You gotta be kiddin’: New Jersey mandates snow-free vehicles

| 10/21/2009

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has signed into law a bill to get tough with drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. The rule applies to commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and countless truck drivers are angered about the bill’s passage into law, which permits police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow and ice. The Association and professional drivers have long opposed what they say is legislation that sets truckers up to fail.

State law now prohibits car and truck drivers from being fined for driving a snow-capped vehicle. However, if a piece of ice falls from a vehicle and causes injury or property damage, car drivers face fines between $200 and $1,000, while truck drivers could be fined $500 to $1,500.

With the governor’s signature, drivers soon will 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.

Violators would face fines between $25 and $75. No points would be assessed against the driver’s license.

OOIDA says the rule will be nearly impossible to comply with. They also cite concerns about requiring people to climb atop large vehicles to remove snow or ice.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, said the mandate is virtually impossible to comply with.

“It amounts to feel-good legislation that is going to lead to the injury of drivers,” Rajkovacz told Land Line.

Drivers will 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 new rule also specifies that drivers won’t be responsible for snow or ice accumulated while the vehicle, trailer, or container was not in their possession.

“How is a cop going to tell the difference between something accumulating while it’s out in operation versus sitting?” questioned Rajkovacz. “I understand the roof will pile up if it’s sitting. But that doesn’t mean snow and ice can’t accumulate on the roof going down the road. The cop still gets to decide when the snow accumulated.”

In hopes of appeasing the trucking industry, the effective date was delayed one year. The grace period is intended to give truck operations time to comply with the rule. Revenue from fines will 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.

Supporters of the legislation say the changes will not only help protect personal property, but will also help save lives.

But truckers say the state is not showing any concern for them.

“It gets tiresome when they talk about highway safety, but they don’t give a damn about the truck driver,” Rajkovacz said.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member David Sweetman had a similar response.

“Since when does anyone in any stage of our government – federal, state or local – really care about the welfare of truck drivers and my health? They would not require me to turn my truck off in 20-degree weather. This is just one more brick in the wall. They really don’t care about our welfare,” Sweetman, who has a New Jersey baseplate, told Land Line.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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