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NYC officials want more businesses to switch to overnight deliveries. Why some say it just won't work

Why some in NYC say overnight deliveries just won't work
Why some in NYC say overnight deliveries just won't work 03:44

NEW YORK -- Cutting back on truck deliveries during the day is one way New York City's Department of Transportation says the city's often paralyzing traffic could be reduced, but some business owners say overnight deliveries are not for everyone.

With congestion pricing now on pause, it's more important than ever that the DOT is offering $6 million in incentives to shift deliveries away from peak hours. The hope is 62,000 trucks will be making overnight deliveries by 2040.

Unions, vendors create complications for overnight deliveries, some New Yorkers say

Lightning Express Delivery Service owner Joe Fitzpatrick says overnight deliveries just don't work for his company, forcing his trucks to be out in heavy traffic at the height of rush hour.

"I can't do the deliveries at night. It's out of my control," he said.

He says the men who accept the deliveries are unionized and their hours are fixed.

"The union guys are usually here from 7 [a.m.] to 2, 2:30 in the afternoon," he said.

Zach Miller, director of Metro Region Operations for the Truck Association Trade Group, says he's "skeptical" of the DOT's plan. He doesn't believe businesses like bodegas and mom-and-pop restaurants will be able to make the switch.

"That is not a possibility. Bread, dairy, beverage. There's no way that a place like that will be able to shift all their deliveries off hours," he said. "Suppose they want off-hour deliveries and they can get one or two of them to do it, but if the majority of their vendors can't make that shift, it's not really going to happen, or they may have to switch vendors. It could create a lot of challenges for both the receiver and the shipper."

DOT commissioner optimistic about switch to overnight deliveries

The DOT knows what an uphill battle it is. The agency started an overnight delivery pilot program in 2010, but in 14 years, it has only managed to convince 27 companies to join.

Kramer spoke to Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.

"With all due respect, commissioner, 27 businesses is a drop in the bucket of how many companies do business in New York," Kramer said.

"I agree with you. Twenty-seven doesn't represent the majority of companies or businesses that are in the city," Rodriguez said.

While Rodriguez admits that 27 businesses is not enough to affect a major change in congestion, he's optimistic that over time, it will.

"At my age of 59, one thing that I have learned -- change, it doesn't happen in one generation, but someone has to start it. We are standing on the shoulders of previous commissioners here that already been taking this agency in the right direction, and my job is to continue that path," he said.

Odeko, a company that consolidates overnight deliveries for coffee shops around the city, is confident overnight deliveries can succeed for other businesses.

"Steal our model, please," Odeko founder and CEO Dane Atkinson said. "Don't necessarily trust me. Get one round. Go to your best customers and say, 'Can I do this at night?' And see what that experience is like. I promise you, when the customer walks in in the morning and the store is ready to go ... they will love you, they will embrace you further, and then that will go to ten trucks to 20 trucsk to 50 trucks."

The DOT also intends to set up more curb space for truck deliveries and is encouraging businesses to consider sustainable "last-mile" delivery options, such as electric vehicles and cargo bikes.

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