The Dangers of Sanitation Truck Accidents in New York

Orange sanitation truck in New York City

Sanitation trucks provide an essential service that keeps our neighborhoods clean, but they can also pose safety risks to pedestrians, bikers, and motorists, particularly if truck drivers and sanitation companies fail to exercise adequate care and caution.

The Alliance of Greater New York released a study that found that sanitation trucks, and privately-owned sanitation trucks, in particular, were involved in more accidents across the city than ever before.

If you have been seriously injured in a sanitation truck accident, then you could be entitled to recover compensation for expenses related to your injuries including hospital bills, lost wages, and more. The sanitation truck accident attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. on Long Island have the knowledge and resources to help you seek the compensation you need to recover after an accident. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Private Sanitation Trucks Are More Dangerous Than Ever

Most of the sanitation truck accidents in New York are caused by privately-owned sanitation trucks carrying commercial waste. The Alliance of Greater New York’s study noted that the 20 biggest private sanitation companies in New York City saw their crash rates double in just two years, from 35 collisions in 2016 to 67 in 2018. The study contrasted with accidents caused by city-owned sanitation trucks, which caused only one deadly accident between 2014 and the release of the study.

Sanitation truck accidents can cause serious and life-altering injuries to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians who are involved in accidents caused by negligent truck drivers. Due to their size, it is incumbent upon sanitation truck drivers to exercise extra caution, particularly in areas where there is heavy foot traffic and pedestrians, such as neighborhoods. Unfortunately, with so much trash to pick up each day, these companies often take risks, unnecessarily putting others in danger.

Causes of Sanitation Truck Accidents

Some of the most common causes of private sanitation truck accidents include: 

Driver Fatigue 

Sanitation truck drivers work long hours and work on tight deadlines. Some work 14-18 hours a day, hauling trash all over New York City. Very few sanitation truck drivers, if any, could be described as well-rested. Driver fatigue is a major issue in the private sanitation industry and private sanitation companies have done very little to combat it. Fatigued drivers may experience a general lack of alertness, impaired judgment, inability to concentrate, and a delayed reaction to traffic situations and road hazards, which can lead to accidents. 

Reckless Driving

Because private sanitation drivers work on tight deadlines, often throughout the night, they frequently drive in a manner that could be described as reckless. Private sanitation truckers are regularly pressured by their bosses to rush. This leads to dangerous driving behaviors including: 

  • Failure to yield the right-of-way
  • Failure to stop at stop signs and traffic lights
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating other vehicles
  • Failing to notice pedestrians, cyclists, and others prior to turning or reversing
  • Illegal parking
  • Failing to properly secure loads
  • Driving in the incorrect lane
  • Neglecting to properly inspect and maintain the vehicle

Inadequate Maintenance

Sanitation trucks that are owned by private companies fail inspection tests more often than other sanitation trucks do. Common maintenance issues that are neglected by private sanitation companies include tire issues, brake issues, defective lights, and badly secured loads. Private sanitation companies may neglect to maintain vehicles properly because they know they could be spending that time serving more businesses and increasing profits. 

Varied Routes 

Private sanitation companies have clients scattered all across the five boroughs of the city, unlike city sanitation trucks which are typically assigned to a specific area of the city. This means that private sanitation truck drivers are constantly zipping back and forth across the city to collect waste from different clients. This can be hectic for sanitation truck drivers, as they try to complete their daily tasks while navigating through heavy traffic in various parts of the city. The inconsistent nature of private sanitation truck routes and their chaotic schedules can result in devastating accidents. 

Number of Operators 

The sheer number of private sanitation trucks on the road is also to blame for the rise in private sanitation truck accidents. More than 90 private sanitation truck companies serve over 100,000 NYC businesses each week. The amount of private sanitation vehicles on the road creates an opportunity for more accidents to occur.

What is NYC Doing About This Issue?

In late 2019, the New York City council passed a bill that would totally overhaul the city’s private sanitation truck industry. The new bill aimed to cut truck traffic by half, reduce truck traffic, and make NYC streets safer for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. The bill divides NYC into 20 separate zones, with each of those zones served by 3 different private sanitation carters. The bill also requires training for drivers, helpers, and others who work in private sanitation.

The bill promises sweeping changes, though it remains to be seen what effect the bill will have on-street safety. The bill has not yet been fully implemented as of 2021, and until it is, private sanitation companies will continue to put motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk for the sake of increasing profits.

Contact A Sanitation Truck Accident Attorney in New York

If you have been injured in a sanitation truck accident in New York City, you could be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, and more. The experienced legal team at Finz & Finz, P.C. is here to help. Our New York motor vehicle accident attorneys have the knowledge and resources to help you investigate the accident, gather evidence, calculate damages, and pursue the compensation you need to recover. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.