Private Sanitation Fleet Safety - NYC Council Oversight Hearing

Oversight Hearing: Private Sanitation Fleet Safety
NYC Council Committees on Transportation and Sanitation & Solid Waste Management

Monday, November 27, 2017
Testimony by Marco Conner, Legislative & Legal Director, Transportation Alternatives

Thank you, Council Members and Committee Chairs Rodriguez and Reynoso, for convening this hearing. For 44 years Transportation Alternatives has advocated on behalf of New Yorkers for safer and more livable streets. With more than 150,000 people in our network and over 1,000 activists throughout all five boroughs we fight to promote biking, walking, and public transportation as alternatives to the car 

Today, large vehicles, including waste hauling trucks, account for just 6 percent of vehicles on the road in New York City (NYC), yet are involved in approx. 20 percent of crashes where pedestrians are killed or severely injured. Since 2010, private waste hauling trucks have caused at least 43 traffic deaths in NYC, including 34 pedestrians. In 2017 alone, 7 people have been killed as of November 2017.

In 2016 Transportation Alternatives published a report, Reckless Endangerment: How NYC’s Unsafe Commercial Garbage Trucks Put Us All At Risk, in collaboration with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters locals, ALIGN, NYLPI and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. While others testifying at this hearing will address the long overdue changes to improve worker safety and labor standards in the waste hauling business as well as the industry’s inequitable health impacts on overburdened communities, our testimony focuses on steps to improve the safety for road users in NYC who are killed and injured at high rates by drivers of large trucks, especially waste hauling trucks.

To help make commercial waste hauling safe for all road users in NYC, the following steps must be taken:

Contracts must be tied to safety performance
Safety must not be an afterthought in the Business Integrity Commission’s (BIC) licensing of private waste hauling companies. In a recent two-year period, 96 percent of all safety violations identified in inspections of NYC’s largest haulers concerned vehicle maintenance, including faulty brakes, tires and lights. Companies with high rates or frequencies of involvement in crashes causing injury or death should not be allowed to do business in NYC.

Adopt next generation safe vehicle design, technology and transparency
The Department of Sanitation and BIC must lead the adoption of next generation safe vehicle design and technology, and incentivize their wider adoption by private waste hauling fleets. Side guards, as currently being installed on City-owned large trucks, and the City’s Vision Zero Side Guard Incentive Program for private waste haulers, is only the first step. Crossover mirrors must be installed on all fleet vehicles, and a phase-in of automated braking system (ABS) must be installed as it becomes available for large trucks in the U.S., among other measures. We recommend BIC work with the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to learn from their driver accountability measures, and the driving monitoring safety technology recently piloted by the TLC. This technology should also be used to increase transparency to allow public insight into the safety and violation history of waste hauling companies.

Professional drivers must be held to the highest standard 
The City must require intensive and ongoing driver education safety training. Additionally, higher standards for driver conduct and accountability should be defined and implemented, and individual drivers with high rates of crash involvement or dangerous driving records should not be allowed to drive commercially in NYC. New legislation may be required to give BIC such enforcement powers.

Quickly implement commercial waste collection zones
Finally, implementation of exclusive commercial waste collection zones must be expedited by the City in order to reduce gross mileage covered by trucks - lowering the exposure to other road users, especially vulnerable pedestrians and bicyclists. The City estimates that total waste carting mileage can be reduced by 49 to 68 percent from implementing commercial waste collection zones.

These are measures necessary for the private waste hauling industry to correct years of unacceptably high injury and fatality rates by its trucks. With the City and this Council exercising their public health mandate to protect New Yorkers, lives can be saved and our City’s waste hauling industry can, one day, become a model to follow.

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