Snow blows off the roof of this semi (a container, actually), which can be dangerous and is illegal in some states. Screen capture from YouTube

Snow blows off the roof of this semi (a container, actually), which can be dangerous and is illegal in some states. Screen capture from YouTube

How’s the weather by you? Here in the Midwest, we’ve had sub-freezing and sub-zero temps, and some snow. I like watching snow fall and even driving in it, as long as there’s nothing else on the road, like a motorist who doesn’t know how to handle it or tractor-trailer with snow blowing off the roof of its van. I don’t have the authority to take corrective action with inept drivers, or to prevent bitter cold, for that matter, but I can add some information about snow on van roofs.

This is a recognized problem in the industry, and it can be dangerous and even deadly. Several northern states have laws requiring snow and ice to be removed from trucks and cars. But decreeing it is easier than doing it.

Yes, there are some devices a motor carrier, truck stop and shipper can buy to brush off snow. Like the Scraper, demonstrated in this YouTube video, they’re mounted on gantries and they cost considerable money to erect and operate. And, they do no good to the driver whose snow-covered rig is nowhere near one.

But what if a driver could carry a snow-removal tool with him?

In early 2014, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Cincinnati gave a lot of thought to this situation and came up with a solution: a “truck trailer scraper.” It was the conclusion to his thesis in which he described the problem, discussed solutions like those commercial products, did a bunch of mathematical calculations on stresses and snow weight, and concluded there was an easy and cheap way to solve it.

Truck Trailer Scraper begins with a blade and handle assembly that resembles a roof rake. Photo: Mazen Shteiwi

Truck Trailer Scraper begins with a blade and handle assembly that resembles a roof rake. Photo: Mazen Shteiwi 

Mazen Shteiwi calls his tool the “truck trailer scraper.” Although he doesn’t say so, it looks like a modified roof rake – basically a shovel-like blade with a long handle that lets you pull snow off your house’s roof and onto the ground, or into your face if you don’t step out of the way of the cascading cold clumps. I’ve got one and it works – at least on a sloping roof that I can reach from my sidewalk. The flat roof on a tall trailer is another matter.

Shteiwi’s gizmo includes the blade and adds angled handle sections that curve downward when snapped together. When assembled, the handle and blade can be manipulated by a guy standing next to a trailer, who then pulls most of the snow off a roof, a strip at a time. It might be tricky in a brisk wind, and clumsy unless the guy pulls the device in a straight line.

Heavy, wet snow would be difficult to pull off, and the blade would barely scratch ice – which is dangerous to anyone or anything it hits when it breaks loose. The answer is to remove lighter snow before it melts and refreezes into ice, which a driver might be inclined to do if he has something at hand. The scraper’s handle sections come apart, and the tool could then be bundled and stowed behind the cab or sleeper.

Garden mulch substitutes for snow in this dry-weather demonstration of the long-hhandled scraper. It seems to work. Photo: Mazen Shteiwi

Garden mulch substitutes for snow in this dry-weather demonstration of the long-hhandled scraper. It seems to work. Photo: Mazen Shteiwi

Grab it, snap the sections together, and it's ready to go. Shteiwi tested it in dry weather using garden mulch as a snow substitute. It seems to do the trick.

And guess what – you can buy something similar. I don’t know if the student’s scraper was the inspiration for the Big Rig Rake, but it’s available for about $160 from Avalanche Inc. Two wheels on the blade’s bottom protect a trailer’s roof material, its maker says. It has four 4-foot fiberglass handle sections that snap together, and when broken down, everything stows in a carry bag.

Thanks to John Mencl, of the Mencl Law Firm in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for sending Shteiwi’s paper to us. And, as pretty as snow is to my eyes, may Spring come early this year.

Author

Tom Berg
Tom Berg

Tom Berg

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational trucks and trailers of all types.

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Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational trucks and trailers of all types.

View Bio
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