Audit of Department of Sanitation shows DSNY has kept over 500 vehicles in use despite federal recall orders

With employees at risk, Comptroller Stringer calls for ‘top-to-bottom’ review of the city’s vehicle fleet

(New York, NY) – New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today uncovered that the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has kept hundreds of federally-recalled, defective cars in use, putting the safety of sanitation workers, drivers, and the public at risk. Despite federal recall orders from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as recently as January 2017 the DSNY was using 509 cars that may have had dangerous flaws. After discovering these hundreds of recalled vehicles in the DSNY’s fleet alone, Comptroller Stringer called for an immediate top-to-bottom review of the City’s entire fleet of cars to ensure other departments are not utilizing vehicles that have been federally recalled.

The NHTSA issues national recalls only in the most serious cases for vehicles with problems that could cause harm or injury to drivers and passengers. Recalled City-owned vehicles still in use by DSNY during the audit period had various issues, including seatbelt failures, defective brakes, airbags that deploy randomly, and ignitions that continued to run even after the keys were removed. The vehicles included Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota cars and trucks with model years between 1997 and 2015. The oversight was discovered during a routine audit of the City’s Department of Sanitation’s oversight of E-ZPass and parking pass use.

“This should be common sense. It’s almost hard to believe this is happening. Defective seatbelts, broken airbags, and brake failures aren’t minor issues – they’re potentially deadly problems, both to city workers and to everyday New Yorkers on the street,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “When a recall occurs, the City needs to act. We uncovered more than 500 recalled vehicles during this audit at just one agency, and there may be more in the City’s fleet at other agencies. City government must do a top-to-bottom inventory to find out how many more recalled vehicles are in use and make sure all of them are fixed.”

According to NHTSA, vehicles that are on the recall list must be repaired and NHTSA must be notified by the manufacturer. As of January 2017, neither DSNY nor the NHTSA were able to provide any evidence the 509 vehicles had been repaired or retired.

Table I

 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Recall

Type of Vehicle Year(s) of the Vehicle  Number of Vehicles in Fleet
Chevrolet 2005,2010 14
Ford 1997,1999,2001,2002,2003,2005,2006,


GMC 2007 2
Honda 2006 2
Nissan 2013 1
Torja 2005 1
Toyota 2004,2005,2007,2008,2009 37
Various 2007 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013 91
Total   509


As part of the broader audit, the Comptroller’s Office found that the Department of Sanitation does not ensure that employees record when, where, and why they used City-issued E-ZPasses – in direct violation of agency and Citywide rules. Because DSNY failed to monitor the use of E-ZPasses, the agency is unable to verify whether all toll payments were for appropriate, official use.

As part of the audit, the Comptroller’s Office made fourteen recommendations, including that DSNY:

  • Immediately contact recalled vehicles’ manufacturers and determine how the agency can repair – or replace – defective vehicles;
  • Work with vehicle manufacturers to ensure that the NHTSA’s database is updated after repairs are made;
  • Retire any vehicles that pose a safety hazard to employees and cannot be repaired;
  • Maintain trip logs to determine if E-ZPasses are used for official government work; and
  • Ensure employees reimburse the agency for personal E-ZPass usage.

To read the full audit, click here.