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Winter Presents Legal Issues

An United States attorney writing in a Canadian blog about winter driving? Presumptuous? Ironic? Unqualified? That would be like a New York lawyer running the NHL? (OK, bad example).

My intent is not to write about dealing with winter conditions that confront your drivers on the highways. Instead, it is about several legal issues that, while in place year-round, that become problematic this time of year.

First is trailer snow and ice. One of the realities of our industry in these latitudes is that ice and snow will accumulate on trailers.

Tragic accidents have resulted from these accumulations. State laws have resulted from these regrettable events.

However, the legal mandates of these laws exceed the realities of our capabilities. The requirements derive from the modern misconception that if we can put a man on the moon, there is a technological answer to anything.

In truth, there is no technological or practical solution to the deal with snow and ice on trailers.

The driver parked by the side of the road to comply with hours-of-service limitations who is caught in a snow storm is left miles from any means of removing the accumulation. The potential for injuries by requiring on-site cleaning by the drivers militates against even attempting such an effort.

While being in the terminal can make it easier, and safer, to clean the roof, there are still limitations. Scrapers and cleaners can do some removal. However, while snow can be removed, ice stays on…until about 3 p.m. when the heat of the sun creates a film of water between the ice and the roof and…

So what is the answer? ATRI, the American Trucking Research Institute studied the issue, explored the solutions, and concluded that there is no effective, safe, and practical solution. You may request a copy of the study from ATRI at

So where does that leave you? Legal mandates without practical solutions. The answer is to do all you can within the limits of safety and practicality. Where available, use scrapers or other safe clearing methods.

Second is idling. While an issue in the heat of summer, the winter cold gives presents a more pressing issue. Driver safety requires a means of cab heating in the coldest of times. Many have addressed this with the use of APU’s.

Environmental concerns have spawned legal limits to the time and manner of idling. Fuel prices have created practical incentives for doing so.

However, idling still remains an issue and concern for many companies. While there is not national standard in the States, states and municipalities have set their own standards and imposed punishment for violations.

ATRI provides a compendium of the idling restrictions at That website also provides a cabcard that be downloaded and printed.

Winter presents significant challenges for safety. The legal limits provide yet another challenge that must be anticipated and addressed.

Doug Marcello

Doug Marcello

Doug Marcello is a transportation attorney who has earned his CDL. His law practices focuses upon serving the trucking industry. Based in Central Pennsylvania, he has represented trucking companies in cases throughout the US, having been specially admitted in 35 states. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and driver safety meetings. He has also written numerous articles concerning issues confronting the industry and has produced several DVDs relating to accident response and aggressive defense of claims.
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4 Comments » for Winter Presents Legal Issues
  1. Ray Haight says:

    Great information, thanks Doug!

  2. Bev Plummer says:

    Doug: Good info. I’m retired now but put in 30 years long hauling in U.S & Canada and the old saying still stands. “The more things change the more they stay the same” ,,,Maybe some kind of heating system could be integrated into trailer roofs that could be run as needed , ,you know sooner or later that’s gonna happen after all there’s not too much more that can be added to trucks.
    Bev Plummer

  3. Michael Gower says:

    Once the trailer has left the terminal the vast majority of carriers don’t give a rat’s rear end what the driver has to do or how he does it as far as snow and ice removal is concerned. They won’t pay him for his time nor will they reimburse him any out of pocket expences he incurs so how does the industry in general expect drivers to be compliant?

  4. Rod Prosser says:

    Thanks for your informative article.
    I’m a regional tanker driver in eastern Ontario so I’ve seen my share of winter roof shrapnel on the 401 and 416.Here’ my thoughts on the subject.
    How about winter educational campaigns on tv and radio warning 4 wheelers of the danger of trailer roofs shedding snow and ice.
    Maybe the grand poobahs at Queens Park can spend our tax dollars on efforts that actually save lives rather than lining there own pockets and promoting disingenuous energy policies that drain the treasurey.


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