Stiffer fines for chain law violations rekindled in Colorado

| 3/14/2007

A Colorado state lawmaker is renewing his effort to boost fines for truck drivers who fail to chain up during bad weather. Lawmakers cited a lack of safe places for truckers to pull over as one reason for not advancing the previous effort.

Existing Colorado law fines truckers $100 for failure to put on snow chains. If an unchained truck results in a blocked highway the fine jumps to $500. Drivers don't have pointes added to their commercial driver's license for the offense.

Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, said he plans to reintroduce a new chain law bill Thursday, March 15, that would increase the base fine to $500. The fine would double to $1,000 if trucks not in compliance blocked a highway.

Supporters say the steeper penalties are needed because truckers and their companies simply write off the current fine as "the cost of doing business." They said the need to address the issue is highlighted because portions of Interstate 70 had to be closed 15 times in Colorado this winter because of chainless trucks.

Gibbs' previous attempt was sidelined last month in the House Transportation and Energy Committee. Among the concerns cited by lawmakers was that the bill proposed to add four points to violators commercial driver's licenses if they blocked traffic.

Lawmakers also were concerned there is a lack of adequate space on roadways for drivers to install chains. In addition, too few designated chain-up sites along routes was cited as a problem for truckers.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ron Prater said during a hearing on the bill that he has noticed the state's designated chain areas can't always handle the truck traffic that uses the I-70 corridor. He said the shortage of spots along the corridor is so bad that it's not uncommon to see truck drivers pulled off anywhere along the route to put on or take off their chains, the Summit Daily News reported.

Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, said it is unfair to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of truckers.

"It seems to me like this is everybody's problem," Primavera told the Daily News. "To try and say it's just the truckers' problem, it's hard for me to do at this point in time."

To help alleviate some of the problem, CDOT initially pledged $1.2 million to improve chain-up sites and signage to reduce speed near the pull-offs. Agency officials recently said they would try to boost that figure to as much as $2.5 million, the Vail Daily News reported.

Gibbs said he is hopeful the state spending will make his proposal more palatable to lawmakers. He is expected to add a provision to the bill that would allow vendors to rent or sell chains on both sides of the Eisenhower Tunnel.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor