Selling chains on Vail Pass may keep truckers safer
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado “-Mike Rodriguez was in trouble Friday as he headed east towards Vail, Colorado on Interstate 70 and saw the signs requiring chains on all commercial trucks’ tires.
“I’m from Cali. This is the first time I had to chain up,” said Rodriguez, who drives for Montana-based Watkins and Shepard Trucking.
He lucked out Friday afternoon when he pulled to the side of the road just before Vail Pass and discovered the new pilot program that allows vendors to sell chains and chain-up services on the interstate. He hooked up with Jeff Maes, owner of Denver-based We Chain Up 4 U.
“He said, ‘I’ve got no money and I didn’t expect this. Can you help me out?'” Maes said.
He grabbed the chains from Rodriguez’s truck and, free of charge, Maes chained the 18-wheeler’s tires.
“I got some training,” Rodriguez said.
Had it not been for the program, which started in November, Rodriguez could have faced a fine for not having the chains on his tires. That’s what Maes said is the biggest benefit of having the chain-up areas. There are 21 areas from Dotsero to Denver West Blvd.
“He would’ve been stranded here because he didn’t know what to do,” Maes said. “There’s a lot more guys like him out there. Some guys don’t even have chains.”
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said the program was launched because there were so many trucks in violation of the law last year.
“We’re doing everything possible to make it as easy and accessible for them to comply with the law,” Stegman said.
It’s the law that driver Yuriy Jykhor has a problem with. He drove a truck for 10 years in Russia, where he says there’s a tad more snow than Colorado, and he never had a problem or accident, he said. The chains damage the road and he thinks the law is just another way for the state ” and now businesses ” to cash in.
“I understand safety,” Jykhor said. “But if the driver has experience, he should just go slow. You’ll be fine.”
One of the bonuses of the program though, is it puts people to work. Three companies have been authorized to service truckers, according to a press release from the Department of Transportation, and there are normally crews of about four or five people working at one station.
James Tolbert, a diesel mechanic, needed the work chaining up trucks for Colorado Flagging Company because there weren’t any jobs available this winter, he said. Even though he works long hours and suffers through less than-desirable weather, he said other factors make it worth it.
“If it’s busy it could be good money,” he said.
But he also sees the benefit of having certified and knowledgeable people out on the highway every time the chain law is in effect.
“This is a good thing they’re doing “keeping people safe,” Tolbert said.
The press release said the program will end May 31, and Stegman wasn’t sure Friday afternoon if there was any measurable signs of its success just yet. But Maes thinks the program will stick around.
“It will. We’ll work out the kinks,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out here who need it.”
Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.