In addition to having significant blind spots on all sides, sanitation trucks are awkward to maneuver and deadly heavy. The many stops, turns and backups required during a single route take skill and attentiveness, and even a minor mistake may easily lead to fatal consequences—especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
In New York City, the risk is especially high. With more than 90 private companies competing to serve businesses in the five boroughs, the streets are teeming with commercial sanitation trucks whose drivers may work long hours and cover arduous routes.
City report reveals startling statistics
A recent study by the New York City Department of Sanitation highlights the potential risks of allowing so many separate sanitation companies to operate in the same area. The report found that intense competition between private businesses for the same commercial clients often led to carters cutting corners, forcing drivers to work routes that may cover more than 100 miles and take 12 or more hours to complete.
In addition to fatigue, the report found that a high-pressure schedule often pushed drivers to disregard traffic rules to finish a route on time. A multitude of sanitation businesses also means more trucks on city streets. The study showed that garbage haulers may pass some of the busiest city blocks as many as 400 times in a single day.
New law may help reduce pedestrian deaths
Private carters have caused 28 fatalities in New York City since 2010, forcing the city to take a hard look at fixing the current approach to commercial sanitation. Last November, the mayor signed a new law that will divide the city into 20 service zones, with a limit of three private companies operating in each zone. City officials hope that the new rules will reduce private garbage truck traffic by more than half by 2024. The law will also implement basic driver training requirements and create a Safety Task Force responsible for monitoring and enforcing safe operating practices.