Ask A Cop: Are Garbage Trucks Exempt from Law?

Blogger’s Note: Columnist-slash-cop Steve Sutherland, a veteran officer with the Bainbridge Island Police Department, is making his weekly appearance to field another question from commenters. Feel free to write more questions or responses below. For past editions, click here.

The question, from Tyler in North Kitsap: I have a question about the securing your load law. We were following one of the big garbage trucks the other day on Highway 3 and plastic bags and other garbage was blowing out of it. A plastic garbage bag hit our window and stuck to it and we had to pull over to get it off. It was good that it stuck to the passenger side of the windshield or my mom would not have been
able to see. Are garbage trucks exempt from the law?

The answer, from Officer Sutherland: Thanks for the question; it’s a topic that officers are frequently asked about.

Garbage trucks are not exempt from covering their loads or otherwise preventing the material from escaping.

If the incident had been witnessed by an officer, the driver of the truck could have been cited under RCW 46.61.655.

Recently, because of a tragic accident involving furniture that fell from a truck and severely injured another motorist, the state legislature has amended this RCW and it is now a criminal offense if the falling material causes substantial bodily harm or property damage.

Travis Baker, who writes the Road Warrior column for the Sun, is a great source for issues like this. Check him out.

Steve Sutherland has been a Bainbridge Island Police officer for eleven years. He also worked as an officer for the Suquamish Tribal Police Department for almost four years. He’s currently an instructor for the Bainbridge department in defensive tactics, Taser and pepper spray. He lives on Bainbridge and enjoys relaxing, working in his yard, and reading (fiction mostly).

One thought on “Ask A Cop: Are Garbage Trucks Exempt from Law?

  1. There have been some letters to the editor re: bicycles recently and I would like to ask a cop if they give tickets to bike riders for violations or if he has any stories to share on the subject. I’m also interested to know if there are laws regarding biking under the influence. I was just reading a site that claims that 40% of bicycle fatalities are caused by the bicyclist being impaired. I find that hard to believe although I know that it does happen.

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