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April 8, 2008 10:30 AM, EDT

Study Aims to Find Best Ways to Remove Snow From Trucks

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the April 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The American Transportation Research Institute has initiated a study of the costs and benefits of removing snow and ice from the tops of tractor-trailers.

“We have started researching the topic in a number of different areas,” ATRI Vice President Dan Murray told Transport Topics. “Our hope is that within three months we’ll have some clear direction in terms of whether the issue is policy and training, or the issue is snow and ice removal, or the issues are something more long-term in terms of vehicle design recommendations.”

Those recommendations, Murray said, would be aimed at finding the most cost-effective and easily deployable methods of clearing snow and ice from the top of trucks.

The issue of snow and ice causing accidents when falling from the roofs of trucks has risen to prominence in Connecticut, where three separate bills have been introduced, said Mike Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.

“Legislators see this as an important issue,” he said.
Because of that interest, Riley said the industry needed to start putting forward its own solutions.

“I think it is extremely important that we be serious about this and that it’s a problem that we have to solve as an industry,” he said. “If you do a Google search for ice falling off trucks you get 150,000 hits . . . Our reputation as an industry is sullied every time a giant sheet of ice falls off of a trailer. We have an obligation and a responsibility to solve this problem.”

Gov. Jodi Rell (R) put forward one of the proposals in Connecticut, Riley said. The plan would levy a $200 to $1,000 fine on “anyone who had ice or snow blow off their vehicle and it caused damage or harm to anyone or any property.”

Rell has likened snow and ice blowing off trucks to “ice missiles.”

Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations and a former governor of Kansas, wrote Rell informing her he had requested the ATRI study.

That study, Murray said, would look at different devices to clear snow from the roofs of trucks, though not many currently are commercially available.

“There’s maybe one to two systems in the entire country to address this,” he said, so ATRI would be going to individual carriers to examine devices they “have designed and built or jury-rigged.”

The equipment ATRI has found ranges from the very simple to the highly complex.

“We’re aware of two-by-fours hanging from fuel gantries [and] far more sophisticated devices that calculate the depth of the snow and [would] allow the gantry to be raised and lowered for the amount of the snowfall,” Murray said.

The researchers would then “deconstruct” that equipment, with the hope of producing “different design scenarios or even specs” for other companies to use.

Murray said ATRI also would look at trailer designs and other practices such as de-icing.

Riley said he believed technology or a change in trailer design generated by the industry could best solve the issue, rather than legislation or regulation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.