By Keith Goble
state legislative editor
In the span of only a few hours the New Jersey Legislature overwhelmingly backed a push to get tough with drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles.
The action at the statehouse angered OOIDA and countless truck drivers who have long opposed legislation that seems to set truckers up to fail.
Disregarding all negative sentiment about the bill, the Assembly and Senate voted by unanimous consent on the same day to advance to the governor a bill that would permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow and ice.
Drivers would be responsible for making “all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow” from the hood, trunk and roof of the motor vehicle, truck cab, trailer or intermodal freight container.
OOIDA says the rule would be nearly impossible to comply with. The Association also cites concerns about requiring people to climb atop large vehicles to remove snow or ice.
Drivers would not be liable for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road if they are traveling to a location with snow and ice removal equipment or technology, provided they have not already passed such a location prior to being stopped.
The bill also specifies that drivers would not be liable for snow or ice accumulated while the vehicle, trailer, or container is not in their possession.
In hopes of appeasing the trucking industry, the bill delays the effective date for one year. Once the grace period ends, revenue from fines would be routed into a special fund for uses that include establishing a grant program to provide incentives to encourage private companies to install snow and ice removal facilities around the state.
Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member David Sweetman said he understands the concern about snow and ice falling from atop vehicles, but the bill doesn’t provide workable solutions.
“Unless there are built, established and mandated stations where you can drive a truck and trailer through that is going to get the snow and ice off the roof of your trailer I don’t know how most over-the-road guys are going to be able to do that,” Sweetman, who has a New Jersey baseplate, told Land Line.
A provision in the bill would make the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority responsible for adding snow removal facilities at locations along the roadways.
Sweetman wasn’t backing off his disdain for the bill. He said if lawmakers approve it, many truckers will avoid the state.
“Personally, I think a lot of guys are just not going to go to New Jersey anymore. This is one more brick in the wall,” he said. LL