Garbage trucks registered with BIC run red lights at alarming rate: Analysis

Vehicles registered with the Business Integrity Commission have been caught speeding past schools and running red lights at an alarming rate, according to an amNewYork analysis of traffic camera violations. 

Since 2014, about 43% of vehicles registered with BIC to haul waste and debris in the city received at least one ticket for blowing past red lights or speeding past schools, according to city records aggregated by HowsMyDrivingNY. In all, the city issued 5,179 tickets for red-light violations and 2,965 for driving too fast near schools, according to HowsMyDrivingNY, which Brian Howald started after a driver — who had racked up eight camera tickets — drove into a Park Slope crosswalk and killed two children in March 2018.

This May, a dump truck registered with BIC and owned by C. Francis Construction Corp. was involved in a crash that left a pedestrian dead. According to the NYPD, the truck turned right as the red light turned green and struck a 58-year-old man crossing against the pedestrian light. The driver remained on the scene and was issued a summons for "Disobey Marked Pavement," a relatively minor violation which can hit the driver with 2 points on their license.

The truck had been flagged for running red lights seven times in the 12 months leading up to the crash. In the weeks since, it has received two more red-light tickets, according to HowsMyDrivingNY.

When asked about the number of violations issued to his trucks, owner Cary Francis said he is unsure what may be causing the infractions. 

“I have no idea why these drivers keep running red lights. Just a bit too hasty or in a rush, probably just to go home and whatever, you know?” Francis said.

Francis said he has held safety meetings with the drivers to stress the importance of not losing their licenses.

“So I try to inject them with that type of thought, hoping that they’ll be a little more cautious on what they’re doing,” Francis added.

Every day, thousands of trucks operated by private companies crisscross the city, picking up waste from restaurants, construction sites, and other businesses. These routes are operated by the heaviest vehicles on city streets in an industry overseen by the BIC. All told, more than 7,000 vehicles are licensed with BIC to collect waste in the city.

A fraction of these trucks appear to account for a significant portion of the speeding violations, with just 100 vehicles caught speeding past schools almost 700 times since 2014, according to HowsMyDrivingNY.

The commission has come under fire in recent years for not doing enough to ensure its licensees are operating safely. Last year, at least three people were killed in collisions with BIC licensed vehicles, and a ProPublica investigation found systemic safety issues at a company in the Bronx.

In a statement, mayoral spokeswoman Laura Feyer said that BIC has been working with the City Council on legislation that would allow traffic safety records to be taken into account when deciding if a company’s license should be renewed.

A package of bills meant to improve safety in the industry and cut down on the number of trucks covering big areas is being advanced by City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who says the drivers are often under pressure to meet demands that promote unsafe driving.

“Drivers are getting tickets for having to run through red lights and stop signs because the routes that were given to them were too extensive,” Reynoso said.

One of the bills included in the package would increase the responsibility of the business owner when their trucks get caught being driven unsafely.

“This industry, more than ever, we’re talking about some companies that are looking to pay their drivers the least amount of money, so they can make the most profit,” Reynoso added. “And in doing so, (they’re) willing to endure a couple red lights here, a couple stop signs there, and occasionally killing someone.”