Vermont could increase fines tenfold for truckers on Smugglers' Notch

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Friday, May 27, 2016

Despite plenty of signage, tractor-trailers are getting stuck on a particular stretch of Vermont Route 108 with tricky turns. In response, lawmakers are close to passing a bill that would increase fines for truckers nearly tenfold.

Courtesy of Vermont Agency of Transportation

Tractor-trailer gets stuck on Route 108 in Smugglers’ Notch.

Bill H876, passed by both the state House and Senate, further establishes a ban on tractor-trailers on the Smugglers’ Notch segment of Vermont Route 108. Truckers who ignore signage can face fines of $1,000 and up to $2,000 if the tractor-trailer causes major delays. Currently, the fine is $162.

Vermont Route 108 on the Jeffersonville side is situated between two ski areas with a state park in between. According to Col. Jake Elovirta, director of Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles’ Enforcement and Safety Division, a boulder field with “tight geometry” sits at the top of the corridor. The layout makes it impossible for large trucks to angle around.

“It seems like no matter how much education we try to do or reach out or signage, we’re having an issue specific to tractor-trailers,” Col. Elovirta said.

And the signage is certainly there, according to Col. Elovirta. When asked if more signage is needed, Col. Elovirta said he is not exactly sure what to do since there is plenty of signage warning truckers.

Courtesy of Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles

Sign along Vermont Route 180.

So why do truckers keep getting stuck on Vermont Route 108? Electronic distraction is Col. Elovirta’s theory.

Elovirta said drivers are relying too much on GPS devices, and some truckers are using passenger vehicle programs rather than GPS systems designed for commercial trucks.

Problems arising from stuck trucks can be more than just an inconvenience. According to Elovirta, one truck hauling sand for a golf course got stuck after passing three regulatory signs and one yellow sign indicating trucks are not allowed on the road. Excavators were called to the scene to unload the truck and two axles needed to be cut off the trailer to back it up.

Traffic delays from stuck tractor-trailers can be hours-long. Detours around the corridor can add an extra 35-45 minutes, according to Elovirta. Additionally, such incidents tie up resources, including law enforcement, Vermont Agency of Transportation and wrecker services.

Incidents of trucks getting wedged between turns are not exactly rare. Since 2009, as many as 10 incidents have occurred in a one-year period. The latest stuck tractor-trailer happened as recently as Thursday, May 26.

 

 

“Frustration from our part, frustration from the legislator,” Elovirta said. “You got to do something more and the feeling was we need to increase the fines.”

If the governor signs the bill, the new fines will go into effect in July. In addition to fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, if a trucker gets a second citation within a two-year period, the fines will double.

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