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Indecent exposure

OTTAWA, Ont. – A clarification on the use of window film for ultraviolet (UV) light protection will make the road ahead safer for long-haul truck drivers and those who make a living driving for long periods of time. So far, the...


OTTAWA, Ont. – A clarification on the use of window film for ultraviolet (UV) light protection will make the road ahead safer for long-haul truck drivers and those who make a living driving for long periods of time. So far, the clarification extends to US jurisdictions. But Canada’s Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) is reviewing the ruling and will make a determination later this year. This April, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) officially authorized the use of clear window films with a minimum 70% visibility rating installed on the front side windows of commercial vehicles.

“Sadly long-haul drivers have faced skin cancer as one of the hazards of the job and we hope to help change that with this clarification,” said Darrell Smith, executive director of the non-profit International Window Film Association (IWFA), which, with support from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and public safety officials, has been working on obtaining the clarification.

“Whether it is doing more to battle obesity and sleep apnea, or helping our drivers avoid skin cancer, ATA has consistently advocated for sensible regulations to ensure our drivers get and stay healthy,” said Bill Graves, president of the ATA. “We appreciate the efforts of the IWFA to help our industry take another step in that direction.”

At the federal level in Canada, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act regulates the level of window tinting in the manufacturing of new vehicles and requires windshields and windows to have a minimum of 70% light transmittance.

Police officers use their judgement to determine if the amount of window tint obstructs the driver’s view or obstructs the view of an officer looking into the vehicle. For the purpose of annual and semi-annual commercial vehicle safety inspections, commercial vehicles manufactured after July 1, 2011 must comply with National Safety Code Standard 11, Part B.

This standard prohibits aftermarket window tinting on the windshield and windows to the immediate left and right of the driver. There is a 24-month transition period with enforcement of the standard beginning on July 1, 2013, noted Emna Dhahak at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. According to the IWFA, professionally installed window film typically reduces exposure to UV radiation by up to 99%, reduces glare, interior fading and hot spots.

The US FMCSA, in an Oct. 12, 2011 letter to Smith, noted Section 393.60(d) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) “permits the colouring or tinting of windshields and the windows to the immediate right and left of the driver on CMVs, provided that the parallel luminous transmittance through the coloured or tinted glazing is not less than 70% of the light at normal incidence in those portions of the windshield or windows.”

The FMCSA also commented on a statement made by the IWFA that “historically, the enforcement community and the trucking industry have clearly taken the position that no film was allowed on any vehicle operated as a commercial vehicle.”

“Such a position is clearly contrary to the existing regulations and associated guidance. If you are aware of specific instances where compliant window films have been disallowed, we encourage you to contact our Office of Enforcement and Compliance to address any such inconsistencies,” the FMCSA wrote.

The effort to get clarification on the window film issue originated with a call to the IWFA from Ross Auvigne, a truck driver from Langley, B.C.

Auvigne has driven truck for 47 years, and had developed melanoma, a type of skin cancer, on his left arm.

“In 2008 I went and looked for some UV protection. I found a UV covering for the truck window that had a slight tint to it. I got to a weigh scale in Golden, B.C. and they tried to make me take it off. I go to the same scale all the time. I kept telling them I needed the protection. After several warnings, every time I went over the scale they’d give me a ticket,” Auvigne told Truck News. Auvigne explained his situation to B.C.’s Transportation Ministry, and decided to go to court and fight the tickets. Pleading his tickets before a judge, Auvigne was found guilty but his sentences were suspended.

“We’re all out there at the mercy of the sun and the courts are telling us it’s illegal to prevent ourselves from getting skin cancer,” he said.

Ironically, Auvigne said the scalehouse issuing the tickets had UV film protection on its windows.

“You could stand outside the truck and see the colour of my eyes – that’s how light my tint was. But their complaint was (the tint on the truck) would be unsafe in an accident because they wouldn’t be able to get me out of there. If you got in that kind of an accident your windows would be busted in anyway,” he said. IWFA heard about the case when Auvigne requested financial assistance from them.

“We cannot provide assistance for breaking the law. Authorities were sympathetic to why he was doing it but he was still breaking the law. He thought he had to put on some other level of protection like glare control,” said Smith of Auvigne’s tinted windows. “One of the things IWLA is very adamant about is if we want to be a credible source of information we have to make sure that people are aware of what window film will and will not do. Glare reduction and solar heat reduction are separate aspects from UV protection.”

Just how dangerous is UV exposure through the windows of an automobile or truck? In an April 2012 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Jennifer R.S. Gordon wrote that ultraviolet A (UVA) rays transmit through window glass, penetrating the top layers of the skin.

Gordon treated truck driver Bill McElligott for a condition called unilateral dermatoheliosis: one side of his face was affected by the sun, the other wasn’t. Gordon did not respond to Truck News’ request for an interview, but her article said: “The patient reported that he had driven a delivery truck for 28 years. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays transmit through window glass, penetrating the epidermis and upper layers of dermis. Chronic UVA exposure can result in thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum (outermost layer of the epidermis, or skin), as well as destruction of elastic fibers. This photoaging effect of UVA (or damage from prolonged exposure to UV radiation) is contrasted with photocarcinogenesis (development of cancer). Although exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays is linked to a higher rate of photocarcinogenesis, UVA has also been shown to induce substantial DNA mutations and direct toxicity, leading to the formation of skin cancer.”

Can such cancers be linked to professions where there is a lot of driving, for prolonged periods of time? A July 2011 paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that two ultraviolet-linked skin cancers, malignant melanoma (MM) and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) were more likely to show up on the left than the right.

“In all, 53% of arm melanomas, 51% of facial melanomas, and 52% of leg melanomas presented on the left. A total of 55% of arm MCCs and 52% of facial MCCs presented on the left, whereas leg MCCs were equally distributed,” said the study.

While US national registry data did not provide information regarding sun exposure or driving habits, the study concluded that the effect was most prominent on the arm.

“Driver-side automobile ultraviolet exposure (approximately five-fold stronger on the left than right arm) is a likely contributing factor. It may be prudent to remind individuals prone to skin cancer to take appropriate sun precautions when driving in an automobile,” said the study.

Smith told Truck News that prior to the FMCSA ruling he does not believe that the trucking community had a lot of information about UV exposure.

“I think there is a lack of information as well as a lot of misinformation. For example, if it’s a cloudy day you still need to worry about ultraviolet radiation. It has nothing to do with light. The angle of the ultraviolet rays coming through the atmosphere can reach Earth at a higher intensity. Some filters, unless there is UV treating, block sunlight but UV rays still come through.”

By late summer the IWFA will canvass stakeholders on the impact of the FMCSA ruling for them, said Smith.

“We would hope the information is getting out to as many people as possible. Our own membership is starting to advertise the ruling to truck drivers, and travelling salespeople,” he said.

“The compliance and regulatory affairs committee of CCMTA asked us to provide all the information and they thought they could look at it and if they agree they will recommend the adoption of that interpretation in Canada. We’ll then go on an informational campaign to notify the provinces. As soon as we hear from them and once they’ve sent their recommendation to Transport Canada we’ll meet with them to assist them on a PR campaign,” said Smith. CCMTA spokesperson Sylvain Tremblay told Truck News that the issue is now before the periodic motor vehicle inspection group.

“It’s for them to decide and recommend. We hope to be complete with the exercise by the end of year,” he said.

Outfitting a truck properly against UV exposure would cost between US$100-$250, noted Smith, depending on whether you cover the two front side windows, or the two front side windows plus the front windshield, said Smith.

“That would be only clear film for ultraviolet. If they wanted to enhance the safety of the windows even more, there you could put film on it that would block UV and that had a higher level of safety and security performance. That would probably range in at twice as expensive,” he added.

Hats, sunscreen and sprays do provide protection against direct UV rays, “but not reflected UV rays (ie., from the windows of a building, or silver trucks),” said Smith. “The beauty of having a window film is that it’s a passive system. The driver is receiving protecting without having to take any steps. It’s always there.”

As for Auvigne, he said he’s in good health, “but I keep out of the sun. Years ago nobody realized what the sun is doing to us. At one point in time I even had sleeves made for my arm. (As truck drivers), we’re all out there doing the same job and it’s a real big issue for us.”


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