Originally appearing in the Asbury Park Press (April 2014)
Written by Susan Bloom
In the fall of 2012, Brielle resident Kimberly Dean and boyfriend Scott Smith found themselves in a difficult spot. All set to move a 28-foot truck loaded with antique furniture the next morning to furnish the Black Dolphin Inn, a new boutique hotel they’d purchased a thousand miles away in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., the U-Haul driver they’d hired suddenly backed out the night before.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do. We were on a deadline and had to leave,” said Dean, a 54-year-old real estate agent. Concerned about their timing and the safety of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of items in their truck, they agonized over their last-minute logistical snafu, until they were fortunate enough to contact Cross Country Driver, a Point Pleasant-based operation which transports vehicles and their contents wherever they need to go.
“Thankfully, they were available to help us the very next day,” she said
As Dean and Smith began the drive to Florida in their own car on Sunday morning, Cross Country Driver owner Mark Duda commenced his own haul southward, deftly managing mechanical problems with their rented truck along the way to successfully reach their location 22 hours later on Monday morning, no questions asked. “Mark parked our truck, took a cab to Orlando Airport, and then caught a flight back to New Jersey,” Dean said. “He was so professional and such a gentleman and he couldn’t have made it easier for us. It was just miraculous.”
Cross Country Driver
Duda, 42, a Union County native who has lived in Point Pleasant for the past decade, launched Cross Country Driver in 2009, after he and his father Richard, 69, a retired truck driver, discussed “how great it would be to build a business that enabled us to see the country at our leisure.” His local advertisements landed them immediate business transporting snowbirds’ vehicles between New Jersey and Florida (a job for which Duda typically charges $1,000 to $1,200 and completes within 24 hours), but word of mouth gradually helped them expand westward. “We’ve since traveled to every one of the 50 states except Hawaii,” he said proudly.
“We can originate and end a trip anywhere, and we’ll drive any kind of vehicle to its requested destination safely, economically and on-time,” he said, a process which can often be stress-inducing and not viable for the vacationers, people relocating for jobs, professional athletes, TV/film industry personnel and others who make up his customer base.
“Logistical coordination is the most critical part,” said Duda, who’s become expert at mapping out trips nationwide around the various tolls, diversions, hotel stops, ferries, bridges, weather conditions, traffic patterns and other factors affecting the drive so that he can prepare an accurate time estimate and price quote for customers.
Among his most memorable runs, he recalls a car relocation from Alaska to Vermont in which numerous roads were blocked and multiple ferries had to be employed, as well as a trip from Rochester, N.Y., to Los Angeles where he transported the owners’ shih tzu and delighted them by snapping photos of the dog posed in front of various landmarks en route.
“It’s like a concierge service for our clients,” Duda said. “We’re happy to do whatever it takes to make them feel secure, keep them in the loop, and get the job done.”
With a crew of five drivers who have logged well over a million miles across more than 1,000 trips since launching the business five years ago, Duda said he’s met with little direct competition for the service he provides. “Other companies often place ads in a city and hire drivers without checking their references,” he said. “In contrast, our drivers are largely retired policemen and truck drivers. Because we’re in the business of moving people’s personal vehicles, possessions and pets, we’re vigilant about hiring only the most qualified and professionals whom people can trust.
“People often have a little trepidation when they think about this service, because moving can be overwhelming,” Duda conceded, “but I love helping people and our customers are so grateful. It’s rewarding to take stress off people’s plates and help them breathe easier, regain a sense of normalcy and finish the moving or relocation process as quickly as possible,” he concluded.
“It’s such a relief for them to know that they just have to hop on a plane and we’ll be there.”
www.CrossCountryDriver.com a service of OnPoint Associates, LLC
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Point Pleasant, NJ 08742 US