Pennsylvania takes another step to snow-free vehicle mandate

February 6, 2020

Keith Goble

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A longtime pursuit at the Pennsylvania statehouse to addresses concerns about snow and ice removal from atop cars and trucks has taken one step closer towards passage.

State law already allows police to ticket car and truck drivers between $200 and $1,000 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death.

The House Transportation Committee voted 23-1 on Monday, Feb. 3, to advance an amended Senate bill that is intended to be proactive on the issue of snow and ice removal from vehicles.

Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, SB114 would authorize law enforcement to issue tickets solely for failure to clear their vehicles of snow and ice. In addition to trucks, the amended version includes mass transit vehicles, buses, and school buses.

Enforcement would be limited to highways. Local streets were removed from the bill.

For years, Boscola has pursued the change at the statehouse. She has said her bill is about safety and responsibility.

“Hopefully, it would increase public awareness and make people more vigilant about clearing snow and ice from their vehicles,” Boscola said in previous remarks.

Drivers would be required to make “reasonable efforts” to remove snow or ice from all parts of their vehicles within 24 hours of a weather event.

Offenders would face a maximum fine of $1,500 if the wintry precipitation on their vehicles caused serious injury or death. The amended version includes an additional protection allowing police to ticket drivers $50 for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads.

Truck operators would be excused if they are on their way to a facility to remove accumulated snow or ice. In addition, violations would not be issued if compliance would cause the trucker to violate any federal or state law or regulation regarding workplace safety, or if it would be a health or safety threat.

The bill awaits consideration on the House floor. If approved there, SB114 would head back to the Senate for approval of changes before it can advance to the governor’s desk.

OOIDA sees progress on issue

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has concerns about rules that permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow or ice. They point out that facilities are not readily available to accommodate clearance mandates on trucks. Another problem is the practicality of rules that appear to require people to climb on top of large vehicles and do so in less-than desirable conditions.

“The accumulation of snow and ice on any vehicle has the potential to negatively impact highway safety,” OOIDA Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek has said. “However, when it comes to commercial motor vehicles, there’s really no practical or safe way of removing it from the top of a trailer, especially during winter weather conditions.”

Speaking specifically about SB114, Matousek said the amended version is a more reasonable approach than seen in the past.

“It’s far from a great bill,” he said. “The legislature has made changes that appear to address some of the safety issues that OOIDA and others have raised through the years.”

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania is available.

 

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.