Bicycle Coalition

The City of Philadelphia announced on Wednesday that it will begin requiring all new trash hauling trucks to undergo a series of safety improvements, including the installation of side guards.

Side guards—panels installed between the wheels of vehicles—on trucks have been utilized by cities all around the world and led to increased safety in those cities.

As noted in the city’s press release:

“After testing these new features, we are very excited to roll out these state-of-the-art safety measures on all new compactors,” said Christine Derenick-Lopez, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Philadelphia. “This is just one piece in our effort to support the City’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero in Philadelphia by 2030,” she added.

Each new trash compactor truck purchased will be outfitted with four 360-degree cameras that provide truck operators a complete view of the area surrounding the vehicle while moving forward. When the truck is in reverse, the camera will project the area behind the truck. Similarly, putting on either turn signal will turn on the camera to show the side of the truck.

“Our goal is to fully modernize the trash compactor fleet – with these added safety features – in the next four to five years,” said Michael Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. “Improvements to the compactor fleet will enable more trash and recycling to be picked up on time, enabling a cleaner Philadelphia.”

The Streets Department’s decision to require side guards on all their trucks moving forward doesn’t come as a big surprise.

On December 1, 2017, just days after Philadelphia pastry chef Emily Fredricks was killed by the driver of a private trash hauler on Spruce Street in Center City, the Bicycle Coalition made seven safety demands we wanted to see enacted immediately. Among them: Side guards on all large public and private trucks in Philadelphia.

“Side guards are vehicle-based safety devices that physically cover the exposed space between front and rear wheels and keep pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from being run over by a large truck’s rear wheels in a side-impact collision,” we wrote. “Chicago, Boston and New York City have adopted ordinances requiring the use of side guards.”

We additionally wrote about how truck side guards have been proven to save lives and specifically how other cities around the United States have been able to make legislative changes and require side guards.

We have continually discussed the prospect of making these changes in our meetings with the Streets Department.

In addition to side guards, the addition of 360-degree cameras is welcome.

We are glad the city will be making these Vision Zero improvements. The next step will be requiring all public and private trucks in the city to use side guards. After all, Emily Fredricks was killed by the driver of a private truck.

The driver of a Gold Medal truck (the same company that killed Emily) destroyed a row of cars in South Philadelphia about a month back, and the driver claimed the truck lost control on its own.

As Mindy Isser pointed out earlier today on Twitter, city drivers are often better vetted and trained than drivers of private companies.

So, while requiring side guards on public city vehicles is good, Philadelphia should, like New York City, set a deadline for all private vehicles doing business in the city, to install side guards on their vehicles.

The Bicycle Coalition is still researching how private trash haulers are regulated—because it’s extremely vague—and what can be done to force private companies to comply with commonsense safety regulations.

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