By Brenda Flanagan
Carlos Pinos drives a tractor trailer, picking up and delivering containers full of cargo that arrive by ship at Port Newark. Even on good days, he says the truckers sit in line, diesel rigs idling, waiting to get through the gates and into the container port for pickup.
“You cannot go out, you cannot do anything. You just have to wait there,” he said.
On bad days, Carlos says the line of trucks can stretch for miles.
“And all of this is gonna be full of trucks — all this. … All the way down,” he said.
Pinos doesn’t get paid by the hour, he gets paid by the load. Sitting in traffic all day, his pay suffers.
When asked how much money he makes on a day like that, he said, “Nothing because you don’t make a delivery.”
His boss loses money, too. That’s why Justin Verola joined other trucking and shipping executives at this so-called town hall meeting to discuss a special task force report on improving the port’s performance.
“We need information and we need to fix this today. This can’t go on any longer. We have companies that are refusing to come to the port. We’ve lost business from our customers because they think our trucks are on line, are not there,” Verola, president of RV Trucking, said.
“Everything we do as truckers is all about timing,” said West End Express owner Mike Baicher. “We don’t want to idle. That costs us fuel. That costs us time. We want to get in. We want to get out.”
And the Newark community — politicians and advocates — do not appreciate a mile of diesel trucks idling.
“We understand the port is a viable engine for the region. But we don’t want this port to grow at our expense. Seven thousand trucks come through our community daily. One out of four of our children suffer from asthma. It’s an environmental injustice and it needs to stop,” said Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action.
The task force has come up with 23 recommendations to impose pollution controls and improve flow and timing. They include an appointment system and GPS tracking. They’d also coordinate extended hours at the terminal gates.
“With the need to fix some of these things as quickly as possible, I completely understand the frustration of the trucking community is going through. The reality is some of these things are far more complex than I think some of us realized,” said Rick Larrabee, commerce director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).
Pinos wasn’t at the meeting. But he’s got three kids at home — a family to support. He needs to move freight.
“They need to fix this. They really need to fix that,” said Pinos.
The task force wants to keep collecting data and tweaking its report. But the truckers say they need action now and hard deadlines. They want to get this show on the road, they say, before they’re left on the dock after the ship sails.