Big Rigs, Big City

| August 31, 2001

Ray Pelowski heard someone breaking into his trailer of hanging meat at Hunt’s Point Market in New York City. He backed the trailer up to try to shake the man off. The intruder came up to Pelowski, but didn’t see that he was holding a meat hook behind his back. “I hit him in the head with it,” Pelowski says. “Real hard, too. He fell down. I don’t know if he lived or died. The cop told me just to leave. He said, ‘It’s too much work for us to fill out a report. We’ll mark this one DOA.’”

That incident was in the 1970s, and Pelowski says he doesn’t feel scared coming into Hunt’s Point anymore. The neighborhood around Hunt’s Point has been cleaned up a lot since then, he says. Also, he’s been delivering here since 1956, so he has figured out ways to stay safe.

“I think guys ask for it, flashing their money to the whores,” Pelowski says. “I don’t answer my door.” He adds that he’s had his lock broken two other times at Hunt’s Point. “But the load was on pallets, so they couldn’t get it,” he says. He currently hauls barbecued ribs into New York and Chinese noodles back to his home state of Minnesota for Northwest Dairy Forwarding Co., of Ham Lake, Minn.

Getting robbed or mugged is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hauling to big cities. Traffic, tolls, regulations and dealing with rude cops and four-wheelers can make urban driving a big headache for truck drivers.

While rush-hour traffic was rated worst in Los Angeles, followed by San Francisco, in a recent study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, New York seems to stand head-and-shoulders above other cities when it comes to driver complaints.

Stories like Pelowski’s are spread and perhaps sometimes embellished over the CB; they have given Hunt’s Point legendary status as a den of evil in the trucking world. The Bronx market has become emblematic of New York City trucking.

“You’d rather go into Sing Sing Prison than Hunt’s Point Market,” says Herby Kerr, a 73-year-old driver for Kerr Trucking of Harmony, Maine. “The best thing you can have in New York is a Rottweiler.” It’s not just the threat of violence that bothers Kerr, but the greed. “You’ve got to buy your way out of everything out there. Give him 10, 15 bucks and you get unloaded. Everything has a price.”

“Drivers are fearful for their lives,” says Jim Morse, president of Refrigerated Food Express, of Avon, Mass. “We had one driver, the first time he went into Hunt’s Point, he got whacked over the head with a pipe.” It was a dropoff in the middle of the night, and the driver was doing his post-trip inspection when he got mugged, Morse explains. “Once this happens, word spreads like wildfire. We’re an owner-operator company, so you can’t force them to go anywhere. Everyone was refusing to go into New York. We had to give loads back to the customer.” RFX has stopped delivering to Hunt’s Point.

Hauling into New York is “a nightmare,” says William Joyce, president of the New York State Motor Transportation Association. He spends every day talking to truckers about how to cope with the regulations in New York. “Some of it is really nonsense. There’s probably no city in the country that’s more reliant on trucking than New York. Yet the people there see trucks strictly as a nuisance.”

When asked which is the worst regulation, he says, “It’s more the way they do the enforcement than the individual regulations. Take the guy who drives a 48-foot trailer into the city and winds up down on Canal Street. They’re going to write him four tickets. One for being over 96 inches wide. One for being over 55 feet long. Another for having a trailer over 45 feet long. And another for being over 65 feet long in overall length.”

In other words, Joyce explains, New York cops write you two tickets for being too long. One for breaking the state limit of 65 feet, and one for breaking the city limit of 55 feet. “They do it because they can,” he says.

A trucker in New York also has to keep his pockets full of cash. “There are tolls about everywhere you go,” Joyce says. “Bridges average $35 between New York and New Jersey.” While truck lines reimburse company drivers for tolls, drivers still have to carry cash on them, which some say makes them feel vulnerable.

Big Rigs, Big City

| August 31, 2001

Ray Pelowski heard someone breaking into his trailer of hanging meat at Hunt’s Point Market in New York City. He backed the trailer up to try to shake the man off. The intruder came up to Pelowski, but didn’t see that he was holding a meat hook behind his back. “I hit him in the head with it,” Pelowski says. “Real hard, too. He fell down. I don’t know if he lived or died. The cop told me just to leave. He said, ‘It’s too much work for us to fill out a report. We’ll mark this one DOA.’”

That incident was in the 1970s, and Pelowski says he doesn’t feel scared coming into Hunt’s Point anymore. The neighborhood around Hunt’s Point has been cleaned up a lot since then, he says. Also, he’s been delivering here since 1956, so he has figured out ways to stay safe.

“I think guys ask for it, flashing their money to the whores,” Pelowski says. “I don’t answer my door.” He adds that he’s had his lock broken two other times at Hunt’s Point. “But the load was on pallets, so they couldn’t get it,” he says. He currently hauls barbecued ribs into New York and Chinese noodles back to his home state of Minnesota for Northwest Dairy Forwarding Co., of Ham Lake, Minn.

Getting robbed or mugged is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hauling to big cities. Traffic, tolls, regulations and dealing with rude cops and four-wheelers can make urban driving a big headache for truck drivers.

While rush-hour traffic was rated worst in Los Angeles, followed by San Francisco, in a recent study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, New York seems to stand head-and-shoulders above other cities when it comes to driver complaints.

Stories like Pelowski’s are spread and perhaps sometimes embellished over the CB; they have given Hunt’s Point legendary status as a den of evil in the trucking world. The Bronx market has become emblematic of New York City trucking.

“You’d rather go into Sing Sing Prison than Hunt’s Point Market,” says Herby Kerr, a 73-year-old driver for Kerr Trucking of Harmony, Maine. “The best thing you can have in New York is a Rottweiler.” It’s not just the threat of violence that bothers Kerr, but the greed. “You’ve got to buy your way out of everything out there. Give him 10, 15 bucks and you get unloaded. Everything has a price.”

“Drivers are fearful for their lives,” says Jim Morse, president of Refrigerated Food Express, of Avon, Mass. “We had one driver, the first time he went into Hunt’s Point, he got whacked over the head with a pipe.” It was a dropoff in the middle of the night, and the driver was doing his post-trip inspection when he got mugged, Morse explains. “Once this happens, word spreads like wildfire. We’re an owner-operator company, so you can’t force them to go anywhere. Everyone was refusing to go into New York. We had to give loads back to the customer.” RFX has stopped delivering to Hunt’s Point.

Hauling into New York is “a nightmare,” says William Joyce, president of the New York State Motor Transportation Association. He spends every day talking to truckers about how to cope with the regulations in New York. “Some of it is really nonsense. There’s probably no city in the country that’s more reliant on trucking than New York. Yet the people there see trucks strictly as a nuisance.”

When asked which is the worst regulation, he says, “It’s more the way they do the enforcement than the individual regulations. Take the guy who drives a 48-foot trailer into the city and winds up down on Canal Street. They’re going to write him four tickets. One for being over 96 inches wide. One for being over 55 feet long. Another for having a trailer over 45 feet long. And another for being over 65 feet long in overall length.”

In other words, Joyce explains, New York cops write you two tickets for being too long. One for breaking the state limit of 65 feet, and one for breaking the city limit of 55 feet. “They do it because they can,” he says.

A trucker in New York also has to keep his pockets full of cash. “There are tolls about everywhere you go,” Joyce says. “Bridges average $35 between New York and New Jersey.” While truck lines reimburse company drivers for tolls, drivers still have to carry cash on them, which some say makes them feel vulnerable.

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