Runaway Rigs

Preventing ran-off-the-road garbage truck accidents.

When a garbage truck accidentally runs off the roadway, the end results are usually not pleasant. In most cases the truck will either crash into a fixed object such as a tree, sign or light post. In worst-case scenarios, the truck will roll over. Whatever the case, the truck usually suffers significant damage, and there can be serious or even fatal injuries to the driver and other onboard employees.

Ran-off-the-road accidents can happen in urban areas, but they are far more likely to occur in rural or suburban driving environments. While each ran-off-the-road accident has its own unique set of circumstances, a recent study by Mattei Insurance Services identified several common causes of these types of accidents.

Many ran-off-the-road accidents occur when a garbage truck is negotiating a curve in the road. Excessive speed is the main factor in this type of accident, as the truck is simply traveling too fast to safely navigate the curve. Garbage truck drivers need to be constantly reminded to slow down around curves, and that the posted speed limits for curves are meant for automobiles, not top-heavy garbage trucks.

As with many other types of vehicle accidents, driver distraction is a major factor in ran-off-the-road accidents. A garbage truck driver who is preoccupied with a cell phone, paperwork or a map can easily find himself veering off the road. Once the truck runs onto a soft shoulder, it may be too late to take corrective action. Distraction is also a factor in many rear-end collisions. These can turn into ran-off-the-road accidents if a garbage truck driver suddenly swerves off the road in an attempt to avoid a stopped or slow-moving vehicle. If you do not have strictly-enforced policies in place prohibiting distractions behind the wheel, now is the time to enact them.

In addition to swerving to avoid a rear-end collision, drivers will sometimes run off the road in an attempt to avoid hitting an animal. These types of accidents are most likely to occur in areas with a significant deer population. While avoiding a collision with a deer is usually advisable, there are situations where it may be safer to hit the animal than it would be to swerve off the road and perhaps strike a tree or roll the truck. Drivers in these areas should be prepared to exercise this judgment at a moment’s notice.

Finally, the condition of the garbage truck and its driver can also be factors leading to ran-off-the-road accidents. A mechanical failure, such as a tire blowout or brake failure, can lead to a truck running off the road. A good preventative maintenance program and daily pre-trip inspections are the best ways to prevent this from happening.

Similarly, drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel or experience a medical emergency can find themselves involved in a ran-off-the-road accident. For this reason, it is important that waste companies make sure that all drivers receive regular physical exams and are well-rested when showing up for work.

Bruce Hooker works for Mattei Insurance Services, Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif.

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