeast more times than I can count, I wouldn’t even give it a second thought. After awhile, you get to know the parking areas. You learn the spots where you can shut down, safely, and wait for your appointment time. You will know the precise places where you can make it to, not just for New York City, but for the other rough areas such as New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut.
The key to driving in the Northeast is simple…plan ahead. Know where the truck stops and rest areas are located. In the NYC area, plan on stopping at one of the truck stops along the New Jersey Turn Pike. Just remember, that once you pass exit 7 you have just entered the point of no return. There is a smaller truck stop at exit 15, but I never visited this one. The Turn Pike does have travel centers for parking, but like the truck stops, if you do not make it in early enough, there will be no parking space available. If you are running up to Connecticut or further, and time allows, stop before hand and continue your trip later that night. Most often I would stop at the Petro Truck Stop in Elkton, Maryland off of I-95 at exit 109A. This is a large truck stop which nearly always has a parking space available. I would then start running again around midnight and cruise right on through. This is the best way to bypass the adversities in the Northeast. Wait the day out and run late at night. You should also invest in a small cooler/refrigerator and keep it stocked with drinks, bread and cold cuts just in case you get stuck in a spot that offers no facilities.
In the beginning, these states will be a valuable test of your driving skills and endurance. Just know that the Northeast is beatable. As time goes by, it will become easier in making it through. Planning is the key. Plan ahead, know the spots where you can park and get something to eat, and congratulate yourself on making it through one of the toughest areas to drive in America.
About the author:
Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with 29 years experience and is an expert in areas of truck driving schools and truck driver training. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.