Commercial vehicles ignore chain law, strand drivers on I-70: State Patrol

DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado State Patrol said despite extensive warnings from media, roadside signs and local emergency services, some commercial motor vehicle drivers did not follow the state chain law and ended up trapping many motorists on Interstate 70 during the Thursday snowstorm.

The law itself is simple: All motor vehicles that weigh over 16,001 pounds are required to carry tire chains while traveling I-70 between Morrison and Dotsero from September through May. The state has chain stations to ensure commercial vehicles, like semitrailers, have safe areas to put on those chains or alternative traction devices.

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But at least a dozen commercial vehicle drivers received fines and citations when they failed to have chains on their vehicles and were unable to traverse I-70, trapping dozens, if not hundreds, of people in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

“The Colorado State Patrol takes a proactive approach to chain compliance before storms hit,” the agency wrote in a release Friday. “To ensure the safety and expedient removal of hazards, enforcement during a storm is sometimes limited to CMVs that can be issued a citation without further delaying the removal of the vehicle from traffic lanes after a trooper has arrived on the scene.”

Semi trucks on I-70 in the Rocky Mountains on March 14.
Semi trucks on I-70 in the Rocky Mountains on March 14.

During Thursday’s spring storm, I-70 was closed for at least 18 hours due to snowpacked roadways, heavy snowfall and stuck vehicles. During the storm, CSP troopers wrote 12 citations for chain law noncompliance.

However, since the beginning of this chain season in September 2023, CSP said over 800 citations have been written for noncompliance.

CSP said that if a trooper discovers a commercial vehicle driver is not carrying chains or alternative traction devices during a truck inspection at the port of entry or around the state, that motorist is subject to a $50 fine.

Professional drivers who fail to put on chains when required can be cited for a $100 fine.

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If they cause lane closures, fines leap to $500, and if the semitrailers shut down traffic completely, the fines increase to $1,000. This can also put a negative report on the driver’s U.S. Department of Transportation number.

CSP reminded drivers that when the chain law is invoked, the Colorado Department of Transportation will notify the public on static and electronic variable message signs, in addition to announcements through 511 traveler information, COtrip.org and media outlets like FOX31.

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