If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a tractor-trailer accident on the highway, you recognize the potential for danger. Dump trucks and garbage trucks don’t make you feel that same sense of danger, but their size and weight allow them to cause that same level of harm.
When a dump or garbage truck crashes into a smaller vehicle, it often causes serious damage and devastating injuries. When a truck this massive injures you, medical bills, income losses, and lifestyle changes often change the rest of your life.
When you see dump trucks and garbage trucks in your neighborhood, they feel familiar and incapable of causing much harm. Like other large trucks, they’re bulky and weighty. When a truck is this big, it’s capable of causing tremendous damage, even at low speeds.
What Is a Large Truck?
Dump trucks and garbage trucks seem unrelated to the big rigs you see on the highway, but they’re all in the same large truck category. Weight is the primary feature that defines and categorizes these large vehicles. They have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 10,000 pounds, but they often weigh far more.
The most recent Large Trucks Traffic Safety Facts data from the National Highway Transportation Association provides these nationwide large truck statistics.
- When a large truck is involved in a fatal accident, 71 percent of the fatalities are victims in the other vehicle.
- Of the 159,000 people injured in large truck accidents during the year, 69 percent were occupants of the other vehicle.
- In fatal large truck accidents, 75 percent of the trucks weighed over 26,000 pounds. This places them in the “heavy” large truck category.
- When fully loaded, some heavy, large trucks reach a legal GVWR of up to 80,000 pounds.
Garbage Trucks and Dump Trucks Are “Heavy” Large Trucks
Garbage Trucks. Garbage truck operators usually drive carefully when they’re in your neighborhood. You’ve likely seen a minor accident or two. You don’t usually learn about the more devastating crashes unless you see one on the news or until a garbage truck crashes into you.
Garbage trucks meet the guidelines for the heavy, large truck category. The garbage truck that drives through your neighborhood is a Class 7 vehicle, with a weight range of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds. When a garbage truck collides with a smaller vehicle, a bicycle, or a pedestrian, the weight gives it the power to cause devastating damage on impact.
Dump Trucks. You may think of dump trucks as slightly riskier than garbage trucks. They are Class 8 vehicles, weighing 33,001 pounds or more. Despite their mass and weight, they easily make repeated trips between construction sites and suppliers or waste drop-off points.
To get the work done on time, dump truck drivers sometimes speed, drive distracted, and take control of the road. These repeated trips increase the potential for damaging accidents.
In their rush to meet commitments, dump truck operators sometimes travel with uncovered loads. This often leads to debris falling into surrounding traffic. When a dump truck loses even a portion of its load, it creates a road hazard that puts other drivers’ lives at risk.
How Dump Truck and Garbage Truck Accidents Occur
Like all commercial operators, dump truck and garbage truck drivers meet stringent training requirements. They must comply with federal and state training guidelines and pass CDL knowledge and skills tests. Despite meeting these qualifications, truckers still cause careless accidents. Federal trucking safety agencies periodically analyze the circumstances to try and understand why.
Large and heavy trucks vary in weight, build, and function, but the FMCSA found that their operators become involved in accidents for substantially similar reasons. They often crash when they encounter an otherwise avoidable situation.
It usually boils down to human factors related to training or experience.
- Drivers fail to take evasive or corrective actions.
- They fail to recognize danger.
- When confronted with danger, they don’t make appropriate decisions.
- For various reasons, drivers don’t perform as they should.
These failures often follow some of the same bad driver behaviors as non-commercial drivers.
When a truck accident occurs, alcohol consumption isn’t usually a major contributing factor. The NHTSA has found that only 2 percent of truckers involved in fatal accidents had illegal levels of alcohol in their blood. As dump trucks and garbage trucks can cause serious damage and injuries, no driver should drink before operating a vehicle.
Federal transportation statutes, Title 49, §382, Controlled Substance and Alcohol Use Testing, establish guidelines to help control trucker alcohol consumption.
They also provide solutions for detecting and dealing with trucker drug and alcohol issues.
- CDL drivers must pass periodic alcohol/substance tests: pre-employment, post-accident, random, reasonable suspicion, return-to-work, and follow-up after a suspension.
- Transport companies must conduct the required testing. They must also take steps to discipline and rehabilitate drivers who violate drug and alcohol regulations.
National transportation agencies have found that drug use is a growing problem. Based on post-fatal-accident testing, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined that 6.4 percent of truckers tested positive for at least one drug.
Transportation regulations require procedures that determine five specific drug metabolites in a trucker’s system. Unfortunately, no existing standard defines what drug quantity or type causes impairment.
Garbage and dump truck operators drive slowly through your neighborhood, but speed is often a factor when they crash. For heavy trucks, speed-related accidents don’t necessarily occur at high speeds. Heavy trucks often crash when they travel too fast for conditions and don’t have enough distance to come to a complete stop.
Large and heavy truck drivers manage their speed based on weather, pavement, visibility, traffic, and other conditions. When a trucker drives too fast for conditions, he has minimal control over the consequences.
If an emergency occurs or traffic suddenly stops, when a driver applies the brakes, he can’t force a heavy truck to respond accordingly. Truckers cause these types of speed-related crashes even while traveling at posted limits.
Just like private passenger vehicle drivers, commercial operators drive while they’re distracted. Federal regulations and Texas statutes prohibit commercial drivers from texting while driving. The National Transportation Safety Board concludes that current restrictions should be tougher. Based on recent distracted driving accident research, they recommend banning all digital devices while driving. Even hands-free devices create cognitive distractions.
For garbage truck drivers, distractions are even more complex. Operators make constant stops on neighborhood streets. While performing their jobs, they must pay attention to collection tasks, children at play, motorized mobility devices, delivery trucks, utility vehicles, vehicles on the roadway, vehicles entering and exiting their driveways.
They must remain aware of their surroundings in urban and suburban settings. Sometimes, a single moment of distraction leads to catastrophic consequences.
Drowsy and Fatigued Driving
Garbage and dump truck operators work long hours. As they don’t do cross-country trips, they have more opportunities to prevent drowsy driving and fatigue. Based on their minimum risk, the FMCSA recommended an hours-of-service restriction waiver for short-haul waste truck drivers. This change doesn’t acknowledge older, overweight drivers’ obstructive sleep apnea issues. Apnea often contributes to poor sleep quality, fatigue, and drowsy driving.
Loose cargo is a frequent problem for busy dump trucks. When a driver loses cargo on the road, it often does more than simply damage nearby vehicles. If an un-tarped dump truck releases gravel or sand, it breaks windshields and damages cars.
Larger debris causes traffic obstructions, and it creates hazards that contribute to serious accidents and injuries. Federal Cargo Securement rules and Texas Transportation of Loose Materials statutes establish guidelines to help prevent these and other cargo accidents.
Do You Need an Attorney When a Dump Truck or Garbage Truck Injures You?
If you have sustained injuries in a dump truck or garbage truck accident, you need a personal injury attorney working on your behalf. Attorneys protect your legal interests. They intervene with negligent trucking companies, insurance companies, and their lawyers. Attorneys work hard to resolve your claim and obtain the best results possible.
A truck accident attorney listens to your case and discusses your legal options. Your initial consultation is free, and you don’t have to make an immediate commitment to file a claim until you’re ready.