Can Cargo Vans Go On the FDR?

No commercial vehicles are allowed to use the FDR. A cargo van can go on the FDR, providing the van weighs less than 6000lbs and is not used as or has been customized to be used as a commercial vehicle. It will also be classed as a commercial vehicle if the owner’s name is printed on the side.

New York Transport Authority Restrictions on Parkways

It is not just the FDR that has restrictions prohibiting commercial vehicles from using the highway as many highways in NY State have similar restrictions.

These restrictions apply to the Parkways, which as well as the FDR include, Belt Parkway, Henry Hudson Parkway, Cross Island Parkway, Hutchinson River Parkway, Ocean Parkway, Korean War Veterans Parkway, Mosholu Parkway, Jackie Robinson Parkway, Bronx River Parkway, Pelham Parkway, and the Grand Central Parkway. Together these Parkways are referred to as the Parkway System.

If planning to use any part of the Parkway System, the New York Transport Authority recommends that before doing so, you check with them about any restrictions and not depend only on GPS.


New York State Vehicle Classifications

The New York City Transport Authority differs from many other states in what they class as a commercial vehicle.

Many states will class a vehicle as being commercial dependent on its intended use. In New York though, all certain types of vehicles are automatically classed as being commercial vehicles regardless of their intended use. Exceptions to this rule must therefore be individually applied for.

New York City authorities classify trucks separately from other commercial vehicles. These definitions are:

Truck – Vehicle with two axles with six or more tires. Vehicles with more than two axles.

Commercial Vehicle – It has commercial plates or has been customized in order to carry larger amounts of cargo than it was designed for. It will also be deemed a commercial vehicle if the owner’s name or the name of a business is indicated on the side of the vehicle.

This means that an un-customized cargo van will not be considered a commercial vehicle providing it does not have a name on its sides.

This does of course mean that cargo vans owned by DHL, FedEx or U-Haul are commercial vehicles as their names are clearly marked on their cargo vans.

Whilst usually advertising your business on the side of your cargo van can be added advertising, if you plan to operate in New York City, you should consider both the pros and cons of doing so.


United States Highway Regulations

Although the 4.1 million miles of roads which carry 85% of freight across the country is referred to as the US highway system, only 146,000 miles are under Federal jurisdiction. The remaining highways in the US highway system are under the different states’ jurisdictions.

This means that not only do the different States build and maintain these highways, but they also regulate their use. Vehicle restrictions and speed limits for those vehicles not prohibited are therefore set by each individual state and not the Federal Government.

A State may apply for financial help from the Federal Government to build the road, but if they do, the resulting highway must pay for its own maintenance. This is why many of the highways or Parkways have tolls.


Cargo Vans Vehicle Classification

A cargo van is compact and allows access to the cargo section from a side door, rear door, or from the driver’s position.

It is the fact that easy access is provided to the driver, with no wall separating them from the cargo area which distinguishes them from other types of vans.

This distinction is beneficial in allowing a cargo van to be identified as a passenger vehicle instead of automatically be classed as a commercial vehicle. This does not mean though, that a cargo van cannot be customized to make a very convenient commercial vehicle, especially for small businesses.

Unfortunately some of these customizations, while making deliveries easier, may result in the cargo van being classed as a commercial vehicle.

The cargo van has become very popular in recent years, and this can perhaps be due to two main factors:

  • When not customized, it is considered a private passenger vehicle in most states. This means that it is an ideal family vehicle, capable of transporting the whole family plus all their baggage. In doing so, it is not restricted from being used on State highways and parkways.
  • Although having been customized for a specific commercial purpose it may be classed as a commercial vehicle, it still has its benefits. These benefits include good fuel efficiency and easy access to tools and equipment in the cargo area.

As a private passenger vehicle, a cargo van can carry more family members with baggage, but its fuel efficiency is only a little higher than a regular sedan, meaning there’s little extra fuel cost.

The fuel efficiency of the cargo van may make up for detours it has to make due to being a commercial vehicle. Also the fact that easy access to the cargo area means that any extra time spent on those detours can be made up.

In many states however, the popularity of the cargo van can be due to its ability to legally use most highways and parkways, often saving time and fuel.


Cargo Vans Can Carry Less Weight Than Trucks

Although the better fuel efficiency of a cargo van compared to most other vans is certainly a benefit, it does come at a price. That price is that its engine is not as powerful as many other types of truck and so is restricted to a lower weight capacity for freight.

While this may be a disadvantage to many larger business which transport heavier loads, many of those larger business maintain at least one cargo van for their lighter loads.

For many smaller businesses however, the weight restriction is irrelevant as they only transport lighter loads such as their tools and other equipment.


Small Businesses which Benefit from Owning a Cargo Van

Many small businesses own cargo vans as they can be the ideal transportation for their individual needs. Some of these businesses include:

Maintenance Contractors – May be called for numerous different types of tasks, and the ability to customize the cargo area of a cargo van means they can organize it for easy access to any appropriate tools.

Florists and Caterers – Although the type of freight these businesses carry may not weigh much, being able to stow them separately can be a great advantage. These businesses may also take advantage of the fact a cargo van can be refrigerated.

Plumbers, Painters, and Gardeners – These are all businesses that can benefit from the customization of a cargo van’s cargo area.


Cargo Vans vs. Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks may not be allowed on New York’s Parkway System, but they are allowed on many of the other states’ highways.

Also many of the pickups may have more powerful engines than a cargo van. However, the more powerful engine means more fuel usage, and a pickup truck does not provide the  freight’s privacy, security or weather proofing as does a cargo van.



Whilst the benefits of being able to use New York’s Parkway System may be reason enough for New Yorkers to buy a cargo van, this is a benefit is the same in many other states.

Certainly if your cargo van is for personal use and not business purposes, using the FDR and other Parkways in the Parkway System of New York can be hugely beneficial. These benefits include fuel costs and time in getting around the city.

Unfortunately these benefits cannot be shared with all cargo van owners who use their van for business purposes. If, however the cargo van business owner makes no customizations to the van and places no advertisements or business name to the van, they too can enjoy those benefits.

In order for any small business to be profitable, it must take into consideration all costs, especially when related to vehicle expenses. This means that while registering a cargo van as a business vehicle may be beneficial on tax returns, extra costs may arise from being prohibited from using the most cost-effective routes.

Regardless of which states you may plan to travel through, it is always best to check in advance for any restrictions on the highways you intend to use. While cargo vans are rarely restricted in many states, some states, like New York, may have some limiting factors even on cargo vans.

Usually any restrictions will not apply to a cargo van that has not been customized in any way.

Author: Kenneth Graham

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