New York City produces more than 14 million tons of trash per year. Garbage collection is carried out by a combination of private and public sanitation trucks, including those operated by the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY).

By day, DSNY trucks collect residential trash. By night, private garbage trucks haul away refuse from businesses across the five boroughs. These trucks weigh around 16 tons and can carry an additional 10 -12 tons of refuse.

The size and weight of garbage trucks make them a danger to other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. A New York City garbage truck accident can cause serious injuries and fatalities that may require filing a personal injury claim.

NYC’s Dual Trash Collection System

New York’s 8.5 million residents create a lot of trash. Collecting and disposing of that trash is a huge job. The responsibility for trash pickup is divided between a system that is part public and part private.

  • The DSNY provides trash pickup for residences, government agencies, and many nonprofits. It has a fleet of 2,500 heavy-duty trucks that collect around 10,000 tons of refuse and recyclables per day.
  • The private system, regulated by the NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC), consists of over 250 waste hauling companies that service businesses. These companies handle around 4 million tons of trash annually.  

DSNY deploys around 7,000 municipal workers to perform door-to-door residential trash pickup during the daytime. Private garbage trucks operate at night, crisscrossing the city and removing waste from the private businesses that pay them for trash removal.

Commercial Waste Trucks Have a Spotty Safety Record

New York City’s private trash hauling companies have a poor safety record relative to DSNY and commercial waste companies in other cities.

A study from the Alliance of Greater New York found that, compared to private haulers in Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco, the NYC private waste industry experiences more than three times more crashes per driver. The study notes that, unlike New York, which has a largely unregulated “open market” system, these West Coast cities have exclusive franchise systems organized by geographic zones.

Fatigued driving, poor truck maintenance, a grueling work schedule, performance pressure, and dangerous time-saving tactics, such as speeding and driving the wrong way on one-way streets, are cited in the study as top causes of garbage truck-related crashes and fatalities.

From 2010 – 2019, private sanitation trucks in NYC were involved in at least 107 injuries and 43 fatalities, according to a City report.

An overhaul of New York’s commercial waste program intended to improve safety was established under former Mayor Bill de Blasio but implementation has been delayed until 2024.

DSNY Garbage Trucks Account for Large Share of Crash Settlements

New York’s public garbage trucks have a better safety record than private trash companies, but the City has paid out large sums to settle lawsuits involving DSNY vehicles.

Findings released by the Comptroller in February 2023 reveal that, over a 10-year period, City-owned motor vehicles wracked up more than $650 million in crash settlements.

  • DSNY, which has the City’s second-largest vehicle fleet, accounted for 21% of crashes leading to settlements from 2013 – 2022, according to the Comptroller report.
  • On a per department basis, DSNY was responsible for more motor vehicle claim payouts than any other department, with NYPD a close second.
  • Over the study period, 4 percent of all personal injury claims were settled for more than $1 million, with two-thirds of these settlements involving NYPD and DSNY vehicles.
  • In FY 2022, DSNY claim payouts cost New York taxpayers $80 million.  

The Comptroller report notes that the most expensive crashes are associated with larger vehicles. DSNY operates much larger vehicles than other agencies. Garbage trucks have long braking distances, big blind spots, limited driver visibility, and are more difficult to operate than other vehicles, particularly in congested urban environments like New York City.

And when garbage trucks crash, they tend to do more damage because of their bulk. In July, an out-of-control garbage truck killed one motorist and injured several others in Long Island. The driver, who was issued multiple citations, rear-ended a Honda Accord, sideswiped a school bus, and then rear-ended a Jeep.

The garbage truck was custom-made for DSNY by Mack, but the City had not yet taken possession of the vehicle at the time of the crash, reports ABC 7.

New York City Garbage Truck Accident Claims

The way a New York City garbage truck accident claim is handled depends on whether the vehicle is privately or publicly owned.

An accident with a private sanitation truck can be filed against the driver and/or the company that operates the vehicle. Other parties, such as the truck manufacturer, could be liable as well, depending on the circumstances.

Filing a lawsuit against a public entity like the City of New York is generally more complicated than a private party injury claim. A claim must be filed with the Comptroller’s Office within 90 days of the incident. After that, the City will investigate the claim and may offer a settlement. A claimant can accept a settlement offer or reject it and bring a claim in court.

Talk to a New York City Garbage Truck Accident Lawyer

Private and public sanitation workers put in long hours to haul away the thousands of pounds of trash we generate every day. Trash pickup is a service we couldn’t live without and sometimes take for granted. But garbage trucks can pose safety risks to the same residents who rely on them for sanitation.

The Sanders Law Firm has provided legal representation to injured New Yorkers for more than 50 years. We are one of the largest, most aggressive, and most successful injury firms in the state, with a long track record of winning verdicts and settlements for our clients, including multi-million-dollar awards against the City of New York.

If you were injured in an accident with a private garbage truck or a DSNY garbage truck, we can help. Call 855-SANDERS or contact us for a free case review.