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Posts from the Trucks Category

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Labor and Advocacy Groups Call for Action on Unsafe Garbage Haulers

The overwhelming majority of violations were related to vehicle maintenance. Image: Transform Don't Trash NYC Coalition

The overwhelming majority of violations were related to vehicle maintenance. Image: Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition

A new report from Transform Don’t Trash NYC, a coalition of labor and advocacy groups including Teamsters Local 813 and Transportation Alternatives, is calling on the city to get unsafe sanitation trucks off NYC streets.

The job of collecting garbage in the city is shared by the Department of Sanitation, which handles waste from residential and governmental buildings, and more than 250 private companies, which collect commercial garbage through contracts with individual businesses. Because private haulers have contracts all over the city, they travel much wider distances than city sanitation trucks.

Union members and advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall this morning to urge the mayor to take concrete steps to improve private hauler safety. Among their recommendations: waste collection zones that would assign private haulers to more efficient, geographically-condensed routes; stricter vehicle design standards; and a crash response protocol to hold companies accountable for poorly maintained trucks.

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell speaks out against unsafe sanitation trucks. Photo: David Meyer

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell speaks out against unsafe sanitation trucks. Photo: David Meyer

The report, “Reckless Endangerment,” calls attention to a startling lack of vehicle upkeep by NYC’s 20 largest private sanitation companies. According to federal inspection data, 96 percent of safety violations in the last two years were related to vehicle maintenance. Forty-eight percent of all trucks operated by the city’s top 20 private hauling companies were taken out of service due to maintenance concerns — more than double the national average.

One company, Crown Container, took as many as 86 percent of its vehicles out of service due to violations. Last summer the driver of a Crown Container truck killed 46-year-old Alberta Bagu as she crossed the street in Bushwick. The driver fled the scene and no charges were filed.

The city does not track how many traffic fatalities and severe injuries are caused by drivers of private fleet vehicles, but other data point to their outsized role in fatal crashes. A 2014 U.S. DOT study found that while trucks make up for 3.6 percent of vehicles in NYC, they account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist deaths.

The most common violations are also the most dangerous, according to the report. Nineteen percent of the 20 companies’ violations were related to faulty brakes, which a 2007 report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said was a factor in 29 percent of crashes involving commercial trucks. Faulty tires, spilled cargo, and broken lights were also among the more common violations. Broken lights are a particular concern since the trucks are commonly on the streets after dark.

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Truck Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing Heather Lough at NYBG

A truck driver struck and killed a woman outside the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last week. He has been charged with reckless driving and failure to yield.

Heather Lough. Photo via YouCaring

Heather Lough. Photo via YouCaring

The victim, 29-year-old Heather Lough, was heading to her job at the botanical garden on the morning of Wednesday, April 27, when Robert Owens, 45, hit her with a commercial box truck, according to NYPD and an online memorial page established to raise funds for Lough’s burial expenses.

The crash happened at around 9:30 a.m. outside NYBG’s Mosholu Gate. Police said Owens drove out of the botanical garden and made a left turn onto Southern Boulevard, striking Lough with the front bumper of the truck on the passenger side. An anonymous tipster told Streetsblog witnesses saw Owens “on his phone” at the time of the collision.

NYPD said Lough was leaving the Metro-North Botanical Garden Station, across the street from the NYBG, when she was struck. It’s not clear if Lough was biking or walking (the tipster said Lough was seen walking her bike), but in either case, she would have had the right of way.

Lough was taken to Jacobi Hospital with head and body trauma. She died on Monday.

Police charged Owens, who lives in Manhattan, with reckless driving. He was also charged under the city’s Right of Way Law. Both offenses are unclassified misdemeanors. The NYPD public information office said the department’s Collision Investigation Squad is still investigating the crash.

A second source who works at NYBG and asked to remain anonymous said the intersection is “very dangerous” and drivers “regularly speed through the light.”

“She was wearing her helmet, followed the signs, and did everything right,” Lough’s memorial page reads. “However, the driver was not paying attention, and ran over her.”

It’s unknown who owns the truck Owens was driving. A botanical garden representative told Streetsblog Owens does not work there.

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Off-Route Semi Truck Driver Kills Cyclist in Park Slope [Updated]

Update: Times reporter Andy Newman tweeted a DCPI notice concerning this crash. NYPD identified the victim as 33-year-old James Gregg. Police say the truck driver and Gregg were traveling the same direction on Sixth Avenue when Gregg “collided into the rear tire of the tractor trailer.”

Update: Andy Newman tweeted a quote from police indicating the truck driver passed the cyclist, causing the collision. Also, I contacted National Retail Transportation, which operates the truck. When I explained why I was calling, the person who answered the phone said “I don’t know anything about that,” and transferred me to a customer service employee’s voicemail.

A truck driver killed a cyclist in Park Slope this morning.

The victim, a 33-year-old man, was riding on Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place when he was hit at around 8 a.m., according to the Daily News. Police had not released the victim’s name as of early this afternoon.

The truck was an 18-wheeler. Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place is a narrow neighborhood street. It’s not a truck route, but big rig drivers are a problem there.

Trucks longer than 55 feet are allowed on New York City streets with a permit, but only if the load is “non-divisible,” such as construction beams. A trailer carrying boxed or other loose cargo, like the one involved in this crash, would not be permitted on surface streets if the total truck length exceeds 55 feet.

Park Slope resident Rob Underwood says locals have tried for years to get the 78th Precinct to enforce truck route violations. As of March, the precinct had issued no truck route tickets in 2016, according to NYPD data. Precinct officers issued just five truck route citations last year.

Photo: Eric McClure

Photo: Eric McClure

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Concerned About Illegal Parking? Stuff It, Says P.C. Richard & Son

Here’s one company doing business in NYC that doesn’t want to hear about fleet safety.

When Jeremy M. Posner tweeted P.C. Richard and Son about a double-parked delivery truck in front of a store on E. 86th Street, despite an available loading zone a few yards away, the company’s customer service department replied that it “isn’t ideal” to cart appliances “down the block.”

It wasn’t the first time Posner posted photos of a P.C. Richard truck blocking the street. In addition to making the street less safe for biking and walking, Posner says the trucks impede the M86.

“Keep in mind that they are double parked next to a loading zone, rather than in the loading zone,” he tweeted. “Every day.”

It could be that P.C. Richard benefits from the city’s Stipulated Fine program, which lets companies off the hook for parking violations. We asked, but either way, if the city is going to continue offering this program, the least it can do is require participating companies to complete Vision Zero surveys.

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TA Will Track Safety Policies of NYC’s Private Fleet Operators

Transportation Alternatives is calling on private fleet operators who do business in New York City to talk about what they’re doing to make employees safer drivers.

Operators of private trash trucks are among the most dangerous drivers in NYC. Photo: Jason Lawrence/Flickr

Operators of private trash trucks are among the most dangerous drivers in NYC. Photo: Jason Lawrence/Flickr

“Fleet management is one of the most effective ways to reduce injuries and fatalities on New York City’s streets,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a press release. “Fleet managers set the pace for safe driving, and we want to recognize the operators that are raising the bar for safety on New York City’s streets.”

In Sweden, a principal Vision Zero strategy is to move responsibility upward by directing reforms and incentives at the level of fleet operators. NYC does not keep track of how many people are injured and killed in crashes caused by the drivers of private fleet vehicles, but other data sets point to the extent of the problem.

A 2014 U.S. DOT study of city data found that trucks make up 3.6 percent of vehicles in the city, but account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist deaths. “Killed by Automobile,” Charles Komanoff’s 1999 analysis of city traffic fatalities, reported that private trash haulers kill more people per mile driven than other truck drivers.

In January, TA sent out surveys to more than 100 commercial truck and taxi fleet operators, with questions concerning driver training, crash avoidance technology, and collision response protocols. Three companies — Fresh Direct, Con Edison, and Academy Bus — were ahead of the pack, TA reports, and were invited to participate in a workshop at last month’s Vision Zero Cities 2016 conference.

The workshop was hosted by Keith Kerman of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. DCAS is taking steps to reduce injuries and deaths from collisions involving city fleet vehicles, including measuring and publishing data on such crashes.

DCAS has also installed “black box” tech on the department’s own vehicles, according to TA, and has pledged to install side guards on 6,000 city-owned trucks by 2024. “Through the early adoption of innovative technology and vehicle design modifications,” says the TA press release, “DCAS has triggered a race to the top for safety among private fleet operators here in New York City.”

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Retired Fire Chief: Make American Firetrucks Fit City Streets, Not Vice Versa

It’s a sad irony that fire departments, while essential to public safety, are often a major obstacle to safer streets in American cities.

Side by side photos of a smaller European fire truck compared with an oversized American one. Photos: FireHouse.com

A smaller European fire truck (top) and an oversized American one (bottom). Photos: FireHouse.com

When cities try to redesign streets to reduce traffic injuries and get drivers to travel at safer speeds, the local fire department often steps in to prevent changes that it believes will hinder the movement of its enormous trucks. Fire departments prefer wide traffic lanes and street corners designed for turning trucks — exactly the sort of conditions that lead to higher rates of traffic injuries and deaths.

There are plenty of experts who argue that firetrucks should be designed to fit streets, not the other way around, but these critical voices usually come from outside the fire safety profession.

Well, that might be changing. In a post at FireChief.com, retired battalion chief Robert Avsec says there’s definitely a case to be made that American firetrucks are too large: They aren’t as maneuverable in heavy traffic, they’re expensive, and they’re inefficient for trips that aren’t fire emergencies.

The public would be better served, Avsec argues, by smaller trucks, like those used in European and Asian cities:

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No ROW Charge for Garbage Hauler Who Killed Woman in UES Crosswalk

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian was struck and killed by the driver of a private garbage truck on the Upper East Side yesterday. Police determined the driver failed to yield but did not charge him with violating the Right of Way Law.

The crash happened at around 4:30 Tuesday morning. According to reports, Jodi McGrath was crossing First Avenue west to east, in a crosswalk and with the signal, when the driver hit her while turning left onto the avenue from E. 92nd Street, which is one-way eastbound.

McGrath, 55, was conscious and responsive at the scene, Gothamist reported, with injuries to her head, leg, and arm. She later died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The driver was a 58-year-old man whose identity was shielded by NYPD. Police summonsed the driver for failure to yield, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, but crash investigators did not file charges under the Right of Way Law. The law, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way, is supposed to deter reckless driving while providing a measure of accountability for crashes that injure and kill thousands of New Yorkers a year. It’s been on the books for 19 months, but NYPD and city district attorneys rarely apply it.

Speaking at last week’s Vision Zero Cities conference, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t know when the Right of Way Law took effect. “Everything new takes a while to get ramped up,” Bratton said.

Private sanitation trucks have the highest pedestrian kill rate of any type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Data tracked by Streetsblog show private trash haulers killed a cyclist and two pedestrians in 2015.

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Vance Drops Right of Way Charge Against Truck Driver Who Killed Senior

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped a Right of Way Law charge against a truck driver who killed a senior on the Upper East Side.

On the afternoon of October 10, 2014, Victor Hernandez hit 86-year-old Peter Romano with a Coca-Cola truck while making a right turn at the corner of Third Avenue and E. 96th Street, according to reports.

“The driver wanted to keep going, people had to tell him to stop,” witness Edwin Rios, told the Post. “People were yelling please stop, please stop.”

Police said Romano was in the crosswalk and was crossing with the signal. On October 11, the NYPD Highway Division announced that the driver was arrested for failing to yield.

Vance’s office conducted a 15-month investigation of the crash. Last week, prosecutors dropped their case against Hernandez without taking it to trial.

According to Vance’s office, prosecutors said in court that Hernandez was not using his phone at the time of the crash and was not impaired. Prosecutors told the court that Hernandez stopped at the light and that several people crossed in front of his truck before he proceeded to turn.

In explaining their decision to drop the case, prosecutors said they believed Hernandez’s visibility was hindered due to the truck’s design and because the victim was 5’5” tall. Prosecutors noted that Hernandez did not leave the scene, and said they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not exercising due care when he ran over Romano.

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Cement Truck Driver Kills Nancy Ventura, 61, in College Point

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed a pedestrian in College Point last week. Accounts differ on how the crash occurred, and police have filed no charges.

On Friday, January 22, at around 9:21 in the morning, 61-year-old Nancy Ventura was crossing College Point Boulevard at 15th Avenue, east to west, when she was struck by the driver, who was southbound on the boulevard, according to NYPD.

Ventura lived a block away from the crash site. She died at New York-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital, police said.

The Daily News reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the victim “was hit by the cement truck as it made a turn onto 15th Ave.,” but the NYPD public information office could not confirm if the driver was turning or not. Photos from the scene show the truck stopped on College Point Boulevard, with the cab facing away from 15th Avenue — so it’s possible the driver was turning off of 15th, but not onto it.

NYPD often releases conflicting details on serious traffic crashes, and information initially provided by police sources often turns out to be wrong. It’s usually not possible to obtain a final NYPD crash report without a freedom of information request, which — if approved — can take months for the department to process.

No summonses or charges were filed by NYPD or Queens District Attorney Richard Brown as of Thursday afternoon, NYPD told Streetsblog. “No charges were expected to be filed,” the Daily News reported.

This fatal crash occurred in the 109th Precinct, where the response to pedestrian deaths is lecturing people on how to walk. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on second Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 37-05 Union Street in Flushing. Call 718-321-2268 for information.

The City Council district where Nancy Ventura was killed is represented by Paul Vallone. To encourage Vallone to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him via phone, email, or Twitter.

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Felony Hit-and-Run Charge for Driver Who Allegedly Killed Can Reng Ma

A suspect was arrested and charged in the hit-and-run killing of cyclist Can Reng Ma in Sheepshead Bay, and NYPD is making exculpatory statements on the alleged driver’s behalf.

Can Reng Ma

Can Reng Ma

Junior Hicks was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony, according to court records. WABC reported that Hicks, 31, is from Queens.

On Tuesday Ma, 54, was riding his bike on Avenue U, on the way home from his job at a nearby lumber supply company, when he was fatally struck by the driver of a rented box truck. Police arrested Hicks yesterday afternoon.

No charges were filed for the act of taking Can Reng Ma’s life.

WABC spoke with relatives and friends of the victim, who reportedly came to the U.S. from China seven years ago:

Around the warehouse, Can Reng was known for his work ethic, generosity, a humble soul who adored his wife, daughter, and teenage son.

“We do love him, we feel so sorry about him,” [co-worker Kimmie] Kwok said.

Police told the press the person who killed Ma may not have seen him — a ready-made defense, since under state law prosecutions for hit-and-run crashes hinge on whether it can be proven that the driver knew or had reason to know a collision occurred. The vast majority of New York City motorists involved in hit-and-run crashes resulting in injury and death are never charged with a crime.

After Hicks was taken into custody, an NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist a “preliminary investigation indicates that Hicks did not know he had struck someone.”

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, issued a statement today praising police for making an arrest, and called on NYPD to stop “making unauthorized statements to news outlets even though evidence [is] still being collected.”

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