A revised version of a bill in Colorado that would boost
fines for truck drivers who fail to chain up during bad weather is moving
forward in the state's House. The state also allotted $2.5 million to build and
expand new Interstate 70 chain-up spots.
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 points added to their commercial driver's
license for the offense.
The House Transportation Committee unanimously approved a
bill offered by Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, to increase the base fine to
$500. The fine would double to $1,000 if trucks not in compliance block
Revenue generated would be earmarked for the state's Highway
Users Tax Fund for future safety projects.
Supporters say the steeper penalties are needed because
truck drivers and their companies simply write off the current fine as "the
cost of doing business." They say the need to address the issue is highlighted
because portions of Interstate 70 closed 15 times in Colorado this winter due
to chainless trucks.
Owner-operator and OOIDA Board Member Jim Mathews of
Greeley, CO, said it's inaccurate to depict truckers as dismissive of fines.
"We're all out here trying to make a living. Somehow the
rumor spread we make lots of money." Mathews told Land Line.
Gibbs' previous attempt was sidelined last month by the same
committee amid concerns that the bill proposed to add four points onto
violators' commercial driver's licenses if they blocked traffic.
Lawmakers and truckers 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 original 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
Mathews said it all makes for a dangerous situation.
"You're right next to traffic trying to chain up. Then you
have cars come along and throw slush on you. It makes for miserable
conditions," he said.
To help alleviate some of the problem, the Colorado
Transportation Commission pledged nearly $2.5 million to improve chain-up sites
and signage to reduce speed near the pull-offs.
Commission officials said they plan to build six new
chain-up stations. They also want to increase spaces on westbound I-70 from 56
to 116 and on the eastbound side from 170 to 216, the Daily News reported.
A provision added to the bill also would allow vendors to
rent or sell chains on both sides of the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Mathews said it should never come to the point that vendors
are needed to offer chains during bad weather. "It should be the company's
responsibility if they're running in snow country to have them," he said.
The bill - HB1229 - has been forwarded to the House
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor