Unchained truckers face higher fines
DENVER Lawmakers revived a proposal Thursday that would mean bigger fines for truckers who dont put tire chains on their big rigs in bad weather.Under a compromise approved by the House Transportation & Energy Committee, truckers would face a $500 fine for their first violation, up from $100 under current law, and they could be fined $1,000 for blocking traffic if they get wrecked in bad weather with no chains on their tires.Under the original bill, the fine for blocking traffic would have remained at $500 but truckers would have also gotten four points on their license. That faced opposition from truckers, who said there werent enough spots for them to chain up along Interstate 70.The measure (House Bill 1229) must still be considered by another committee before going to the full House for debate.The bills sponsor, Eagle County state Rep. Dan Gibbs, said he agreed to remove the points and raise the fine because 80 percent of violators pulled over last year were from out-of-state and Colorado cant add points to their license.Im optimistic that next year well have fewer road closures, the first-term Silverthorne Democrat said. The new approach is backed by truckers, the Colorado State Patrol and the state transportation department, which has agreed to spend $2.4 million to improve chain up areas and find new ones.The transportation department has estimated that ski resorts and mountain towns lose an estimated $800,000 an hour in business when trucks block I-70. But Gibbs, who represents Eagle, Summit and Lake counties, said everyone benefits by keeping the highway open.I know this is really important for the mountain communities but its also good for Colorado, he said.Under the measure, the state would also be able to contract with a private contractor to sell or rent chains to truckers and put them on at the chain up areas. Stockinger said the state hasnt decided whether to do that or expand the departments courtesy patrols, which help stranded motorists during bad weather.Right now, Gibbs said its cheaper to get a ticket than to pay about $250 for chains. Terry Campbell, a lobbyist for the Colorado State Patrol, said there would be more space available in chain up areas if truckers can get in and out more quickly.Because of the discussions about how to change the bill, Stockinger said the transportation department has also agreed to lower the speed limit around chain up areas when the chain law went into effect. He said he didnt know what that limit would be but it would be flashed on electronic message boards along the highway.