Pa. Senate bill proposes fines for snow on trucks
Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association president agrees snow and ice accumulation on trailers is an issue, but argues it's unrealistic for truckers to always be in a position to immediately remove it.
The state Senate held a hearing Wednesday focused on a bill requiring truckers to "make all reasonable efforts" to remove snow and ice accumulations from their rigs before driving, but truck association officials fear the wording may be too subjective.
As numerous parts of the state still recover from the past weekend's snow storm, Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh, urged fellow Senate Transportation Committee members to pass her legislation, according to her news release.
Senate Bill 94 would allow police officers to issue fines of $25 to $75 to truck drivers if they determine accumulated ice or snow "may pose a threat to persons or property."
Jim Runk, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association (PMTA), said snow and ice accumulation has been an issue they've worked on for years with manufacturers.
"The problem is the tops of trailers are made up of fiberglass or other thin material, so it can't be walked on and you have to be careful about tearing it up when removing the snow," Runk said.
York Container Co., in Springettsbury Township, purchased a machine in 2008 that drivers run their trailers underneath to remove the snow, according to transportation manager Dave Schafer. Several local trucking companies have been able to acquire machines that help remove that snow, Runk said.
York Container Company "scrapes" a trailer of snow before it hits the road. The state senate is considering a bill that would fine companies that fail to remove potentially dangerous snow from trailers. David Weissman
The approximately $20,000 purchase came on the heels of legislation Boscola was able to pass that assesses $200 to $1,000 fines if ice debris causes serious injuries or death.
"Before then, we would just let (snow) blow off the roof driving down the road," Schafer said
York Container still had a few of its 94 trailers left that hadn't gone through the snow scraper as of Thursday afternoon, and Schafer said the machine is only able to remove snow, not ice.
Runk said ice removal is the major issue, with no reasonable solution offered yet.
Steve DeFrank, Boscola's chief of staff, agreed that ice was the major issue. Because trucks have flat roofs, the snow that melts will sit on top until it refreezes and becomes dangerous.
Boscola's legislation was prompted by the 2005 death of Christine Lambert, who was struck by an 8-inch chunk of flying ice while driving home to see her family on Christmas Day.
"We get that it's hard (to remove snow from trucks), but the bottom line is that this is a safety issue," DeFrank said.
The state police testified at Wednesday's hearing that troopers had issued six fines in 2015 related to Boscola's previous legislation. DeFrank said the new legislation is about being proactive.
"(The fines are) low intentionally because we know this is controversial," he said. "I'm not sure this is a deterrent (for trucking companies), but it's more about creating awareness."
Runk said the legislation makes sense for companies with stationary terminals in the state, but because Pennsylvania gets many deliveries from southern states, enforcing snow removal on state roads becomes a problem.
"Those loads could have hospital supplies or food or whatever that needs to be delivered, so what's a 'reasonable effort' when you're driving up from Arizona?" Runk said.
"We're not fighting (the bill), but we want to come up with realistic solutions," he added.
—Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org.