New Jersey bill mandating snow-free vehicles advances

| 1/27/2009

A bill on the move in New Jersey would get tough with drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. The rule would apply to commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

The Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee unanimously approved a bill Monday, Jan. 26, that would permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow and ice. The bill – S520 – now moves to the Assembly floor for further consideration. If approved there, it would head back to the Senate for approval of changes before advancing to Gov. Jon Corzine’s desk.

State law now prohibits car and truck drivers from being fined for driving a snowcapped 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.

Sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman Nicholas Sacco, D-North Bergen, the bill would make drivers responsible for making “all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from the motor vehicle, including the hood, trunk and roof prior to operation.”

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

Trucking industry officials say the rule would 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, regulatory affairs specialist for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the bill sets drivers up to fail.

“There is no way physically possible to accomplish this task. It’s inconceivable to pass a law where truckers are preordained to fail,” Rajkovacz told Land Line.

Drivers would not be liable for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road. Advocates for the restriction say they don’t want to substitute one dangerous practice for another by requiring drivers to pull to the side of the road during a storm solely to clean their vehicles.

Sacco said the bill is intended to require that “all drivers must make every reasonable effort to remove accumulated ice or snow on the hood, trunk and roof of their vehicles.”

In hopes of appeasing the trucking industry, the bill was amended to allow a 90-day grace period to give truck operations time to comply with the rule. Revenue from fines would be routed into a special fund to build snow removal facilities for trucks at state-run weigh stations and to promote awareness of the law.

Rajkovacz wasn’t backing off his disdain for the bill.

“If New Jersey is that concerned about this issue, the state should first build the removal facilities, not accumulate fines and then build the facilities,” Rajkovacz said.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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