A Snowy Trailer Roof Is a Road Hazard...

by Jana Ritter - Published: 12/20/2013

Snow can be a pretty sight in many places, but the roof a trailer is not one of them — especially if the driver ahead of you is sending icy projectiles your way. Some states such as Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey even have laws requiring drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles’ hoods and roofs as well as windshields.  There have been instances in which people have died because of flying ice. On Christmas Day 2005, Christine Lambert, 51, of Palmer Township, Pa., was killed when an 8-inch-thick piece of ice from a tractor trailer pierced through her vehicle’s windshield.

Truck snow

When snow freezes into ice and then thaws, it can be particularly dangerous to drivers behind a vehicle that has not been cleaned off, he said. That is especially so for the large tractor trailers that can hurl ice at frighteningly high speeds when traveling down a highway. While Maryland does not get as much snow and has not yet made icy roofs against the law, Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association said it’s still a problem for truckers. Not only do snow and ice can add as much as two tons of extra weight to a semi-trailer rig, Campion said that getting to the top of their trailers to clear the snow can be dangerous in itself, especially in bad weather. “It poses a significant challenge,” he said.

Some companies, such as Wisconsin-based A Better Snow Rake, sell special rakes that can bend enough to scrape snow off the top of high trailers. They come apart for storage in relatively small areas. But even those rakes don’t really help when there is ice on top of trailers, Campion noted. Truck washes can loosen ice and snow, but the lines for those in an average truck stop where there can be more than 100 trucks would be enormously long, he said.

A potential long-term solution that some in the trucking industry are reviewing is to redesign rooftops to impede the formation of ice or make it more difficult for ice to fall off, Campion said.

In the meantime, the best preventative measure for many states is putting it into the hands of the law. The year after Christine Lambert’s death, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed the snow removal law in which drivers can be fined up to $1,000 if snow or ice from their vehicles causes injury.  Many states like Washington, D.C., allow police officers to pull over drivers for traveling with accumulated snow or ice on their vehicles, but the offense does not carry a fine.