DOT asks truckers using Eisenhower tunnel to remove snow from trailers

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Friday, February 07, 2014

Truckers who use the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70 in Colorado may be told to clear snow and ice off their trucks before they can go through.

OOIDA Member Dalton O’Reilly said that’s what happened to him last week.

O’Reilly, an owner-operator from Spokane, Wash., was eastbound trying to enter the tunnel, when a Colorado Department of Transportation employee diverted him off the road at the mouth of the tunnel.

“When I first got up to the tunnel, I saw this guy lying on his belly and it looked like he was making snow angels on his trailer,” O’Reilly told Land Line Now in a phone interview Thursday. “He’s just got snow flying off both sides. I get up there, and the guy’s telling me I’m over-height and got to pull it in.”
 
He said the DOT employee informed him that a layer of ice and snow on the top of his trailer was too tall to clear the tunnel, and would have to be removed before he could proceed.

“The guy comes over and informs me I have to get up on top of my trailer and shovel snow off,” he said. “It’s like ‘How are we supposed to do this?’ We don’t have ladders or nothing.”

Using ramps that he normally deploys to unload his equipment, O’Reilly said he was able to get up and remove the ice and snow from the top of his trailer. He said he also loaned the ramps to other truckers who were stranded.

CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said the procedure of stopping truckers who have an overabundance of ice and snow on trailers has been in place for a while. Wilson said the tunnel’s variable message signs are at risk for damage when over-height loads enter the tunnel.

“If you have a situation like what we’ve gone through recently where you have an Artic freeze and solidified ice, that can be so strong that it breaks those signs or damages them at the very least,” Wilson said in an interview Thursday with Land Line Now. “Those signs are quite pricey. We can’t have them getting broken.”

Wilson said sensors detect when a truck is over-height, and drivers are given the option to reroute or wait it out, rather than trying to clear the snow off their trailers. The winter storm had forced the closure of Loveland Pass and other alternate routes truckers might use to avoid going through the tunnel.

O’Reilly suggested using a Canadian technique in which the DOT station sets up an array of poles for truckers to drive under and knock the snow off the trailers.

“Somebody’s gonna fall off there and kill themselves,” he said. “We had guys that were climbing onto the top of their trucks and then jumping onto their trailers. If you’ve got ice up there, there’s no way you’d be able to stop.”

“Land Line Now” news anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.

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