Colorado law revises commercial vehicle rules

May 24, 2024

Keith Goble


A new Colorado law adds rules for commercial vehicles traveling in the state.

Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, this week signed into law a bill that focuses on truck chain rules, left lane travel and speed enforcement.

Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, touted the new rules as enhancing the safety of commercial vehicles on Colorado’s highways during the winter months.

“The last few winters on our mountain highways have been particularly challenging with way too many avoidable closures as the result of unprepared CMV drivers,” Roberts said in prepared remarks.

The Colorado Department of Transportation backed the bill. The agency said commercial vehicles traveling through Glenwood Canyon account for 57% of winter closures on Interstate 70. The agency attributed many incidents to unchained trucks.

Chain law

State law now allows CDOT to issue closures or require certain equipment such as tire chains on I-70 from Sept. 1 through May 31 each year. The rule applies for the stretch of interstate between milepost 133 in Dotsero and milepost 259 in Morrison.

Previously SB100, the new law revises the rule to state that commercial vehicles weighing at least 16,000 pounds are required to carry chains on the following highways:

  • I-70 west of milepost 259 (Morrison)
  • Colorado state highway 9 from milepost 63 to milepost 97 (Frisco to Fairplay)
  • U.S. 40 west of milepost 256 (Empire)
  • U.S. 50 west of milepost 225 (Salida)
  • U.S. 160 west of milepost 304 (Walsenburg)
  • U.S. 285 west of milepost 250 (Morrison)
  • U.S. 550 from milepost 0 to 130

The state transportation department previously told lawmakers the legislative pursuit follows continued chain violations, commercial vehicle accidents and unnecessary highway closures.

Chain-up, -down areas

Another change calls for examining the economic and safety impacts of truck incidents and closures during inclement weather, including evaluating the potential benefits of closures to trucks for limited periods during snowstorms.

A study will be commissioned by CDOT to determine where to build more chain stations in the affected areas. An awareness campaign is also required to inform travelers of the new rules and restrictions.

Advocates said the revisions are a welcome change. They said trucks from outside the region are not as prepared as some of the local motor carriers who deal with snow on a routine basis.

In a bill-signing statement, Polis said that “ensuring that our roads and highways are safe is important, especially in Colorado’s high country.”

The state highway department is required to study the feasibility of increasing the number of chain-up and chain-down stations. The intention is to help ensure that commercial vehicles have the necessary equipment and that drivers get the needed rest before traveling the state’s roadways.

Money from increased penalties in Glenwood Canyon would be tapped to help fund additional chain-up and chain-down areas.

Trucking industry evaluation of rules

Greg Fulton of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association told lawmakers it is a shared responsibility between the state and motor carriers for safety and mobility in the corridor.

He said the state is responsible to create the conditions for a safe environment for truck drivers to put chains on and actually have truck parking “so we can be safe and others can be safe.”

Fulton highlighted the shortage of truck parking in the state. He said the problem is exacerbated when winter conditions make it difficult for travel and truckers who would rather not travel must do so due to parking shortages.

Doug Morris, director of state government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said it is good to see that Colorado recognizes the need for additional chain locations.

However, he said that targeting commercial vehicles for speeding and double fines “is a typical money grab from the state.”

Left lane use

Left lane use for commercial vehicles traveling along multiple stretches of I-70 is also covered in the new law. Trucks already are prohibited from traveling in the left lane along I-70 through Glenwood Canyon.

Effective Aug. 7, trucks weighing at least 16,000 pounds are barred from far-left lane travel on Floyd Hill, Georgetown Hill, the Eisenhower Tunnel, Dowd Junction and Vail Pass. The restriction applies on stretches of highway with at least three lanes traveling in one direction.

Violators would face fines up to $100.

Trucks are permitted to pass in the far-left lane.

Speed limit enforcement

One more provision creates commercial vehicle speed limit enforcement zones in Glenwood Canyon. Affected stretches of I-70 eastbound are between milepost 116 and milepost 131. Westbound truck traffic between milepost 118.5 and milepost 131 is also included.

Speeding fines for trucks in the zones will be double.

The areas are described in the new law as “where there are safety concerns related to commercial motor vehicle drivers exceeding the posted speed limits.”

The speed enforcement rule also takes effect Aug. 7.

OOIDA questions the need for the enforcement zones. Morris said there are no studies showing increased accidents in the area or where trucks are the main cause of accidents. LL

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