Colorado Senate panel advances revised commercial vehicle rules bill

April 23, 2024

Keith Goble


Work continues at the Colorado statehouse on a bipartisan pursuit to implement additional rules for commercial vehicles traveling in the state. The Colorado Motor Carriers Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have concerns about the pursuit.

The bill, SB100, focuses on truck chain rules, left lane travel and speed enforcement.

Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, has said his bill would enhance the safety of commercial vehicles on Colorado’s highways during the winter months.

Chain law

The House Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee voted to advance an amended version of the Senate-approved bill.

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

State law already specifies that trucks carry chains while driving I-70 through the mountains.

The current version of the bill would require truck drivers to carry chains when traveling on I-70 or any U.S. highway west of Morrison. The rule also would apply to state Highway 9 from Frisco to Fairplay.

Bill sponsors said the change further narrows the “must-carry-chain-requirement” to focus on specific stretches of roads in western Colorado. Roberts said the change would help to make sure truck drivers are prepared.

Commercial vehicles would be required to carry chains when traveling on Interstate 25 and any other interstate, U.S. highway or state highway west of I-25, including the mountainous sections of I-70.

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

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

“This bill is necessary to improve the safety for the motoring public and ensure (I-70) remains open for commerce,” Sen. Perry Will, R-New Castle, said during Senate floor discussion.

Chain-up areas

One Senate floor revision 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 also would be commissioned by CDOT to determine where to build more chain stations in the affected areas. An awareness campaign would be required for informing travelers of the new rules and restrictions.

A fiscal note prepared by Legislative Council Staff shows that a study on the feasibility of additional chain-up stations would cost up to $50,000.

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

CDOT also would be required to study the feasibility of increasing the number of chain-up stations and rest areas in the state. The intention is to help ensure that commercial vehicles have necessary equipment and needed rest before traveling the state’s roadways.

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

Trucking industry voices concerns

CMCA’s Greg Fulton told the House committee it is a shared responsibility between the state and motor carriers for safety and mobility in the corridor.

“We look at the state as being responsible to create the conditions for a safe environment for our people to actually put chains on and actually have truck parking so we can be safe and others can be safe,” Fulton said. “We aren’t there today.”

He added that there is a shortage of truck parking in the state. 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.

Fulton said chain stations are essential.

Doug Morris, OOIDA director of state government affairs, said it is good to see that Colorado recognizes the need for additional chain-up locations.

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

Morris added that he is certain the trucking industry already has paid for the chain-up locations tenfold through taxes, fees and tolls. He questioned how the state utilizes existing transportation revenues.

“Let’s do a forensic accounting of Colorado’s transportation revenues and see where all that money is going before we start targeting truckers and trucking companies for more revenue-enhancing schemes,” he said.

Left lane rule

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

The current version of SB100 calls for barring trucks weighing at least 16,000 pounds from far-left lane travel on Floyd Hill, Georgetown Hill, the Eisenhower Tunnel, Dowd Junction and Vail Pass. The restriction would apply on stretches with at least three lanes traveling in one direction.

Violators would face fines up to $100.

Speed limit enforcement zones

Another provision would set up commercial vehicle speed limit enforcement zones in Glenwood Canyon. Affected stretches of I-70 eastbound would be between milepost 116 and milepost 131. Westbound truck traffic between milepost 118.5 and milepost 131 also would be included.

Speeding fines for trucks in the zones would be double.

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

Morris questioned the need for the enforcement zones.

“There are no studies showing increased accidents in this area or where trucks are the main cause of these accidents. In fact, I would venture to say the majority of the accidents are caused by passenger vehicles,” he said.

Morris added that the provision is “arbitrary and capricious.”

SB100 has moved to the House Appropriations Committee. LL

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