It’s been a long time coming, but Portland is finally about to take a big step forward in road safety. The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) announced today they’ll propose a change to the City’s administrative rules that would require all garbage and recycling contractors to fill gaps in the sides of their trucks by 2022. The new mandate would apply to about 195 vehicles that currently don’t meet federal safety standards.
Commonly referred to as side guards, the goal is to close the gaps on the side of trucks between the front and rear axles where vulnerable road users often end up in collisions. US Department of Transportation research has found that nearly half of bicycle riders killed by large trucks first come in contact with its side. With side guards in place, people and their vehicles are pushed away from the truck’s undercarriage and wheels.
Portland first pushed for side guards in 2007 following the deaths of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek. But progress has been painfully slow. Our Vision Zero Action Plan, passed in 2016, lists the installation of side guards as one of its five-year actions. In February 2017, after yet another Portlander died in a right-hook collision with a truck operator, the Portland Bureau of Transportation said there was simply no funding for side guard installations.
But Portland Planning and Sustainability Commissioner Chris Smith never stopped pushing for them. As we reported in October 2017, Smith brought the issue to the table at every opportunity. The PSC advises Portland City Council on annual garbage and recycling rates, so Smith used that as a lever to keep the issue alive.
Last month BPS published a report on their Side Guard Pilot Project (PDF). The agency installed side guards on 18 garbage and recycling trucks and worked with 11 different contractors. Based on their findings, BPS Solid Waste and Recycling Program Coordinator Pete Chism-Winfield says they will propose that side guards be mandatory on all garbage and recycling trucks by January 2022
Here’s the official language of the proposed amendment to the city’s administrative rule:
c. Side Guards and Safety Equipment. Side guards are safety equipment designed to protect vulnerable road users from the hazards of open spaces on the sides of large trucks. The following schedule will result in the implementation of side guards on all collection trucks with side gaps between wheels greater than two feet. All side guards shall meet the Volpe specifications according to the following schedule:
I. All new collection vehicle purchases after January 1, 2020. (A/I)
II. All collection vehicles newer than 2010 and older than 2019 by January 1, 2022. (A/I)
III. All collection vehicles must have decals placed on the side guards or body that indicate to vulnerable road users that they are in a blind spot. (A/I)
Based on current truck inventories, BPS estimates that 195 trucks will need to be retrofitted before January 1, 2022. Based on the costs of the pilot retrofitting the 2010 to 2019 trucks ($2,623 per truck) would cost approximately $432,795 across all garbage and recycling companies. BPS will subsidize retrofit costs up to $1,000 per truck.
Asked if BPS has contacted Metro to implement a similar mandate on a regional level, Chism-Winfield said they (and other regional partners) have expressed interest but have made no commitments. BPS is also looking at other equipment requirements like cab design and mirrors but says they want to carry out the side guard project before moving onto other efforts.
A public hearing on the administrative rule change is set for June 3rd from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
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