Vail Valley chain check is another sign of winter
Commercial vehicles required to carry chains, although some drivers feign ignorance
VAIL — Tire chains are your friend, especially if Interstate 70 is snowy and slick and you’re a trucker trying to make a deadline.
The Vail Police Department and Colorado State Patrol are also your friends. They spent several hours Wednesday making sure commercial vehicles rolling through town were carrying tire chains, which Colorado law requires. Between October and May, all commercial vehicles must carry tire chains between Dotsero and Morrison.
“If there is a chain law in effect, someone is checking,” Vail police officer Nick Deering said.
Mass vs. velocity
Vail police cars and Colorado State Patrol cruisers were lined up at 250-yard intervals in the chain-up area near the East Vail exit — 250 yards because an 80,000-pound vehicle needs room to stop. As they pull off the highway you get a sense of how big a big rig really is. Get in the way and you’ll get a physics lesson in mass vs. velocity.
“Mass always wins,” Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jake Best said.
The trucks were stopped for less than one minute, including the time it took to exchange pleasantries and check to make sure the drivers are carrying chains and the foul weather gear they’re supposed to.
“Obviously they have a job to do and deadlines to meet. We don’t want to hold them up too long,” Deering said.
There was this one guy, though. He was sitting in the tractor part of a tractor-trailer rig that he had just bought in California and was driving it to points east. He wasn’t carrying chains. He sat in the cab of his bright yellow rig for a couple of hours, looking like a ray of morning sunshine, but not feeling like one. He declined to comment.
A couple of other drivers were not carrying chains. They received enlightenment from the Vail police and the Colorado State Patrol, who extracted promises for better behavior in the future.
Chain-free is not free
Chain-free behavior is becoming progressively more expensive.
The first fine for not carrying chains is $50 and a $17 surcharge.
Not having chains when the chain laws are in effect will cost you $500 and a $79 surcharge.
Not having chains when you’re supposed to and blocking the highway will cost you $1,000 and a $200 surcharge.
On the other hand, tire chains for your tractor-trailer can cost a few hundred bucks for a high-quality set.
If you’re mechanically impaired, you can hire a service that will sell you tire chains, and even put them on your truck. That’ll cost you up to $500, Best said.
Enterprising capitalists can occasionally be found in chain-up areas selling tire chains to truckers. Their price is whatever the market will bear.
Some truckers claim ignorance, even though they’ve driven past dozens of those large, rectangular information signs along I-70 beginning at the Utah and Kansas state lines, reminding truckers that chains are mandatory, not optional. OK, say it’s dark outside and the reflective information signs escape your attention. Colorado has those huge illuminated signs over the highway repeatedly pointing out that drivers are required to carry tire chains. Some still feign ignorance.
“They say they don’t know?!?” Yes they do,” Best said. “We really prefer not to write those tickets.”
Those on four wheels are not exempt either. Get caught with bald or bald-ish tires and you can be fined $100 with a $33 surcharge. Block the highway because of your bald tires and your fine skyrockets to $500 with a $57 surcharge — about what it costs for a set of really good new tires.
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