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Antonio Reynoso

Rogue Private Carting Industry Stalls on Mandated Safety Measure

12:01 AM EDT on October 3, 2019

Above, a private carting truck that lacks protective side rails. The city’s historical deal on commercial waste zones will mandate the rails — if it ever gets off the ground. Photo: Facebook

Private carting companies have not made any progress in outfitting their massive trucks with life-saving guard rails to keep pedestrians and cyclists from being swept beneath the massive vehicles' rear wheels, new data show — a disturbing flatline trend as the aggressively lobbying private carting firms continue to injure and kill

Data from the city’s Business Integrity Commission — which oversees the industry, whose reckless drivers have killed at least two dozen people since 2016, including at least four people this year — shows that as of last month, just 922 of the 6,010 heavy-duty, 10,000-pound-plus trucks in the city's private carting fleet have been installed with the side guards.

That's a mere 15.3 percent. Back in April, only 902 trucks — 15 percent — had side guards. Clearly, the industry is not in any rush to provide the mandated safety feature, which must be on all trucks by 2024. If the companies fail to comply, they could lose their license to operate in the city or be forced to cough up a hefty fine.

“It is shameful that private carters – some of whom continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against reform – still haven’t taken basic measures to protect cyclists and pedestrians while fatalities continue to rise,” said Justin Wood of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

It's not as if the companies are bearing a huge financial burden to improve safety. In fact, the city pays the first $2,000 of the estimated $2,500 cost to install the life-saving hardware.

In May, Council Member Antonio Reynoso introduced legislation, Intro. 1574, to rein in the deadly private carting industry with a slate of reforms designed to protect workers and make roadways safer — including creating exclusive zones to eliminate the current dangerous free-for-all of having sometimes as many as 50 haulers picking up trash in the same zone. The bill would also award contracts only to companies that comply with all city, state, and federal regulations such as the side-guard mandate. 

It's not as if private carters don't have the money to make the repairs — the companies have splurged half a million dollars on a lobbying firm to fight the overhaul the broken industry. Last year, ProPublica revealed that the dubiously named industry-backed group New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management, spent $500,000 to fight the city's plan. The lobbyists' efforts paid off when Bronx Council Member Mark Gjonaj proposed a bill that would basically block the reforms and keep the industry as is, according to ProPublica.

But if the private carting firms continue to spend thousands of dollars on lobbying against the reforms instead of picking up the pace to install more side guards — which are comparatively a drop in the bucket thanks to the city subsidy — on their trucks, then they hopefully won't get selected for contracts anyway, said Wood.

"The City Council needs to pass Intro 1574 immediately to begin the transformation of a dangerous and irrational system, and to make it clear that only responsible companies will be allowed to operate on our streets," he said.

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