Weighing about 25 tons when loaded and having significant blind spots on all sides, sanitation trucks are difficult to maneuver even when traffic and road conditions are good. Safely navigating the often narrow and busy streets of New York poses a serious challenge, especially since drivers must make frequent turns, stops and backups.
In New York City, the risk to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians is especially high. While the Department of Sanitation handles residential pickup services, currently there are more than 90 private companies serving the 100,000 commercial businesses in the five boroughs.
City report details troubling numbers
A recent report by the NYDS highlights the potential danger posed by having so many private carters competing for the same commercial clients. The study showed that, in some areas of the city, more than 50 sanitation companies serve a single neighborhood. On the busiest streets, garbage trucks may pass the same city blocks as many as 400 times in one day.
The report also notes that intense competition often led carting companies to push truck operators to work longer and drive farther. In some cases, routes can take 12 or more hours to complete and cover more than 100 miles. In addition to fatigue, the study found that intense pressure to stay on schedule often led to drivers disregarding traffic rules to finish a route on time.
New law may help improve traffic safety
Since 2010, private sanitation carters have caused 28 fatalities in New York City. Last November the mayor signed a new law that divides the city into 20 separate service zones and limits the number of companies that operate in each zone to three.
The law also establishes new training requirements for drivers and creates a Safety Task Force to ensure that private carters follow recommended guidelines for safe operating practices. The DSNY plans to begin implementing the law in 2021, and city officials hope it will eventually reduce private garbage truck traffic by more than 60%.