Every driver is posed with a dilemma when picking up a snow-covered trailer or straight truck. How much snow or ice is on the roof? Is it going to be a hazard if it blows off. Will I get a ticket if some cop sees a flume of snow trailing me down the highway? What should I do about it, and what can I do about it?
There’s common sense and common sense, An inch or two of snow is not too serious, especially if it’s that light fluffy kind. But too much more than that makes everyone nervous. And ice is even more problematic. Of the few snow clearing machine savailable for the trucking industry, none of them, as far as I know, claims to be able to clean ice off the roof. Their ads or websites usually don’t mention it. The only way to do so is to be like UPS–put them through the wash bay before they go out on the road. UPS (I’m talking about the facility in Donwsview in Toronto at Steeles and Jane) also has a nifty spring-loaded cleaning bar available before drivers leave the yard. But they have the advantage that all their trailers are the same height, as are the fifth wheels on the tractors. But this is usually not the case across the industry.
From the driver’s perspective, it’s hard to tell what ‘s up there when standing on the ground. Only a couple of companies that I know of actually supply a level, adjacent cleaning pad. The idea is that you pull up next to a platform, put on a harness and clean off the trailer with chippers and shovels or whatever. But most companies are not this diligent or extreme.
Some trucking companies have bought snow clearing devices, usually a mechanical device that involves a stationary clearing bar at trailer height, shaped like a plow blade or guillotine. Some machines, like the Yeti, also have an electronic component to set the height of the bar, and include giant spinning scrubbers to sweep off the encrusted snow. The various machines are varied in their effectiveness, but again, none of them will necessarily clear a layer of ice, which is the biggest concern. Some of them do very little and are not worth them money. And if they are effective, you need someone on the ground with a Bobcat to remove the accumulating mess of snow.
And cleaning machines won’t be any help to you if you’re picking up a trailer in a remote location where it’s been dropped over the weekend. Whose snow is it anyway? You could mention it to the shipper and he might give you a shovel. More than likely they’ll be nobody around and if there is they won’t care. And what about on the road? I’ve switched with a Montreal driver who left me with a unit that had a glacier-like shelf of ice sticking off the side of the roof, (thankfully it was still there when I got to Toronto). There are companies that specialize in clearing trailer roofs, but is that the answer? You might have to wait hours and it can’t be cheap.
So the problem with roof snow isn’t going away. We fool ourselves in Southern Ontario when we have a mild winter like last year. But winter is back and so is the snow. I’d like to ask the readers, when is it OK to refuse a load because of ice or snow on the roof. Who you gonna call?
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs