Snow-free vehicle mandates pursued in more states

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/19/2016

The issue of snow and ice removal from atop cars and trucks is heating up again at multiple statehouses.

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

Rules covering concerns about accumulations atop vehicles are already in place in states that include Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

At statehouses that include Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, concerned lawmakers are pursuing stiff punishment for failure to keep vehicles clear of wintry precipitation.

In Pennsylvania, the Senate Transportation Committee met recently to discuss a bill that focuses only on trucks weighing at least 48,000 pounds.

State law already allows police to ticket violators between $200 and $1,000 if the wintry mix causes serious injury or death.

Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, is behind a bill that would boost the maximum fine to $1,500, as well as include an additional protection that would allow police to ticket drivers between $25 and $75 for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads.

Drivers would be excused for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road.

Boscola has said that too many truckers let highway winds do their snow removal for them.

Critics, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, say that snow and ice rules are nearly impossible for truck drivers to comply with.

Jim Runk, PMTA president and chief executive officer, testified that facilities are not readily available to accommodate the bill mandate.

“Second, trailer roof surfaces are unstable platforms, usually made of thin sheet metal or fiberglass, and as a result of that, there is a real danger of persons being killed or injured trying to remove snow and ice from trucks and trailers,” Runk said in prepared remarks.

Another point made to the committee is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prohibits anyone on the job to climb to such heights without proper safeguards.

Boscola said she does not expect truckers to climb their trucks or trailers to clear off snow and ice. She said they would be exempt from the rule if “reasonable efforts” are made to clear accumulations.

Pennsylvania State Police Major Edward Hoke said that, while the agency supports the bill’s concept, they believe the wording about reasonable efforts is a highly subjective standard that would be difficult to prove one way or the other.

The bill, SB94, remains in the Senate Transportation Committee.

In New York, a bill from Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, D-Queens, would permit police to cite truckers and other drivers for failure to act when traveling on roadways with posted speeds in excess of 40 mph.

A pair of bills at the Maryland statehouse cover snow and ice removal from cars and trucks.

The legislation does not include a minimum speed limit requirement, but it does address punishment for violators. Car drivers found to be in violation would face $25 fines. Truck drivers would face $75 fines.

Subsequent violations escalate to as much as $200 for motorists and $1,000 for truckers. In instances where snow or ice becomes dislodged and causes injury or death, offenders would face fines up to $1,000 and $1,500 respectively.

The Senate version, SB627, is scheduled to receive a hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The House bill, HB1284, is scheduled for a hearing in March.

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