Ice, snow and mudslides have northwestern states sounding an alarm for truckers traveling through those states during winter months. Best advice: if you're going there, call ahead to check road conditions.
Here's a brief chain law update and a handy round up of phone numbers and websites.
Effective Nov. 1 through April 29, the law in Oregon requires all commercial vehicles to chain up when the appropriate signs are posted along the highway or you'll be shut down. The DOT won't fine, but the Oregon state police will and so will the scalemasters. In Oregon, you can call the road condition hotline at (800) 977-6368. Out of state, call (503) 588-2941. It's a rather involved menu, but be patient. Know your milemarkers. Best advice: call the POEs and scales. Here's some handy numbers:
Ashland POE - (541) 776-6117
Farewell Bend POE - (541) 869-2293
Umatilla POE - (541) 922-3761
Klamath Falls POE - (541) 883-5696
Woodburn POE - (503) 982-0800
Scales at Cascade Locks - (541) 374-8078
The state of Washington requires chains to be carried by CMVs from Nov. 1 to April 1 on certain routes. Big trucks must carry a minimum of two extra chains during this time frame. If you're inside the state, WA offers this hotline number: (800) 695-7623. If you're calling from outside the state, the state police maintains a road conditions advisory at (360) 690-7100. The DOT also offers a good site for truckers online. Go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/traveler.htm.
Wyoming doesn't impose a time frame on its chain laws. In this state, the superintendent or his authorized representative determines when conditions warrant chains. According to the Wyoming DOT, whether or not to carry chains depends upon the weather conditions. Commercial vehicles must chain up at least one axle. WYDOT has a road conditions hotline with information on all interstates. Inside the state call (888) WYO-ROAD or by cell phone: #ROAD. From outside Wyoming, call (307) 772-0824.
If you haven't run Colorado in winter lately, the state implemented a two-level chain law in 1996 basically requiring single drive axle tractors chain up at level one or "Code 17" (some snow on road) and level two or "Code 18" (traveled portion covered), all CMVs chain up. Failure to comply with this law will result in fines ranging from $100 to $560. When Colorado enacts a "Code 18," it designates the most severe travel conditions. During Code 18 weather, all trucks will be restricted from travel unless equipped with chains or approved ATDs (alternate traction devices) on four drive axle tires. Auto transporters must comply to the maximum extent of the law without causing damage to hydraulic lines.
Call ahead for road conditions and chain up info - (303) 639-1111. Best advice: Colorado state police advise truckers know where to chain up along the I-70 corridor. Here's a list of those designated areas:
MM 178 - Vail golf course
MM 182.6 - Vail
MM 183.8 - Vail
MM 186.2 - Vail pass approach
MM 203 - Frisco Scenic overlook
MM 205.5 - Silverthorn
MM 210.8 - below Eisenhower tunnel
MM 228 - Georgetown
MM 221 - Bakerville
MM 218.5 - Herman Gulch interchange
MM 195 - Copper Mountain overlook
Montana has chain laws in effect all year ‘round. While big rigs must carry chains at all times, rule infractions are handed out mostly during winter months. Signs are posted along every highway designating areas in which to stop and chain up. MT's rules call for one chain to cover one tire on one side of each drive axle. The Department of Justice monitors snow conditions in MT.
Best advice: call ahead for road conditions. The MT hotline number is (800) 226-ROAD and it's good inside or outside the state. From inside the state, you can also call (406) 444-0468 for up-to-date statewide info.
If you are online, their Internet site has detailed information on road conditions plus links to other states. The URL is http://www.mdt. mt.gov. DOT officials say the state is in the process of installing cameras in areas that are most dangerous to travelers in winter months. Via these cameras, you'll be able to access pictures of these areas via your computer before making travel plans and take a "look see" for yourself.
Nevada chain laws basically call for one chain on the drive axle, one on the steer axle and one on a trailer axle, but may be more depending on configuration. The state has large new flashing signs that will tell you if chains are required. The chain up areas are at the base of each major summit, including Golconda, Emigrant and Pequop on I-80. There is still no chain up area at the bottom of Donner Pass. The highway patrol calls it a major mess (with cars stopping in the middle of the highway to chain up).
Call ahead to (775) 793-1313 for recorded update on road conditions statewide. The number's good inside or outside the state. Radio station 530 AM in Reno also carries information. Nevada DOT's website iswww.nevadadot.com. It features a special trucker info section with links to other nearby states.
Special note: Nevada has a spring thaw law that now doubles the fines imposed for violating the legal weight limit during the "frost-thaw" period. Trucks using certain routes are subject to legal axle and tandem axle weight limits effective Feb. 1, 1999 through April 30, 1999. For a list of route restrictions and detailed maps, go to the above mentioned DOT website. LL
Other state weather/road condition resources
Idaho has no specific chain laws, but if you're going to be traveling there, it's a good idea to know how to access road conditions. State wide conditions are available at (208) 336-6600 and the number is good inside or outside the state. This recording is updated at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and the Idaho Motor Carrier Department pays attention to fog as well as ice and snow.
Utah has no chain-up laws. Their hotline number for road conditions within Salt Lake City metropolitan areas is (801) 964-6000. If you are outside the state, the toll-free number is (800) 492-2400.
Michigan has no chain law ordinances. In fact, it's illegal for big rigs to use chains in Michigan. According to MDOT, trucks with chains do too much damage to the state's roads.
The National Weather Service hotline (inside or outside the state) for weather/road conditions is (517) 321-7576. Michigan Intelligence Transportation System provides amazing up-to-date information on travel/weather conditions on the MDOT website. By accessing www.mdot.state.mi.us/mits/mi.html - you can check out weather and constantly updated accident reports with a few clicks.
Minnesota boasts some wicked weather during winter months, so here's two numbers you can call. The toll free number from anywhere in the U.S. is (800) 542-0220. They have a neat menu that allows you to simply say "yes" to the area you want to know about. Also, the National Weather Service makes road conditions available 24 hours a day by calling (651) 405-6030, inside or outside MN.
The hotline for weather/road information in California is (800) 427-7623. This menu details information for Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. You must have a touch-tone phone and enter the number of the highway you are traveling to hear the road condition reports. The report is updated several times a day. If you're online, you can access road reports on the Internet at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo.