There has been an “unprecedented uptick in fatalities” associated with recycling and garbage trucks in 2019, according to the Solid Waste Association of North America.
That’s alarming, even as a preliminary number, because garbage trucks are already among the most dangerous heavy trucks.
- They are often out very early in the morning, when the streets are still dark.
- Trucks stop and start frequently.
- Drivers stop in the middle of the road to save time, instead of pulling over.
FMCSA’s data for 2017 shows 107 garbage/refuse trucks fatalities, and another 1400+ injury crashes. About 25% of the people killed or seriously hurt are sanitation workers. OSHA shows 25 fatalities or serious injuries for employees in Garbage Truck Accidents in 2017.
Last year, an investigative journalist looked into a private waste collection company in New York. They had installed cameras in their trucks, and filmed their own drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Yet, they continued to work their crews 10-14 hours a day, 6 days a week.
City and municipal waste management trucks seem to have a better safety record than private companies.
But due to the sheer size and shape of the vehicle, a collision with a trash/recycling truck is brutal. I have worked on a lot of truck crash cases, but there are a few I remember as particularly tragic. One involved a recycling truck.
Two kids killed in a recycling truck crash
Two girls – a young teen and an infant – were killed when their mom’s vehicle hit a recycling truck that had parked on a rural road in Washington State. The trucking company claimed that statutory provisions allowed for the truck to be stopped in the roadway for recycling pick-up.
We argued that the truck driver had the clear opportunity to pull onto the side of the road, but chose not to in order to avoid the extra effort that would have been required.
We also asserted a claim for the failure to have proper under-guard protection. While we were able to settle that case for $2,700,000.00, it was devastating for everyone involved.
We know these heavy trucks are necessary. It is my hope that cities and private companies will do as much as they can to make them safe for workers – and for the rest of us.