Winter driving foes rear familiar ugly heads

November 28, 2018

Wendy Parker


It’s that time of year again, kids. Winter weather driving conditions of one kind or another are present in most of the contiguous 48 states. Holiday traffic has commenced and once again four-wheelers with four-wheel-drive have taken a holiday from common sense.

I’m not sure who started the rumor that four-wheel-drive gives you the superpower of being able to drive like Mario Andretti on slick roads. I’d venture to say it might be the same pointy-headed pedestrians who think the ELD is a safety device. In either case, nothing could be further from the truth.

Four-wheel-drive means all four of the wheels on your BMW SUV will be spinning when you hit the ditch. If you happen to be running an ELD in that 4WD, it will tell you what time you screamed, “Oh (insert expletive)! I’m traveling too fast for conditions!” But it sure isn’t going to save you from a citation written by an LEO and handed to you PDQ after the FD cuts you out of the car with the JOL.


(Now we know our ABCs, next time you’ll reduce your speed.)

Also in the repetitive winter-weather news: failure to clear ice and snow off of commercial vehicles is an offense that can result in citations and fines. Only some states specifically address snow and ice removal (Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island & Wisconsin). Other states can apply rules that address “unsecured loads” to cover snow and ice incidents.

Flip side of the coin, clearing ice and snow off of commercial vehicles can result in broken bones and unpaid medical leave. It’s difficult to expect a driver to safely remove snow and ice from the top of a trailer when outside conditions resemble the surface of Neptune. Frankly, the top of a frozen trailer may as well be Neptune when you’re trying to decide how to get up there to clean snow and ice off of it without breaking your own neck.

This is a conundrum, especially for OTR drivers who frequently travel from Florida to frigid and back again. Trailerclearingcontraptions are more readily available in areas that have regular snow accumulation, but get a click past the Mason-Dixon Line and good luck finding one. Portable trailer rakes are a handy tool to have, but when you’re looking at clearing a 52-foot expanse of ice-covered snow off a metal box, a hand-held trailer rake seems like frontier medicine.

Here’s some common-sense advice from a flatbed securement class I audited years ago. The instructor had 35 years of trucking experience. He had hauled everything and been everywhere, man. After fielding an assortment of “what if” questions about bizarre incidents in which the driver might not be at fault for dumping the load all over the highway, he finished class with this little nugget of wisdom: “I don’t care if it’s a gum wrapper. If something falls off of your truck or trailer while you’re driving it YOU are responsible for any damages it causes. End. Of. Story.”

Whether or not you think it’s fair, he’s right. Just ask the lawyers.

Mysteries of the trucking universe