What Truckers Should Know About Clearing Rig-Top Ice and Snow

While spring is on its way in many areas of the U.S., snow will continue to fall in many locations. If you’re a trucker who routinely drives in snowy, frozen conditions, your truck and trailer can pose a hazard to other drivers (and you) if snow and ice build up on top of your rig. Here’s what you should know about keeping your semi and trailer clear of ice and snow.

Recent Incidents Prove the Hazards

In February of 2019, a six-year-old child was injured by ice that fell from a tractor-trailer on Interstate 495 in Massachusetts. A large sheet of ice smashed through the windshield of the car in which the child was a passenger.

Truckers can be victims of uncleared vehicle ice, too. In January 2019 on the New York State Thruway, a huge sheet of ice sailed off the top of a mini-van and shattered the windshield of a semitruck. The driver was temporarily unable to see, as his truck’s entire windshield was covered in broken ice.

Reports of roadway problems from uncleared snow and ice have been made across the U.S. this winter. Each incident highlights the safety concerns for everyone on the road when drivers fail to clear snow and ice from the tops of their vehicles.

Some States Demand Ice and Snow Clearing

When ice and snow slide off of moving vehicles, the results can be deadly. In 1999, Jessica Smith was killed after a nine-foot section of ice slid from the top of a tractor-trailer rig, bounced off of a box truck, and slammed into Jessica’s vehicle.

The State of New Hampshire, recognizing the profound roadway hazards created when people don’t clear ice from their vehicles, approved a law known as Jessica’s Law in 2002. Drivers who don’t remove packed ice and snow from their vehicles can be cited and fined in the state of New Hampshire.

Fines in New Hampshire range from $250 to $500 for a driver’s first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent failures to clear ice and snow from vehicles. Drivers who are cited more than once for failure to clean their vehicles can eventually lose their licenses in New Hampshire.

Recently, the New Hampshire State Police set up a semi-rig snow-removal detail on an interstate highway to boost efforts to enforce Jessica’s Law. Truckers with snow and ice on their vehicles were pulled over and forced to climb on top of their trailers to clear them before being allowed to continue driving.

Several States Have Snow and Ice Clearing Laws

Similar laws are in place in several states where winter snow and ice are common occurrences. Penalties and fines vary among the states that enforce such laws.

You can be cited for failure to de-ice your truck in New Hampshire and the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin

Although only the above states have specific statutes in place for snow and ice removal, you aren’t off the hook in states without such laws if your rig dumps ice on another driver. Truckers can be cited for ice and snow slides using other state laws.

For example, in the above case where a six-year-old was injured by ice in Massachusetts, the state found the driver guilty of transporting an unsecured load. States can use laws including unsecured-load laws to fine and punish truckers who fail to clean their rigs, even if no specific laws are on their books to address ice and snow.

Truckers Must Clear Ice and Snow With Caution

The trucking industry is in a precarious position when it comes to clearing ice and snow from tractor-trailer rigs. While the snow and ice pose danger to other drivers, standing on top of an icy rig is also dangerous.

In some cases, asking truckers to climb up on frozen rigs and rake off snow without any personal protection equipment (PPE) is a clear violation of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) rules. So what is a trucker to do?

First, if at all possible, truckers should park their rigs in covered locations during heavy snow storms. Tarps and other covers can be secured to some trailers to reduce snow and ice buildup.

Truckers should inspect their rigs before each trip to check for snow and ice sheets on their tractor-trailers. If there is snow, determine the best way to remove it without putting yourself at risk. If you climb on top of your rig, use fall protection and have a spotter to help you if you run into trouble.

When you drive often in icy, snowy areas, locate companies and facilities that perform semi snow clearing near your routes. Various machines and attachments designed for truck and trailer snow and ice removal are available at truck stops and service centers throughout colder regions.

You’ll need to pay a charge for this service in most cases. However, the cost is minimal when you consider the expense of possible fines, extra vehicle weight, and increased fuel consumption you must endure when ice and snow build up atop your rig.

Find a safe semi for all seasons by contacting Arrow Truck Sales today. We offer top-name rigs, financing, and other services to keep you on the road and help your business thrive.