Deaths, injuries from recycling and garbage truck accidents on the rise

There has been an “unprecedented uptick in fatalities” associated with recycling and garbage truck accidents crashes in 2019, according to the Solid Waste Association of North America.

That’s alarming, even as a preliminary number, because garbage trucks are already among the most dangerous heavy trucks.

  • They are often out very early in the morning, when the streets are still dark.
  • Trucks stop and start frequently.
  • Drivers stop in the middle of the road to save time, instead of pulling over.

FMCSA’s data for 2017 shows 107 garbage/refuse trucks fatalities, and another 1400+ injuries in garbage truck crashes. About 25% of the people killed or seriously hurt are sanitation workers.

OSHA shows 25 fatalities or serious injuries for employees in Garbage Truck Accidents in 2017.

Last year, an investigative journalist looked into a private waste collection company in New York. They had installed cameras in their trucks, and filmed their own drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Yet, they continued to work their crews 10-14 hours a day, 6 days a week.



Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection



City and municipal waste management trucks seem to have a better safety record than private companies.

But due to the sheer size and shape of the vehicle, a collision with a trash/recycling truck is brutal. I have worked on a lot of truck crash cases, but there are a few I remember as particularly tragic.

One involved a recycling truck.

Two kids killed in a recycling truck crash

Two girls – a young teen and an infant – were killed when their mom’s vehicle hit a recycling truck that had parked on a rural road in Washington State.



The trucking company claimed that statutory provisions allowed for the truck to be stopped in the roadway for recycling pick-up.

We argued that the truck driver had the clear opportunity to pull onto the side of the road, but chose not to in order to avoid the extra effort that would have been required.

We also asserted a claim for the failure to have proper under-guard protection. While we were able to settle that case for $2,700,000.00, it was devastating for everyone involved.

We know these heavy trucks are necessary.

It is my hope that cities and private companies will do as much as they can to make them safe for workers – and for the rest of us.

Attorney Kevin Coluccio represents people injured and the families of those killed in crashes with commercial motor vehicles and garbage truck crashes – which, he is quick to point out, are not all “truck accidents.” 

Contact Kevin Coluccio with questions.

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3 Responses

  1. If the truck was set up with strobes and hazard lights then in most states its considered a moving work zone and in this case the truck is more than far enough over for other vehicles to safely pass as they would by law slowing to 15mph after being sure its safe to go around. There never should have been any amount paid to the people in the car or their family IF the above mentioned was correct done or working. I’d almost bet the driver of the car was speeding and/or on a cell phone if not texting. I see it 5 days a week because I drive a recycle truck myself for the city. Myself and others WERE blocking the whole road on 2 lane roads to keep this very thing from happening and to also protect ourselves and other drivers from hitting head on until a lady “or friend of the mayor ” was late for a nail or hair appointment and we now can’t block any traffic or say anything to anyone driving EVEN IF we are struck by said driver. I understand people need to get around but we have a job to do also and at least most of us want everyone to be safe and get there in one piece. Think the next time you get behind someone like a recycle driver and before you get mad imagine that he’s your father, son brother etc. He is to someone else. Thank you

  2. Where I live they drive very aggresively, not checking the surroundings before moving. A tragedy is waiting to happen. We live in a townhouse. They park it 4 feet from my driveway. If one of my little ones runs to it to see this, magical truck as they think, they stand no chance. All those drivers included the one commented above needs slow down, notnin terms of speed but in terms of urgency. Everyone should respect human life more than they respect their work when urgency rewards them at the expense of safety. I just called our local waste management company (Patriot Waste Management in Loudoun County in Virginia) to ask them to talk to their drivers about their lack of sense of safety, especially in the context of spacial awareness. The person I spoke to went on defense instead of understanding. She said the driver was only going 8mph by their gps tracking. Well, the danger is not the speed, at least in my case. They can kill someone at 1mph if they are not watching. I hope I will not have to dig in to find this paragraph one day to be used in a “I tried to warn you but you did not listen” situation.

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