Not again: New York bill would mandate snow-free vehicles

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/13/2011

A few months after the state of New Jersey began enforcing a law to keep snow and ice off trucks and other vehicles, a New York state lawmaker is trying to do the same across the state line.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and countless truck drivers are opposed to such rules that permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles are not cleared of snow and ice.

Since late October, drivers in New Jersey are 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 face fines that could reach as high as $1,500.

In New York, Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, D-Brooklyn, is convinced that similar rules are needed in his state. His bill – S1321 – calls for snow, sleet or hail to be removed from “any occupant compartment, trailer or other cargo compartment in excess of three inches.”

Graham Parker, a spokesman for Dilan, said the bill addresses a potential threat to other drivers on the road.

“Just look at the past couple of days of weather. We’ve been hammered up here. Now more than ever it is something that needs to be addressed,” Parker told Land Line.

Violators would face significant fines. Motorists and other drivers of small vehicles would face fines between $150 and $850. Truck drivers would face fines between $450 and $1,250.

Emergency vehicles and car transporters would be exempt from the rule. Any driver determined to be “disabled” would also be let off the hook.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, says the rule sets truckers up to fail. He cites concerns about people feeling compelled to climb atop large vehicles to remove snow or ice.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Lou Esposito, of Duanesburg, NY, counts himself among those truckers who feel obligated to make the treacherous climb atop his trailer, especially on trips into New Jersey.

“When I have a lot of snow up there, I bring over the ladder, climb up and shovel the snow off. It’s not a very safe practice to do it but you have no choice. They sit at the state line and wait for trucks as they come in,” Esposito said. “And at 63 years old I’m not too crazy about doing that.”

Owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Terry Button, of Rushville, NY, said truckers like himself shouldn’t have to bear the sole responsibility. He said that trailing vehicles need to leave more space than they do now.

“I would like to think if somebody is in a car, or other type of vehicle, they are keeping a safe distance so they could avoid something that comes off,” Button said.

Rajkovacz questions whether the issue is significant enough to warrant passage of a law.

“It amounts to feel-good legislation that is going to lead to the injury of drivers,” he said.

Drivers would not be liable for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road. The exemption would also apply for the first three hours after the storm ends.

Asked about where truckers can go to get the wintry mix removed from their vehicles Dilan’s spokesman said he is unfamiliar with any available facilities.

The lack of options for truckers to clear their trailers only makes them more skeptical about the rule’s intent.

“I don’t think it’s truly for safety. They just want to write the ticket and go on down the highway,” Button said.

Esposito has the same opinion.

“This is the snow belt. It snows here. This is not something new. This has been going on for years,” he said. “They can say it’s about safety, but mostly it will end up being a revenue grab from truckers. “

S1321 is awaiting consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York, click here.

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