Private trade waste carting vehicles were involved in 43 reported fatalities and hundreds of self-reported crashes that resulted in injuries in New York City between January 2010 through May 2019, accounting for roughly three percent of all road user fatalities. To work on improving safety in the commercial sanitation space, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC) released a new report titled Safe Fleet Transition Plan: Private Vehicle Crashes and Vehicle Safety Technology.
The four core recommendations from the report are:
- Changing the design of truck cabs. Conventional truck cabs have limited visibility that increases the risk of collisions involving injuries or fatalities. Large trucks with conventionally designed cabs can have a frontal obstructed view of 20 feet or more. Since 2010, all fatal collisions in New York City involving a commercial garbage truck that was stopped and then put into drive, involved a cab with a conventional design. In 2017, the City of New York released its Safe Fleet Transition Plan for government trucks, which called for high vision truck cabs when available. This report reinforces the need for this design change for commercial garbage trucks. One way DCAS plans to put this finding into practice is through using the Volpe-developed VIEW Blind Zone app and database, which can help fleets buy the safest available vehicles.
- Installing side guards. Side guards are barriers installed on the side of trucks to prevent vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists from sliding under the truck during a side-impact collision. Side guards can result in a 40% reduction in fatalities compared to trucks without this technology. Under Local Law 56 of 2015, the City of New York began to install truck side guards on all City-owned trucks. The law also required all trade waste trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating over 11,000 pounds be fitted with side guards by 2024. In October 2021, the city council passed legislation that moves this deadline up by one year to 2023. The new law requires truck side guards for any trucks used under a City contract valued at $2 million or more, starting with new contracts signed on or after January 1, 2023. The City will provide information sessions about truck side guards to contractors and other interested parties throughout 2022.
- Investing in vehicle technology. Technologies like surround cameras, safety lights, automatic braking systems, and additional mirrors can reduce fatalities and injuries. These and other technologies adopted as part of the City of New York’s Safe Fleet Transition Plan for City fleet vehicles can also improve safety for private garbage trucks. DCAS is in the process of installing 1,500 surround cameras on City trucks. The Volpe Center, DCAS, and BIC will continue to work together on developing best practices for retrofitting technology onto commercial garbage trucks. BIC rules now also require certain commercial garbage trucks with conventional cabs to install a mirror to reduce the blind spot in the front of the truck, among other requirements.
- Addressing visual impairments. Certain vehicle retrofitting devices, like bug deflectors, can increase visual impairment and pose an unnecessary safety risk.