The Snow and Ice Removal Challenge
Nobody wants vehicles clear of snow and ice more than professional truck drivers. The problem, however, is finding a safe, effective and practical way to accomplish this goal.
We all recognize that it is fairly easy for most people to brush newly fallen snow off of a passenger motor vehicle. It is more difficult however to remove ice which tends to accumulate after sleet, rain, snow or precipitation freezes.
Clearing snow and ice from the tops of commercial trucks and trailers is a different story. The top of commercial motor vehicles can be up to 13.5 feet above the ground making it extremely dangerous for anyone to try to remove snow or frozen precipitation from a trailer roof. These roofs are either thin metal or translucent plastic and are simply not designed to bear much weight. Even lower flat bed trailers, after winter storms, could present treacherous risks for slips and falls. OSHA regulations generally prohibit such well-intended but dangerous activities.
In 2008, at the request of trucking industry representatives, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) initiated a study of snow and ice accumulation on vehicles. A copy of that report can be accessed by clicking here. As you will see in the report, ATRI was unable to identify any other previous research studies on the matter of snow and ice safety concerns. The ATRI study documented the existence of the problem, reviewed state legislation targeted at the problem, attempted to identify methods as well as facilities used to remove snow and ice and analyzed the efficacy of those efforts.
Some fixed facilities have installed equipment designed to remove snow accumulations from trailer roofs. This type of equipment seems best suited for private terminals from which trucks are regularly dispatched and return. These installations (large rotating brushes or scrapers), will often only remove accumulated snow. Removing ice buildup is more challenging. Some government agencies have considered installing this type of equipment at public facilities. However, there are many attendant problems associated with liability, removing snow from the ground around the equipment once it is pushed or swept off a vehicle, limited vehicle throughput immediately following storms, etc.
Essentially fixed snow and ice removal equipment is impractical and cost prohibitive for the vast majority of truckers. Companies within the trucking industry typically operate with profit margins ranging 2%-4% and approximately 80% of trucking companies in the U.S. operate a fleet five trucks or less. Therefore it is simply not plausible from a financial standpoint for most trucking companies to make a significant capital outlay to purchase expensive fixed snow removal equipment. This concern is magnified further because such equipment is immobile and would only be needed during the winter. The largest group of truckers in this country does not return to a fixed facility at the end of their run. They are the over the road truckers. In the interests of safety, during snow storms, they get off the road and park in rest areas, truck stops or more remote areas. Being outdoors in storms virtually guarantees that those trucks would accumulate snow or ice but fixed facilities would not be accessible to them.
It is possible that the best solution to the problem of snow and ice accumulation lies in the design of the vehicle itself. Automotive engineers are surely capable of meeting the challenge of designing and incorporating appropriate technologies into the safety equipment on individual vehicles.
To this end, the trucking industry remains engaged with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking that they work collectively, as well as with the trucking industry and other affected interests, to determine the scope of the problem and then to develop the most practical, effective, and economically viable approaches to address it.
The trucking industry understands and accepts its leadership role to work with all interested parties to promote and actively pursue ways to make our roads as safe as they can possibly be. We look forward to working on solutions to achieve this goal.