Dump and Garbage Truck Accidents

Posted on February 1, 2023 in Truck Accidents

Dump and garbage trucks play an important part in our communities, allowing us to have clean neighborhoods and homes. However, given their size and weight, these vehicles pose a huge risk to other road users and the operators themselves.

All types of dump and garbage truck accidents, as well as accidents involving other commercial trucks, can result in serious injuries and property damage. It’s important to understand the risks these vehicles pose, including those involving truck driver fatigue, distracted driving, and mechanical failures, to better prepare yourself to safely share the road with them and do your part to prevent these potentially fatal accidents. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, it’s important to seek the assistance of a qualified truck accident lawyer.

Types of Dump and Garbage Truck Accidents

Garbage Truck AccidentsLike other big trucks on the road, garbage trucks are prone to auto accidents. They’re larger than many other vehicles, so they can do a lot of damage and cause serious, even fatal, injuries. Furthermore, their special function creates other hazardous situations that endanger pedestrians and operators.

Here are some of the most common types of garbage and recycling truck accidents:

Backing Accidents

Dump trucks regularly have to back up, either to fit into tight spots, turn around, access refuse areas, or park. Generally, these maneuvers are a team job because garbage trucks are so large that the driver might need another operator to guide them from outside the vehicle.

When dump truck driver attempts to back up on their own, they may not see obstacles behind them, such as pedestrians, vehicles, or other property. Alternatively, operators may not give clear instructions to the driver, miscalculate distance, or fail to check for obstacles. All of these situations can lead to injurious accidents.

Commonly, backing accidents involve operators, pedestrians, or cyclists who get hit, pinned, or crushed by the garbage truck. These trucks can also back into parked or passing vehicles, injuring motorists and passengers. According to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), about 25 percent of all garbage truck accident injuries in the refuse collection industry are from backing accidents, making it one of the most dangerous parts of the job.

Collisions With Smaller Vehicles

Garbage trucks often get into auto accidents with other, usually much smaller vehicles. These large trucks make frequent stops, and vehicles that drive behind them may rear-end them if they aren’t able to stop in time.

Garbage truck operators may also struggle to brake in time to avoid a rear-end collision. In other cases, a refuse truck or another vehicle that enters an intersection may T-bone the other, which can be a devastating accident.

Operation Accidents

A garbage truck uses mechanical lifts, pistons, and other machinery to collect refuse. Operators who manually collect trash cans and dispose of the contents into the collector may put themselves at risk for crush injuries, cuts and amputation injuries, and more fatal accidents.

Garbage Truck Operators Struck by Vehicles

Many garbage collection companies have drivers behind the wheel and operators who manually collect trash bins. In other cases, operators outside the vehicle may guide the driver in safely navigating parking spots, busy roadways, or small neighborhood streets.

Passing vehicles, no matter how slow and safe they are, may strike refuse collectors on the road. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that being struck by a vehicle is one of the most common types of workplace accidents for garbage truck operators.

Vulnerable Road Users Struck by a Garbage Truck

Like other vehicles, garbage trucks may also hit pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists. Some of the causes of these accidents include trucks’ blind spots, backing up, inability to brake in time to avoid collisions, and vulnerable road users not watching out for garbage trucks.


What Contributes to Dump and Garbage Truck Accidents in the U.S.?

Cars, trucks, emergency and work vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians all share the same roadways. This mix of road users and driving patterns can create dangerous situations that lead to collisions and other accidents.

Many factors contribute to dump and garbage truck accidents, including:

  • Frequent stops: Garbage trucks regularly start and stop at short distances. Drivers behind garbage trucks may not keep a safe following distance to brake in time to avoid a collision.
  • Road conditions: Weather conditions can make it more difficult for garbage trucks and cars to navigate the road or see obstacles. Narrow residential roads, heavy traffic, and high speeds can also increase the likelihood of garbage truck accidents.
  • Blind spots in garbage trucks: These large trucks have big blind spots, which can make it challenging for operators to see obstacles on their sides and behind them. When operators or drivers in other vehicles aren’t careful when changing lanes, making turns, or pulling into intersections, a dump truck accident can occur.
  • Communication errors: When operators guide dump truck drivers from outside the truck, they need to use clear universal signals to communicate. However, these operators may make mistakes, or the driver may be unable to clearly see their coworkers.
  • Operational hazards: Garbage trucks have dangerous machinery that could cause severe injuries, even if an operator is careful. Operators who work outside the vehicle risk being struck by passing vehicles or the truck itself.
  • Lack of maintenance: Regular maintenance keeps garbage trucks in working order. Some organizations that own these trucks don’t maintain the equipment or fix known issues. Trucks and machinery in poor working conditions can increase the chances of malfunctions or other issues that contribute to garbage truck accidents that affect operators and other road users.
  • Equipment malfunctions: Even if a refuse collection agency keeps up with truck and machinery maintenance, the equipment can still malfunction and cause an accident. Manufacturers may be liable for these garbage truck accidents.
  • Distracted driving: Both garbage truck drivers and other motorists on the road may engage in distracted driving. Taking your eyes off the road for just one second can be the difference between braking in time to prevent a collision or avoiding obstacles, like pedestrians or a stopped garbage truck.
  • Fatigued driving: Both dump truck operators and motorists may drive drowsy. Driving drowsy decreases reaction time, which can make it harder to avoid collisions and obstacles. It can even lead to falling asleep at the wheel. Truck operators may be more at risk of driving while fatigued because they work long shifts and may start very early in the morning.
  • Driving while intoxicated: Driving after drinking alcohol or taking drugs can impair your senses, like depth perception, decision-making, judgment, and reaction time. Both garbage truck operators and drivers may drive while intoxicated.

Who Suffers Injuries in Garbage Truck Accidents?

Every party involved in a garbage truck accident may suffer injuries, but it generally depends on the type of accident.

For example, auto accidents that involve garbage trucks are more likely to cause injuries to those in the smaller vehicle due to the major difference in size and weight of garbage trucks. However, garbage truck operators may also suffer injuries in an accident.

When a garbage truck strikes a vulnerable road user such as a pedestrian, motorcycle driver, or cyclist it’s more common for the vulnerable road user to suffer severe or fatal injuries. Operators that leave the garbage truck to manually collect refuse bins or guide the driver become vulnerable road users. As a result, they are more likely to experience severe or fatal injuries when they’re in garbage truck accidents.

Common Types of Dump Truck Injuries

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 1,000 injury crashes involving garbage and refuse trucks occurred in a single year.

Garbage truck accidents tend to leave victims with serious injuries. The type and severity of these injuries can vary by accident type.

Auto Accident Injuries

Like other auto accidents, dump and garbage truck accidents can result in minor and severe injuries such as:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Whiplash
  • Bruises and cuts
  • Burns
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Internal tissue damage to tendons and ligaments
  • Organ damage and internal bleeding
  • Neck and back injuries, like herniated discs
  • Damage to the spinal column that causes paralysis or debilitating disability

Motorists, passengers, and vulnerable road users are more likely to suffer severe injuries, like fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Garbage truck operators involved in auto accidents may only experience more minor injuries, such as whiplash and bruising.

Crush and Amputation Injuries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported nearly 1,700 injuries in one year for refuse and recyclable material collectors, which includes garbage truck operators. In the truck driver category where the BLS regularly places garbage truck drivers, there were over 73,000 reported injuries in a year.

Unfortunately, one of the most common injuries garbage truck operators face is crush injuries due to the truck’s machinery or getting pinned between the truck and other obstacles. Operators can fall from the truck and get crushed or even get their hands, fingers, or feet stuck in the machinery and crushed. In some cases, they suffer amputations to their extremities.

Dump truck operators get very used to the repetitive task of collecting refuse bins, loading them into the truck or dumping them, and putting them back. They may even feel comfortable manually moving refuse into the compactor if it falls out. The repetitive nature of this job means these professionals may not be as careful as they should be or make dangerous mistakes.

Are Dump and Garbage Truck Accidents Fatal?

Yes, dump and garbage truck accidents can be fatal for both operators and other road users. The FMCSA reports that there are multiple fatal crashes involving garbage and recycling trucks each year in the United States.

According to OSHA, dozens of fatal garbage truck accidents killed operators. Some of the most common types of fatal dump truck accidents include being struck by a passing vehicle, being pinned by the truck, and falling from the truck.

Unfortunately, other road users commonly lose their lives in garbage truck accidents, too. Garbage trucks have fatally wounded pedestrians taking out their trash.

Move Over Laws and Garbage Trucks

Many cities and states have Move Over laws that require cars to change lanes or at least slow down when passing emergency vehicles stopped on roadways also known as Move Over/slow down laws. All 50 states and the District of Columbia enforce Move Over laws.

In many places, these laws also apply to active work zones, which generally include garbage trucks. These laws require drivers to take extra care when passing garbage trucks on the side of the road that has their lights flashing and/or actively picking up trash.

Move Over laws are primarily meant to protect service providers who regularly exit their vehicles. By moving to an inner lane away from the garbage truck, vehicles are less likely to hit garbage truck operators on the road. Slowing down is important, too, as it increases the time drivers have to react to operators on the road and avoid auto accidents with these large trucks as well.

However, according to a survey from AAA, many people across the U.S. don’t realize that Move Over laws exist, let alone that they may apply to garbage trucks. That means communities around the country must do more to protect operators when they’re vulnerable road users and prevent severe and fatal garbage truck accidents in general.

A Lawyer Who Handles Dump and Garbage Truck Accident Cases Can Help You

Robert Boatman - Lawyer for Truck Accident near Phoenix, AZ area

Robert W. Boatman, Truck Accident Attorney in Phoenix AZ

If you were hurt in an accident involving a dump and garbage truck, you may be entitled to recover damages from the liable party. A personal injury attorney can take charge of all aspects of your case while you recuperate from your injuries.

To learn more about how they can help you, contact a Phoenix personal injury attorney’s office today. Most law firms that take dump and garbage truck accident cases offer free case reviews.