Christine’s Law, the name for new ice and snow removal legislation, was signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on July 11. The law requires drivers to remove ice and snow from the tops of trucks and trailers. It also places fines for bodily harm caused by dislodged debris. And it gives law enforcement officers discretion to pull a truck over for suspicion of having too much ice or snow on a roof.
The story behind Catherine’s Law
Senator Lisa Boscola sponsored the legislation to help prevent tragedies like the one that befell Christine Lambert of Palmer Township, Pennsylvania, on Christmas Day 2005. She died when a large piece of ice dislodged from a passing box truck and crashed through her windshield.
For more than 13 years, her husband, son, and Sen. Boscola fought to pass a bill that would require all motorists to remove snow and ice from their vehicle within 24 hours after a storm. Every year, Sen. Boscola would sponsor the bill, either for it to die on the shelf, or get passed by the Senate but die in the House.
But this time, it was passed by both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature. After passing a unanimous consensus vote, a new, more proactive version of the snow and ice law already on the books was given teeth.
What are drivers responsible for?
Drivers now have 24 hours after snowfall or icing to remove it from the cabs of their trucks and trailers. The bill also sets a $50 fine per offense, and a fine of $200 to $1,500 per offense when snow or ice falls from a moving vehicle and hits another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious injury.
There are some exemptions, as always. To quote the bill directly:
“(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply if: (i) the driver of the motor carrier vehicle, mass transit vehicle, bus or school bus is en route to a facility to remove accumulated ice or snow at the time of the stop under paragraph (3); or (ii) compliance with this section would cause the driver of the motor carrier vehicle, mass transit vehicle, bus or school bus to violate any other Federal or State law or regulation regarding workplace safety or would be a threat to the health and safety of the driver.”Senate Bill 114, now known as Act 90 of 2022
Subsection (i) is the hard one, as most places of business do not have snow removal. And even if they do, for insurance reasons, do not let outside carriers use the equipment.
Truckers can buy a specially made shovel to reach the tops of trailers. “Big rig snow shovels”, such like the one at this link, go for about $150 at this time (the middle of July). I’d expect a jump in price pretty soon now that it’s a legal requirement.
Subsection (ii) though, now there’s some wiggle room for truckers. I know were a lot of regulations are that might be used to keep someone from falling off trailer tops.
The one time OSHA might prove useful
There’s an absolutely infamous division that lies inside of the United States Department of Labor. It is so dreaded that they demand absolute fealty if they appear at your workplace. This agency has the power and authority to shut a business down and fine astronomical amounts. The agency is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA.
So how does OSHA play into the snow and ice removal game? There are a number of regulations the agency has on its books. Part 1910 requires safety equipment such as fall protection harnesses when working over a certain height. According to this publication, four feet is the minimum height where general activities require fall protection. There are other limits for other occupations, but that should cover truckers.
What about if I’m asked or ordered to climb to the top of a trailer? Well OSHA’s ladder regulations can be found inside Part 1926.1053. Make sure the ladder used is marked for its capacity limit. Lightweight aluminum ladders buckle quite easily under heavy loads. Get a good, properly built ladder for your weight. But where to stow the darn thing???
In closing, the age of not worrying about the ice and snow as we drive, creating the massive snow storms as we run full speed is over in Pennsylvania. Some proactive preparations need to start now as the law takes effect in September. Prices of safety and snow removal equipment will be on the rise very soon.