New I-90 cashless tolling is taking a toll on tandem trucking

The upcoming transition to cashless tolling on the New York Thruway has brought about some new restrictions that are making life harder for tandem drivers. 

The New York State Thruway Authority’s toll system is set to go entirely cashless by the end of 2020, but new regulations and restrictions surrounding parking compounds for tandem drivers are already in effect as of November 1st, and tandem truck drivers aren’t happy. 

As part of the new safety measures surrounding the cashless tolling, many parking compounds on either side of the Thruway will now be designated as either a breakup lot or a makeup lot. Additionally, some lots will have specific time slots when tandems are allowed to exit.

Because of the new cashless tolling, traffic flow surrounding these lots remains fast, making it especially dangerous for truck drivers to cut across traffic to reach the lot they need, and even increasing the danger of simply reentering the Thruway from the lots. 

Now, because of the new restrictions, truck drivers must travel all the way to the next Thruway exit and loop around if they need access to the lot on the other side. To top it all off, Tandems are only allowed on the Thruway and cannot use other interstates as shortcuts. This means that looping around is the only option, and a time-consuming one at that. These new changes have the potential to add an hour or more of drive time to runs for tandem drivers.

Local trucking companies that utilize tandem tractor trailers are concerned about what the changes might mean for business. Clinton’s Ditch Distributing (CDD) is one of these companies.  

“So any compound that is on the right side of the road coming off the Thruway will be now become a breakup-only compound,” said CDD Transportation Manager Steve Erwin to Spectrum Local News. “The doubles will come in and we’ll break them apart. Any compound that’s on the left side coming off the Thruway will become a makeup compound. You’ll put them together, and leave out of there.”

“It’s going to change. Our runs are definitely going to be longer,” said Tim Hildreath, a tandem truck driver for CDD. 

“The minimum amount of additional time is 35 to 40 minutes. And in some places, it’s almost an hour or over an hour, and that’s in good weather,”

“Due to the conversion to cashless tolling on the Thruway, access to select truck tandem lots owned by the Thruway Authority required modifications to enable longer combination vehicles (LCVS) continued safe use of the these lots.” a Thruway spokesman said in a statement. 

“The modifications only impact the routes used by LCVS, not other types of commercial vehicles. All routes have been analyzed for safety to minimize the impacts to local traffic and to accommodate the turning radius of an LCV.”

The Thruway is also in the process of applying for federal permission allowing tandems off of the Thruway and onto nearby interstates. If approved, this legislation would allow tandems to leave the Thruway and use the interstate to get them back onto the Thruway in the direction they need to go, which could eliminate the hassle of looping around using just the Thruway. 

Erwin also says that the Thruway is working on a safer way for trucks to re-enter the roadway from the lots, but says these issues should have been addressed much sooner in the cashless toll transition. 

“We’ve been talking about cashless tolling for years. This portion of it should have been done in the early stages. The Thruway is doing things like this, they’re putting in a ramp that will take the trucks out of the compound and put them back on the entrance ramp in a much more safe manner to pull out of the compound than we do today,” he said.