Monday, March 7, 2011

Pendulum shift on snow and ice issue?

A NY-NJ Port police officer ordered this trucker to climb on
top of trailer to clean off snow.
A couple of years ago New Jersey lawmakers essentially said “the heck with truckers” when they approved a mandate for snow and ice to be removed from vehicles. The decision was made despite an outpouring of contempt from the industry.

All along, concern among truckers has been with the fact that there are no facilities available in the state to accommodate such a mandate. Another problem is the practicality of requiring people to climb atop large vehicles, and doing it in less-than-desirable conditions.

Let’s not forget the fact that OSHA says it’s a no-no to require anyone on the job to climb to such heights.

None of that mattered to New Jersey lawmakers back in 2009. As a result, law enforcement in the state started enforcing the mandate last fall.

Since then, truckers have told stories about climbing atop their trailers to clear them off. There are even accounts of truckers being forced by law enforcement to make the climb.

Right now the requirement is isolated to the Garden State. Connecticut is set to join them in 2013 while numerous other states up and down the eastern seaboard are discussing the issue.

Despite the push for New Jersey-style rules, there does appear to be hope that common sense could win out. The surge in discussion about snow removal mandates has shown little support for the efforts.

In Maine, the head of the state’s traffic safety unit told lawmakers during a recent hearing that the rule would create a practical problem for trucks.

Spurred by an OOIDA Call to Action, one Georgia trucker contacted the chairman of the committee that will decide whether a similar rule will see the light of day. Rep. Rich Golick called the bill “a government overreach” and assured the OOIDA member that the bill won’t even be considered.

These views were ignored not too long ago in New Jersey. Lawmakers there didn’t care what those with a “trucking bias” had to say. But views on the issue appear to be shifting.

In recent weeks, one leading New Jersey lawmaker introduced a bill that would apply the brakes to the state’s enforcement of the snow and ice rule. Assembly Transportation Chairman John Wisniewski wants to exempt truck drivers from the mandate until “appropriate removal equipment” is available.

Wisniewski introduced the bill two weeks after a letter from the New Jersey Motor Truck Association reached his desk. The group’s executive director, Gail Toth, explained all of the problems the industry has experienced during the four short months since the rule took effect.

It’s unfortunate it took so long for someone at the New Jersey statehouse to listen to what people in the trucking industry have been saying.

Fortunately, the pendulum appears to be shifting on this issue. Officials appear to better understand that trading one hazard for another hazard isn’t a solution.