In a test last year, Henry Thissen’s forced-air machine blows a 13-inch layer of snow off the...

In a test last year, Henry Thissen’s forced-air machine blows a 13-inch layer of snow off the roof of a van.  It’ll also remove ice, its maker says.  Screen capture from Arctic Air video

You never know, but the long winter of 2017-18 finally seems to have ended, and snow and ice are now in the past. But they’re also in the not-too-distant future, and the problem of accumulation on the roofs of large trucks and trailers will also return.

Henry “Skip” Thissen, whom I wrote about four and a half years ago because he was working on a snow removal system, has been back in touch because he says he has perfected his device. He also has a new argument as to why truck stops, terminals, distribution centers and other facilities should be installing snow removal equipment on their properties.

Thissen, of Shippensburg, Penn., was a truck driver for 45 years before recently retiring.  He believes laws that require property owners to control rain-water runoff should also apply to snow because, after all, it’s frozen rain. He’s been talking to his representative in the state legislature and the lawmaker agrees. Something could come of that.

“The owners have to use retention ponds and injection wells to keep water from leaving their properties, so I figured, why should snow be different?” Thissen says. “And that includes snow that’s laying on trailers and trucks.”

As we’ve noted in previous stories – and has been reported on local TV newscasts – clouds of snow and sheets of ice blowing off the roofs of van trailers often hit other trucks and cars and sometimes damages following cars and causes drivers to crash. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that illustrate this. Thissen says other trailer and truck configurations are also affected, as are school buses and motor coaches.

“I think these places should have snow- and ice-removal devices that will clean off vehicles before they leave the properties,” he says. “Not just my device, but other products that are also available.”

He also thinks extra snow and ice is blown onto roadways from trucks and buses requires extra plowing and spreading of deicing chemicals. And he cites this Smithsonian magazine article as proof that road salts also cause environmental problems. 

Thissen calls his device Arctic Air because it operates in cold weather and uses compressed air to blow snow and ice off vehicles. He and associates had to experiment to perfect it.

“We weren’t getting enough velocity and volume so we tried several different types of blowers,” he says. “We finally found that a 10,000 CFM (cubic-feet-per-minute) blower produced a volume of air at 166 cubic feet of air a second and air speed over 220 mph. That did the trick.

Inside the machine’s housing is a 10,000 CFM blower that rams air through overhead nozzles. It...

Inside the machine’s housing is a 10,000 CFM blower that rams air through overhead nozzles. It can be electric- or diesel-powered, and stationary or movable. The gantry structure is no longer used. Photo: Henry Thissen

“A video taken in March of 2016 shows over a foot of snow being blown off of the trailer roof… The air alone does the trick.” It also removes ice.

“The air gets under the ice and flips it up and away from the roof. The speed of the air and the volume of air causes the aluminum roof to ripple with the air speed and actually helps free it from adhering to the roof.”

Thissen offers electric- and diesel-powered versions of his Arctic Air device, priced from $15,000 to $30,000 each. They can be mounted permanently, like near exit gates, or mounted on wheels to move around and be stowed elsewhere in warmer months. There are various ways owners could recoup their investments, which he would happily explain to anyone interested.   Information on the products are on his website along with the video, which I just watched again. Brrr! I’m keeping my winter gear close at hand.

Related: Preparation the Key to Handling Winter Weather

About the author
Tom Berg

Tom Berg

Former Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978.

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