Trucking Group Calls For Investigation Of “Reckless” NH Police After Controversial Tweet
Concord, New Hampshire – A tweet by the New Hampshire State Police (NHSP) on Monday seeming to boast about requiring truck drivers to climb on top of their rigs and clean snow from their roofs has many truckers fuming.
In an effort to remind New Hampshire motorists and truck drivers traveling in the state to remove the snow from the tops of their vehicles, the NHSP tweeted a photo of a man standing on top of a tractor-trailer sweeping snow. The tweet quickly made its way into the trucking community and set off a firestorm of criticism on social media.
— NHSP (@NH_StatePolice) March 4, 2019
The tweet references a Negligent Driving law passed in 2001 and commonly referred to as Jessica’s law. Jessica Smith was 20 years of age when an accident took her life in 1999. Jessica was killed after ice flew off the top of a tractor-trailer and hit a state plow truck which then struck Jessica’s car in a head-on collision.
A violation of Jessica’s Law can result in a fine of $250 to $500 for a first offense, and $500 to $1,000 for a second and subsequent offenses. The statewide enforcement blitz on Monday yielded at least 14 warnings to drivers of cars and trucks, and 13 summons, including eight issued to trucks, according to Sgt. Bill Burke, assistant commander of NHSP Troop G in Concord, N.H.
In an interview with Land Line Burke said, “We look at it as more of a liability thing. That’s why we have them clean it off.”
Notably, the law does not specifically require drivers to remove snow and ice before vehicles can operate; however, Sgt. Burke said officers were requiring such action to be taken. Burke said officers do not require the driver to remove the snow and ice, but that it must be removed.
He told the trucking media outlet that police will work with truck drivers to help them with removal or provide contact information to local towing companies who can assist.
“We don’t want someone up there, falling off the trailer and getting hurt,” Burke told Land Line. “How they (the driver or company) do it, that’s up to them. We want everybody to be safe, and we’ve had several instances where chunks of ice have come off vehicles, hit other vehicles and caused severe accidents. That’s why we enforce this so much.”
Trucking Group Demands Investigation
In response to the New Hampshire State Police’s tweet, one trucking group is calling for action. The 15,000-member Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) is demanding an investigation and an immediate end to these protocols.
In a letter signed by James Lamb, president of the SBTC, addressed to the U.S. Dept. of Justice Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, the group requested a ‘Pattern and Practices’ Investigation of NHSP.
Calling the actions of NHSP officers “reckless” by “forcing truck drivers to climb up on top of their trucks to remove snow,” Lamb contends such a policy “endangers the lives of truckers and jeopardizes their personal safety.”
Further, Lamb writes, “It is our position that any law which requires the operator of a commercial motor vehicle to endanger himself in order to comply more than the operator of private passenger vehicles is unconstitutional and may not be lawfully enforced as it denies him Equal Protection of the Law under the 14th Amendment.”
The types of issues which may initiate a pattern and practice investigation include: Lack of supervision/monitoring of officers’ actions; and Lack of, or improper training of, officers.
Lamb told Transportation Nation Network (TNN), “The NHSP –and all law enforcement agencies –have a responsibility under Federal Law to reel in overzealous, rogue police officers that do not use common sense to reconcile public safety against driver safety. One might view this unlawful practice as throwing out the baby with the bath water.”
Lamb said to TNN that Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers in states where snow is an issue should be equipped with the proper tools to remove the snow and ice safely from trucks without endangering truck drivers.
Further, he commented, “Rather than endanger truck drivers under threat of fine or arrest, NHPS would better serve the public by following the ‘community-oriented’ approach to policing, in which the police and the community, including members of the trucking industry, work together to act as problem-solvers to avoid future incidents such as these unlawful detainments.”
Lamb also said he has forwarded the complaint to U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Ray Martinez.
Additionally, Lamb offered a potential solution to such issues in the future. “USDOT might consider issuing specs for truck manufacturers to include roof defrosters so that snow does not accumulate and become a hazard in the first place,” he said to TNN.
“Promotion of such ideas are the perfect example of how private and public sectors can partner to address problems, rather than government following a hit-them-over-the head, Neanderthal approach,” he expounded.
You can read SBTC’s entire letter HERE.
TNN will continue to follow the developments in this story.