“The labor shortage in the trucking industry has been a challenge for some time now,” comments Kazan, adding that electronic log book requirements and hours-of-service regulation exacerbate the issue. “You virtually need one-and-a-half more drivers to accomplish what one driver had been able to do.”
Katzman agrees. “With all the new regulations in place, some of the smaller truck companies have closed down, so the supply of trucks has tightened up,” she says. “Although fuel prices have come down, normal maintenance on trucks that drive nonstop across the country is expensive. Weather and traffic also slow down transportation, and that can also result in oversupply later on if everything catches up and comes in at once.”
A walk-off by longshoremen early this year also caused a massive disruption, closing off all truck deliveries to Port Authority properties. Although the situation was resolved quickly, it caused plenty of pain for businesses across New York and New Jersey, particularly those dealing with highly perishable fruits and vegetables, where every second counts.
Trucks and Emissions
New York’s traffic problems, always bad, have gotten worse as the population increases but the city’s roadways fail to keep pace. A reinvestment in trucking access is commonly cited by on-market vendors as a current priority.
A related, looming factor is environmental quality. New York faced its hottest summer on record last year, and suffered through plenty of high temps in 2016. Increased environmental quality standards in a city that would be devastated by some of the predicted effects of global warming has led to a push by many legislators for ever-tighter emissions standards and other issues relating to sustainability.
S. Katzman is one of the companies attempting to get ahead of that legislation, taking steps to make voluntary changes before it becomes a matter of local or even federal law. “We are participating in a zero-garbage challenge to continue to cut down on our company’s carbon footprint,” confirms Katzman, “and we have converted almost half our van storage fleet to electric to cut down on emissions.”
Pointing Towards the Future
The years ahead will be critical for the Hunts Point Terminal Market, and most companies are in somewhat of a holding pattern, trying to maximize the utility of their on-market spaces in anticipation of the results of the Cooperative Association’s quarter-million-dollar feasibility study.
It’s expected to be completed by year’s end, and whether it results in major upgrades to the Bronx facility or a move to New Jersey, the market will find a way to survive and thrive. For many, especially older companies that have been watching the facility burst at the seams over 40 years of expansion, it’s a waiting game to see what’s next. But as long as the biggest problem is pushing the capacity of the market because volume and sales continue to climb, it’s a problem they’re willing to face.
Kazan’s thoughts on Hunts Point are wrapped up with a curious blend of hard-nosed realism and constant optimism: “Doing business here is tough, but I’m hard pressed to explain why,” he says. “It’s just the nature of the market, its competition, and its people—this city is unlike anyplace in the world, period. It’s not for the weak or faint-hearted. Since we’ve been on the market for 35 years, we’ve learned to serve a rightfully demanding and unique clientele.”
Images: Nick Nick & Stuart Monk/Shutterstock.com.