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New York City Truck Crashes

NYC Truck Accident

Although New York City has strict rules about the length and weight of trucks and the streets they can travel on, accidents involving large trucks continue to occur. In addition, smaller trucks such as box trucks are very common on the streets of New York and are frequently involved in accidents.

The numbers tell part of the story. In October 2015, for example, there were 827 collisions involving what the New York Police Department calls “large commercial vehicles” (six or more tires). In addition, there were 758 crashes involving small commercial vehicles (four tires) and 1,281 involving vans, an unknown number of which were commercial.

Not all of the 827 accidents involving large commercial vehicles were semi trucks, but many were. Driving a semi on the streets of New York requires intimate knowledge of city trucking rules, which take precedence over state rules. Because not all drivers take the time to educate themselves about the special requirements of driving large trucks in New York, it is remarkable that there are not more crashes.

Know the Rules for Driving a Truck in New York

Here’s what drivers of large commercial vehicles should know before venturing into New York City:

  • Know what kind of a truck you are driving according to the NYC rules. A truck has either two axles and six tires or three or more axles. Smaller commercial vehicles that may be called trucks probably do not meet this definition. You need this information to understand how the rules apply in your case. For example, neither trucks nor commercial vehicles can travel on most parkways in and near the city.
  • Know the truck routes that you need to use. There are two types of truck routes in the city: local truck routes and through truck routes. These routes are shown in a frequently updated map published by the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT).
  • Know the difference between the two. A local truck route for trucks as defined above is one that originates and ends within one borough. This usually means trucks that are delivering, making a pickup or going in for servicing. A truck traveling from one part of Queens to the other, for example, would be considered local and would use local truck routes. However, a truck going from Staten Island to Queens would need to pass through Brooklyn, in which case it would have to use a through truck route to make the journey while in Brooklyn.
  • Know the specific rules for the borough where you are. For example, Manhattan and Staten Island have limited truck routes in addition to the other two types of truck routes that have time or day and size limitations.
  • When drivers leave designated truck routes to arrive at their destinations, they must leave the truck route as near as possible to the destination.

Every New Yorker has seen semis with out-of-state license plates obviously lost on New York streets, streets that in some instances are not wide enough for trucks that size. Many New Yorkers have also seen large commercial vehicles wedged under overpasses because drivers did not heed height restrictions.

Federal Trucking Rules Also Apply in New York City

Knowing the special New York City regulations is challenging. Truck drivers in the city must also follow the rules and regulations of the state of New York and the federal government. For example, federal interstate trucking regulations include limitations on how long a driver can operate without resting. Following these rules is especially critical when entering New York City for the first time. Driving a semi in the city is not for the faint of heart, and being fully alert is essential. Tired drivers make mistakes, and making mistakes on the crowded streets of New York City can seriously affect dozens of people.

Recent NYC Truck Accidents

What happens when drivers make mistakes? The following news items from past months paint a picture of the potentially serious consequences of drivers not following the rules when traveling in and around New York City.

  • An oil tanker truck flipped on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and shutting down Interstate 95 after the truck burst into flames. (November 2015)
  • A Coca-Cola truck driver lost control and struck pedestrians on a Bronx sidewalk, killing a mother of five. (October 2015)
  • A box truck driver struck a woman in a crosswalk in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. (October 2015)
  • A semi driver who killed a cyclist in Queens was later found to be under the influence of cocaine. (October 2015)
  • A truck spilled liquid cement along the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx, injuring at least one person. (September 2015)
  • A semi driver killed another trucker at Hunt’s Point Produce Market in the Bronx. (August 2015)
  • An unlicensed dump truck driver killed an elderly pedestrian at the west end of the Manhattan Bridge. (July 2015)
  • Cyclists were struck and killed by garbage trucks in two separate accidents in Brooklyn and Queens. (January, February 2015)

Numbers Show What New Yorkers Already Know: Truck Accidents Are on the Rise

Crashes such as these prompted a New York Times editorial in August that noted the degree to which the national trucking industry and its allies in Congress have tried to gut the safety rules governing the trucking industry. While the number of auto crashes has declined in recent years, the number of truck crashes rose 17 percent between 2009 and 2013, the last year for which national data was available.

One sobering statistic about truck crashes in New York City illustrates the urgency felt by the NYT editorial writer and many safe streets advocates: In New York City, trucks account for 3.6 percent of vehicles, but were involved in 32 percent of crashes that killed bicyclists from 1996 to 2003. Trucks caused 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities from 2002 through 2006. There is nothing to suggest that the situation has improved much since those numbers were reported.

FairWarning, the organization reporting these numbers, speculates that things may get worse before they get better as the rise of e-commerce will bring more delivery trucks onto city streets and semi trucks into warehouses. Can the streets of New York take any more trucks?

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