Despite the fact that summer is approaching, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has signed a bill into law intended to make a difference when winter precipitation starts to wreak havoc in the state.
The fines for truck drivers who fail to chain up during bad weather are increasing. In return, the state will allot nearly $2.5 million to build and expand new Interstate 70 chain-up spots.
Until now, Colorado law has called for truckers to be fined $100 for failure to put on snow chains. If an unchained truck blocked highway, the fine jumped to $500. Drivers did not have points added to their commercial driver’s license for the offense.
The new law, previously HB1229, increases the base fine to $500. The fine doubles to $1,000 if trucks not in compliance block traffic. The higher fines go into effect in August.
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 were closed 15 times in Colorado this winter due to chainless trucks.
Owner-operator and OOIDA Life 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.
While the bill was working its way through the statehouse, lawmakers and truckers shared their concern that 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.
To help alleviate some of the problem, the Colorado Transportation Commission pledged $2.475 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.
That work is scheduled to begin this summer.
The bill also allows 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.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor