Dump Truck and Garbage Truck Hazards: What to Expect on the Road

Dump trucks and garbage trucks form a familiar sight in many neighborhoods. Those vitally needed trucks help carry garbage away from residential areas, construction sites, or commercial businesses and deposit it in the dump. Dump trucks may also serve a wide range of other purposes, from delivering mulch to carting tree limbs.

Those trucks serve a vital purpose but also present hazards. In many cases, dump and garbage trucks may increase accident risk, particularly as they move around residential neighborhoods.

1. Garbage trucks stop frequently.

Garbage trucks moving through neighborhoods may stop often, on a seemingly unpredictable schedule. Some California neighborhoods all have city trash pickups, which means that the garbage truck must stop at every house. Others may have multiple trash pickup services, which can make it impossible to predict when a garbage truck will stop and when it will pass by a particular house. For many drivers, that can make it difficult to determine what the garbage truck driver will do next and what they need to do to keep themselves and their passengers safe.

Frequent stops increase the risk of rear-end collisions, even in neighborhoods with relatively low speed limits. Many drivers also find themselves more distracted in local neighborhoods, where they may feel more comfortable checking their phones or engaging in other potentially dangerous behavior. A distracted driver behind a garbage truck could spell disaster.

2. Garbage truck drivers spend their shifts on the road, which could increase the risk of distraction.

The average garbage truck driver spends a lot of time on the road during his shift. Most garbage collectors work an average eight-hour shift. However, delays on their routes could cause drivers to need to exceed those hours.

The more hours a garbage truck driver spends on the road, the easier it can grow to suffer from distraction. Drivers may check their phones while other workers take care of loading the trash into the vehicle, but not have their attention fully back on the road when they pull back out. They may also grow distracted by eating or drinking while driving or even carrying on a conversation with another worker.

Driver distraction can prove particularly hazardous in residential neighborhoods, where garbage trucks spend a great deal of their time. Distracted drivers may not have the skills they need to safely navigate those narrow streets. They may miss the presence of others who share the road with them, from smaller vehicles to pedestrians and cyclists. Children playing near the road as a garbage truck passes by may face particular danger if the driver does not take adequate precautions.

Distracted garbage truck drivers may also have a higher risk of missing a vehicle that has attempted to pass the garbage truck instead of waiting for it to steadily move down the road. Unfortunately, distracted drivers may fail to check around them before they head into motion, which may increase the risk of an accident.

3. Garbage trucks often have precarious loads.

Most big trucks have carefully balanced loads that help the truck maneuver more easily and prevent the loads from falling off. Unfortunately, many garbage truck drivers do not have that luxury. Garbage truck drivers cannot predict the trash people on their route will throw out each shift. They usually have a specific route they must follow. If the residents of early properties have relatively light trash, and the residents of later properties have heavier trash, the load can quickly grow unbalanced.

An unbalanced load represents two potential problems.

Unbalanced loads can increase the risk of some types of accidents.

An unbalanced load can make it very difficult for garbage truck drivers to control their vehicles safely. While garbage trucks generally do not have to worry about jackknife collisions, they may have a higher risk of rollover accidents if the load grows increasingly unbalanced. Furthermore, garbage truck drivers may have a harder time maneuvering around sharp curves with an unbalanced, shifting load to consider.

Debris can fall from a garbage truck into the road.

Some garbage trucks have open bed designs that can allow garbage to fall from the back of the truck into the road. Open truck beds may make it easier for sanitation workers to get the contents of the cans into the truck, but they may lead to poor balance in the back, which can increase the risk that items will fall.

Debris falling on the road can pose accident hazards. Sometimes, that debris may fall directly onto a vehicle behind the garbage truck, interfering with the driver’s vision or causing damage to the vehicle. Other times, the debris may fall into the road, creating an obstacle that the driver must maneuver around. Debris in the road can increase the risk of flat tires and other serious damage to the vehicle.

4. Garbage and dump trucks, like other big trucks, may have large blind spots.

Most big trucks have massive blind spots: areas where the driver cannot see what happens around him. Like other big trucks, garbage trucks may have large blind spots at the front, rear, and sides of the vehicle. Most drivers of other vehicles, however, do not realize the size of those blind spots. Often, drivers will hover in a garbage truck’s blind spot. Sometimes, that serves as an attempt to pass the vehicle. Other times, drivers may not think about the fact that the driver cannot see them.

In other cases, drivers may attempt to pass a garbage truck unsafely. Following behind a garbage truck moving through a residential neighborhood may prove very frustrating. Many people try to speed around them to avoid potential delays. Unfortunately, garbage truck drivers may not recognize the presence of that vehicle, especially a smaller passenger vehicle, which can raise the risk of an accident.

5. Garbage truck drivers often take to the road before dawn.

Often, garbage truck drivers start their shifts as early as 5 or 6 am. That has them out on the road during hours when many people still do not feel awake and alert. Furthermore, in the dark, many drivers have more trouble navigating safely. It can prove more difficult to judge distance at night.

Garbage truck workers themselves may also face more challenges in the early morning since drivers have poorer visibility and may have a harder time avoiding them on the road.

6. Conditions for garbage truck drivers can prove less than ideal.

Garbage truck drivers often have to turn down rough road surfaces, from narrow neighborhood streets to gravel roads. Often, those conditions can prove significantly more difficult for the average driver to manage. Gravel roads, for example, can make it harder for a garbage truck to come to a complete stop, while tight roads and twisting turns can make it hard for garbage truck drivers to maneuver safely.

Many garbage truck drivers become surprised by the conditions they may face on residential roads, especially unfamiliar routes, which can further raise the risk of an accident.

7. Big trucks, including garbage trucks and dump trucks, take longer to slow and stop.

The average big truck needs a lot more time to stop than a smaller passenger vehicle. Since they weigh more and take up more room on the road, they need more space in which to operate. Most of the time, however, other drivers take that needed space for granted.

Sometimes, drivers may pull over in front of garbage trucks and dump trucks, especially if they try to pull around one quickly to speed up their ability to move through traffic.

Other times, they may come to an abrupt stop, fail to signal, or otherwise fail to adequately warn the truck driver about a pending maneuver that could cause him to need to react. Unfortunately, some garbage truck drivers may also fail to consider that extra size and weight, so they may travel too close to the vehicle in front of them.

The weight of a garbage truck or dump truck can also vary dramatically, depending on the load the truck carries. Unloaded, the truck may not weigh nearly as much as it does with a heavy load, especially of a dense material like dirt or mulch. Even garbage trucks may pick up different loads based on customer needs on the route, which can make it much more difficult for the driver to judge the weight of the truck and, therefore, how much room the truck may need to stop.

In poor weather conditions, garbage trucks and dump trucks may also have changed needs. Slick roads in rainy conditions, for example, may require the average garbage truck driver to take much more room to maneuver.

Not only do other drivers sometimes fail to account for those needs, the garbage truck driver may not realize how much space they need to turn safely or stop, which can raise the risk of a rear-end collision or a T-bone accident in an intersection.

8. Many garbage truck drivers may not have the experience they need to safely handle those vehicles.

Garbage truck drivers need to have a commercial driver’s license that allows them to operate large vehicles. However, that does not mean that garbage truck drivers have the experience they need to safely navigate all the conditions they may face on the road. Garbage companies often see a high degree of turnover.

Garbage workers see difficult and even hazardous working conditions since they often deal with considerable amounts of waste. Frequently, people do not want to remain in those jobs, and they may quickly move on to another opportunity.

As a result, garbage companies may have a hard time keeping their trucks fully staffed. They may send out drivers who lack the experience they need to navigate safely, particularly on dangerous or tight streets.

With that lack of experience, even if they received adequate training before taking a truck out alone for the first time, garbage truck drivers may struggle to get themselves out of tight situations or avoid an accident if a hazard does approach, from a dog or child in the road to a curb in an unexpected location. Those drivers may, therefore, have greater odds of causing an accident than a driver with more experience.

9. Garbage trucks in poor maintenance may increase accident risk.

Garbage trucks often hit the road every weekday. In some cases, garbage truck workers may even need to work on weekends or holidays. If trucks go out of service due to serious maintenance needs, someone must compensate, or customers’ trash may not get picked up on time. To keep things moving smoothly, some garbage companies choose to send their trucks out in less than perfect repair, even if a driver has noted a particular problem and mentioned that it needed maintenance.

Unfortunately, poor maintenance can raise the risk of many types of accidents. Poorly maintained vehicles have a higher risk of tire blowouts, brake failures, and steering difficulties, all of which can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the driver to safely control the vehicle. As a result, garbage truck drivers who have to operate their vehicles while they need maintenance may have a higher risk of causing an accident.

Did you have an accident with a garbage truck or dump truck? You may deserve compensation for the injuries you sustained and any financial damages you suffered in the accident. A lawyer can help break down your rights and provide you with more information. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation or to receive guidance on how to file a car accident claim.

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