Cameras on Garbage Trucks Can Contribute to Less Wrecks?

Aftermath of a truck accident with a trailer on its side

Rumors in St. Petersburg are that because drivers of garbage and recycling trucks are allowed to go home once they have completed their routes, they commonly drive too fast or otherwise in a reckless fashion to shorten the amount of time that they spend working. Some statistics in this area of Florida do indicate an uptick in the number of truck accidents involving such city trucks. The only problem is that, until now, there has been no objective data to verify the overall cause for the increase in truck accidents with private parties.

That may change as St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa have all opted for the installation of cameras in some or all of their garbage and recycling trucks to monitor the driving practices of their workers and to record anything else that may be happening during the typical day of trash and/or recycling pick-up.

The phenomenon of increasing accidents was certainly made clear to Lauren Payton, a 20 year-old who was hit by a St. Petersburg garbage truck driver while she was driving her own Dodge Caliber. The accident ultimately resulted in an $85,000 settlement paid by the city to help compensate Ms. Payton, who endured multiple surgeries as part of her recovery from the accident.

Such incidents have become increasingly common in the St. Petersburg area, where accidents of this nature are increasing at an alarming rate. In Clearwater, for example, the number of such accidents increased from 34 to 58 during the last three years. In Tampa the increase was worse with accidents increasing 41.5% just from the years from 2014 to 2015. The statistics in St. Petersburg were also grim, showing an increase of 35.7% and payout up from $33,715 to $92,257.

It should be noted that some of these accidents were not caused by city employees. Cities in this area of Florida tend to lump all accident statistics together without noting the cause of the accidents.

St. Petersburg has acted the most aggressively in the area to install cameras in trash and recycling trucks. As of this month, cameras were installed in 144 trucks, virtually the city’s entire fleet. The city believes that the cameras will help to monitor the driving safety of its workers and, in addition, protect the city from liability where private vehicle drivers are negligent. Moreover, the city believes that they can use the data collected from the cameras to reward employees who demonstrate the best driving habits and to retrain those drivers that show signs of recklessness.

The new cameras appear to have many uses. One additional use may be for drivers to record difficulties they may experience on the road such as obstructions in alleyways that require them to spend more time working in a certain area of their daily route.

While they are not as far along as St. Petersburg, the cities of Tampa and Clearwater are also making moves toward implementing cameras in their garbage and recycling trucks. In Tampa, one-third of their fleet of trucks has been equipped with cameras. Tampa has opted to add the cameras when each new truck is purchased for the city. The general belief is that the cameras will stabilize the legal costs incurred that come with each new accident. This may already be happening as the payout levels for accidents in Tampa have leveled off in recent years. Clearwater has added a few cameras to their trucks, but no accidents have yet occurred involving these vehicles.

Overall, the cities of St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater seem to agree that cameras will offer added information about traffic accidents and the level of safety employed by their drivers. Even the state union has indicated its agreement with the use of such cameras by citing the improved safety in using them on the trucks.

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