By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
As winter starts to settle in for much of the United States, one issue that is likely to get attention in various statehouses in the coming months is billed to encourage car and truck drivers to clear snow and ice off their vehicles.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and countless truck drivers are opposed to rules that permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles are not cleared of snow and ice.
OOIDA and other critics of the rules say that snow and ice rules are nearly impossible for truck drivers to comply with. They point out that facilities are not readily available in states to accommodate such mandates on trucks. Another problem is the practicality of requiring people to climb atop large vehicles in bad weather conditions.
In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prohibits anyone on the job to climb to such heights without proper safeguards.
The issue of snow and ice removal is not a new topic in many states. 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.
Specifically, Rhode Island has a rule to require vehicles to be kept clear of snow or ice. Connecticut and New Jersey also allow police to ticket drivers simply for having wintry precipitation atop their vehicles.
At statehouses that include New York and Pennsylvania, concerned lawmakers continue to pursue stiff punishment for failure to keep vehicles clear of wintry precipitation.
Supporters say a snow and ice removal mandate would make enforcement easier. Others say it creates a significant deterrent for not cleaning off a vehicle following a snow or ice storm.
“The falling of piles of snow and ice from motor vehicles during the winter months has become a major hazard for motorists,” New York Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, D-Queens, wrote. “The failure to remove these mounds of snow or ice from motor vehicles prior to operating on a street or highway can cause damage and a loss of visibility to other vehicles.”
DenDekker wants to 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 Pennsylvania bill 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 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.
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