UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comment from the National Waste & Recycling Association.
- The non-profit Transportation Alternatives and Transform Don't Trash (TDT) campaign released a new report entitled "Reckless Endangerment" highlighting vehicle safety issues in New York's commercial waste sector. This is the latest in a series of TDT publications that aim to make the case for major reform in the industry.
- Using two years of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the report said that 96% of all safety violations among the city's 20 largest haulers were related to vehicle maintenance rather than driver error.
- Among this group of haulers, an average 48% of trucks were taken out of service for maintenance issues. The national average for commercial trucks registered with DOT is approximately 21%.
The most common violations were for brake issues, tires, load securement, proper headlights and turn signals. Based on the report's analysis, only 3% of safety violations were due to driver fitness and 1% were due to unsafe driving. About 5% of drivers failed to pass inspections, similar to the national average.
Some of the report's recommendations include the removal of riding steps and the enforcement of proper seatbelts. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that it will require passengers in commercial vehicles to wear seat belts beginning in August. The report also recommends more organized tracking and response procedures for vehicle crashes.
Kendall Christiansen, manager of the National Waste & Recycling Association's (NWRA) New York City chapter, took issue with the report. He said national data can't accurately be compared to the local waste industry and that some examples were based on a small number of total inspections. Christiansen also said the anecdote about a pedestrian fatality failed to mention the driver was exonerated upon further investigation.
"[The report] bears no relation to the reality that the city’s private-sector companies that collect waste, recyclables and organics daily put hundreds (not thousands) of trucks on the road that are safe, well-equipped and maintained, and ready with well-trained and responsible drivers to perform essential services for the city," Christiansen wrote in an emailed statement. "While waste collection trucks are complex pieces of equipment, no company benefits from trucks that can’t perform properly or create safety hazards for their employees and the broader public."
As this report was being publicized on the steps of City Hall many industry representatives were attending a previously scheduled safety symposium a few blocks away. The event was co-hosted by the Solid Waste Association of North America and NWRA and focused on a wide range of ideas around driver training, company culture and technology. Accountability for everyone from helpers to top management was a common theme.
Waste Dive will have a full report from the symposium next week.