New York City cracks down on faulty private sanitation trucks after accidents

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The NYPD launched a citywide crackdown on private sanitation trucks following recent accidents, performing spot safety inspections and finding multiple violations on the vehicles they stopped.

With just a cursory inspection of one private trash truck, Detective Charles Rubenstrunk of the NYPD Motor Carrier Safety Unit catalogued a laundry list of violations, including faulty brakes, low air pressure, and leaks of three different kinds of fluid.

When it's idling, the driver puts out a bucket to catch the oil.

"The company wants to get the truck on the road, if it's on the road it's making money, if it's not on the road it's not making money," said Rubenstrunk.

"But if it's on the road it might kill someone," we said. "Exactly", replied Rubenstrunk.

The NYPD says more than 20 people in the past two years have been killed by private garbage trucks, zooming the wrong way down one-way streets and mowing down anyone in their way.

The gruesome scenes have become common, as police dutifully and grimly catalog the particulars, mostly pedestrians and cyclists who are no match for 40 tons of steel.

Last week, Eyewitness News went along for the ride as patrol cops worked through the night, pulling over trucks violating any traffic laws.

The Motor Carrier Safety Unit crawled over every inch, and what they found was shocking.

Every truck that went by was pulled over. One was in such bad shape, it was going to be taken off the road altogether.

Another didn't have a working horn, so it was getting a summons. Another two police were just starting to look at, and it wasn't even midnight.

In just one week, police wrote 515 moving violations and 555 summonses to criminal court. They ordered 17 trucks out of service, including the one with the bucket catching its oil.

Josh Einiger: "The truck is in really bad shape. Do you deny that?"
Driver: "No no no, don't know anything about it."
Josh Einiger: "You don't know anything about it but you were driving it! What do you do with the oil when you leave? Do you just pour it out?"

Driver: "It goes in there."
Josh Einiger: "You pour it back in the truck?"
Driver: "Back in the truck yeah."

"A lot of the times the drivers are working," said Rubenstrunk. "They're trying to pay the bills like anybody else. And a lot of the times it seems to be the companies that are forcing the drivers, go go go. My personal opinion? The company is putting profit before safety."

But because all those fines must eat into profits, police say they'll be keeping the pressure on, sending a message to carting companies to put safety first.

* More New York City news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.