A Russian video making its rounds across the internet is a stark reminder to truck drivers just how easily winter weather can impact road safety. The video shows a piece of ice flying off the back of a trailer and shattering the windshield of a car passing by in the other direction. The accident is also a reminder of the importance of cargo control when the weather goes bad.
The video features a car driving along a country road with its dashcam running. Several tractor-trailers pass the car in the opposite lane without incident. But as the car approaches a curve to the left, another tractor-trailer just exiting the curve loses a sheet of ice from its top. The ice flies through the air, strikes the car, and shatters its windshield.
Fortunately, there were no serious injuries as a result of the incident. But there could have been. Had the road itself been ice- or snow-covered, the shock of the ice striking the windshield could have caused the driver to lose control – with deadly consequences.
Ice on Trailers Is a Hazard
All the trucks seen in the video were tractors hauling dry goods vans. And while we expect ice to accumulate on the tops of dry goods vans, ice is also a problem for flatbeds and tankers too. There are lots of places on a trailer prone to ice accumulation.
On a flatbed, the opportunity for ice can be even greater depending on its load. As explained by Ohio-based Mytee Products, a load consisting of irregularly shaped cargo can offer plenty of recesses where water can accumulate and ice form. This is why it is so important for truck drivers to make sure their tarps are pulled down tight with bungee straps or webbing.
The reality is that ice and trailers create a dangerous hazard on the road. Even thin sheets of ice can become deadly weapons at the point of being airborne. And because tractor-trailers run down the highway at 55-65 mph in some cases, even the smallest amount of ice presents a dangerous situation.
Drivers have to be particularly diligent about inspecting every square inch of any trailer they plan to haul. Where there is ice or snow, the necessary steps need to be taken to remove it. Otherwise a truck driver is putting everyone else on the road at risk.
What the Law Says
It is easy to assume that there are laws on the books requiring truck drivers to clear their tractors and trailers of ice and snow. That assumption is only true in some cases. The fact is that motor vehicle law is the domain of the individual states rather than the federal government. And, unfortunately, not every state has addressed the issue of ice forming on trailers.
Connecticut is one example of a state that requires truck drivers to clear their vehicles of all snow and ice. Violators can be fined as much as $1,250 per incident if ice or snow dislodged from a commercial vehicle causes property damage or physical harm to another driver.
On the other side of the coin are Delaware, Idaho, and Illinois, three examples of states that have no laws addressing the snow and ice problem. Truck drivers operating in those states could make no effort to remove accumulate ice and snow without any fear of law enforcement. For right or wrong, it is what it is.
Winter weather is here. That means drivers must be actively diligent about cargo control as well as potential ice and snow accumulation.