Accidents Involving Dump and Garbage TrucksBy Stewart J. Guss on February 20th, 2020
Here are two FRIGHTENING traffic accidents:
- Several people were displaced and three people were injured when a dump truck plowed through an intersection, struck a silver sedan, and then drove through the side of an apartment building. The dump truck driver suffered minor injuries but declined medical attention at the scene. A woman driving the car that was hit by the truck was transported to the hospital with injuries, as was a woman who lived on the first floor of the 28-unit apartment complex. The driver was reported in fair condition, while the apartment dweller suffered serious injuries.
- A 30-year-old man was killed when a garbage truck crashed into him while he was riding his bicycle. The collision occurred at about 9 a.m., and both the garbage truck and the bicyclist were traveling in the same direction at the time of the crash.
These are two seemingly unrelated accidents occurring in two seemingly unrelated cities. However, some common threads connect them. Dump trucks and garbage trucks serve similar functions in keeping our communities running. And both types of trucks pose significant risks to others on the roadway. If you have already been involved in a serious collision with a truck then learn what a skilled truck accident attorney has to offer below.
Dangers Involving Trash Trucks
Here’s a fact we can all agree on: WE NEED GARBAGE TRUCKS and the workers who operate them. They do a dirty, smelly, dangerous job. Without them, life would be awful. Don’t believe me? Just read about what the citizens of Athens, Greece went through when their sanitation workers went on strike. Or closer to home, what happened when Houston’s city-owned sanitation fleet was forced to pull about three dozen collection trucks off the roadway due to maintenance issues that made them unsafe to operate. TRASH. PILES. UP.
But just because we NEED garbage trucks doesn’t mean we always have to LIKE or TRUST them to operate them safely. Sometimes, trash trucks and their drivers create REAL DANGERS for the very citizens whose neighborhoods they work to keep clean. For example:
- Trash trucks mostly operate on narrow, residential streets, creating heightened risks for walkers, joggers, cyclists, and kids.
- Garbage truck drivers get distracted with paperwork, communication with dispatchers, and ever-changing traffic conditions.
- Morning collection times that often coincide with times when people are frequently traveling to work or school.
- Driver shortages that may result in trucks being overloaded or hurried drivers exhibiting unsafe behavior such as driving down the wrong side of the road or making dangerous turns to reach collection points.
- Trash falls from the back of garbage trucks, causing road hazards.
- Garbage trucks have large blind spots where smaller vehicles and bicyclists can go unnoticed by drivers until it is TOO LATE.
Dangers Involving Dump Trucks
WE ALSO NEED DUMP TRUCKS, even if their role in daily life isn’t as obvious. Dump trucks carry and deliver the raw materials we need to build and maintain infrastructure. Try laying a roadbed without a dump truck and see how far you get…
AGAIN, though, just because we NEED dump trucks doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous or that drivers and their employers shouldn’t exercise the proper care needed to safely operate them. Consider the following hazards dump trucks create EVERY DAY:
- Heavy loads of loose material such as dirt or rocks shift during transport, causing the vehicle to suffer from a weight imbalance that makes it hard to maneuver and prone to rolling over. Dump trucks are already at an increased risk of rollovers due to their high center of gravity.
- Dirt and rocks can “stick” to the sides of the truck bed, causing the weight imbalance to exist even after the driver has dumped the load, causing the rollover to exist even if the driver is not traveling too fast on a curved road or even if the vehicle is not traveling at all but rather is parked on uneven ground.
- Dump trucks work in and around construction zones. Work zones are already places that are rife with activity that can lead to driver distraction and driver confusion. Add to it the need for the dump truck driver to make sudden stops, to turn around or back out in unexpected places, or to deliver loads near roadways and traffic, and the risk of an accident increases significantly.
- Dump trucks “leak” their cargo causing road surface hazards.
How the Drivers of Large Trucks Cause Accidents
Aside from the truck type-specific issues noted above, garbage and dump trucks are just large vehicles. Their size and weight, alone, create hazards for their drivers and anyone sharing the road with them. Truck accidents cause MASSIVE damage and SEVERE INJURIES. Some of those ways those accidents happen include:
- Driving too fast for the conditions of the road. Large trucks are many, many times heavier than passenger cars. Because of this, they require more distance to come to a safe stop after the driver perceives a hazard and responds by braking. The faster this massive vehicle is moving, the more distance will be required. A speeding truck driver is at great risk of not stopping in time to avoid a collision.
- Lack of maintenance. Trucks travel many miles in a relatively short period of time, through all kinds of weather conditions. Lack of routine maintenance, such as that experienced by Houston’s sanitation fleet, can result in vehicles that are unsafe to operate on public roadways. Some of the vehicle parts that require regular inspection and maintenance on large trucks are the tires, the brake system, and the steering system.
- Blind spots. All vehicles have blind spots in which the driver cannot see vehicles in adjacent travel lanes through the use of side and rearview mirrors. Large trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides. Failure to ensure that no one is lingering in the blind spot before turning or changing lanes may result in catastrophic injuries for other travelers.
- Wide turns. Large trucks, including garbage trucks or dump trucks, require additional space to complete turns onto narrow roads such as those commonly found in residential areas. Drivers who are improperly trained to complete these turns risk injuring others by accidentally swinging too wide into travel lanes occupied by other vehicles.
- Overloading the vehicle. Large trucks are designed to carry a significant amount of weight. However, truck driver shortages and the hurried nature of society in general often pressure companies and their drivers to haul more than the truck is rated to carry. This makes the truck harder to maneuver, causes damage to tires and suspension, and increases the risk of accidents.
- Getting lost. Even though a driver travels throughout a city every day as part of the job, they may still get lost. This is particularly true of new drivers or drivers who have been assigned to a new route. Getting lost or missing a turn often increases a driver’s potential for error, leading to improper turns, wrong-way driving, and other deadly mistakes.
- Distractions: In addition to job-related distractions mentioned above, truck drivers also face the same distractions as other motorists do, including texting and other cell phone use, eating or drinking, adjusting vehicle controls, or even daydreaming.
- Defective parts. It takes a lot to make a large truck run and the parts that the truck is comprised of come from manufacturers all around the world. Manufacturers have the duty to make their parts safe when used as intended or directed. If the manufacturer fails to do so, it could result in tragedy.
- Fatigue. While fatigue is often associated with long-haul truck drivers, those who operate garbage or dump trucks for a living also have a risk of fatigued driving due to early morning work hours, long work hours, and stressful situations that lead to mental exhaustion.
Avoiding an Accident with a Large Truck
It takes some serious DEFENSIVE DRIVING to stay safe when sharing the road with a large vehicle like a garbage truck or a dump truck. You need to pay attention to your own driving skills as well as anticipate the actions of truck drivers. While it is impossible to anticipate EVERY error that truck drivers can make, being aware of the mistakes that drivers of large trucks such as garbage trucks are dump trucks are likely to make and exercising caution around these vehicles could save your life.
Some tips for avoiding an accident with a large truck include:
- Stay out of the blind spot. If you must travel there to pass the truck, avoid lingering long enough to cause the driver to forget that you’re there. If you cannot see the driver’s reflection in their side mirror, they likely can’t see you either.
- Use caution at intersections, realizing that large trucks make wide turns. Never attempt to squeeze past a large truck on the right-hand side, as you risk being caught between the truck and the curb as the driver completes the turn.
- Don’t follow too closely behind a truck. Not only are you in the driver’s rear blind spot, but because trucks have higher ground clearance than other vehicles, you are ALSO placing yourself in a dangerous situation in which your car could slip underneath the truck (so-called “underride accidents” are some of the most DEVASTATING accidents for occupants).
- As a pedestrian or a bicyclist, use extra caution if you hear a truck’s back up warning alarm. On the other hand, bear in mind that these backup warning systems sometimes malfunction. Never walk in the path of a truck that is moving in reverse, whether or not you hear the alarm.
- Avoid distractions. Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents involving every type of vehicle. If you’re paying attention to a text, checking on your children in the back seat, or changing the radio station, you’re not completely focused on the roadway ahead and the task of driving.
- Because it is hard to stop a moving truck, extra care should be taken when entering a travel lane in front of one. Don’t ever cut a big truck off. Also, make sure to use your turn signal when turning or changing lanes so that you clearly communicate your intentions to the truck driver or other drivers on the roadway.
Liability in Accidents Involving Dump or Garbage Trucks
If you were involved in an accident with a dump or garbage truck that was caused by truck driver error, several parties may bear legal liability to you for your injuries.
Besides the driver, some of the potentially liable parties include:
- The company that owns the truck and employs the driver. Truck drivers are representatives of the company they work for. The companies who employ these drivers are responsible to conduct a full background check on the driver, including driving history, before hiring them. They’re also responsible for ensuring that the driver is trained to handle the situations he or she will encounter during their employment. Note that in some circumstances, the driver is employed by a taxpayer-funded governmental agency. While cities can and do face liability if their employees cause accidents that injure others, the process of filing a legal claim against a governmental agency is often different than that of a privately-owned company. An experienced accident attorney can advise you of the process that your case will require.
- The company or individual responsible for providing inspection and maintenance of the truck if it is discovered that maintenance issues were a cause of the accident.
- Other drivers. Sometimes, the action of one driver causes an accident between two other vehicles. If someone else’s carelessness or recklessness led the garbage or dump truck driver to hit your vehicle, the other person may be liable.
- Manufacturers of defective trucks and truck parts.
Injured in a truck accident? Don’t pay to treat injuries you didn’t cause! Contact an experienced truck accident law firm can speak with you IMMEDIATELY and at ZERO COST to you, no matter where you live.