PSA: Stay off Smugglers’ Notch

October 16, 2020

Tyson Fisher


It happened. Again. Another trucker got stuck on a section of state Route 108 in Vermont, more commonly known as Smugglers’ Notch. It’s time to have a talk.

To start, if you are reading this, then you are likely not the problem. That said, take the following information and pass it along to anyone you may think needs this friendly reminder. For the most part, it is usually the younger, inexperienced drivers we’re dealing with here.

Located in Lamoille County, Smugglers’ Notch is a mountain pass in Vermont with some sharp twist and turns. It is because of this snake-like feature that trucks are not allowed on the road. One section is particularly difficult to navigate, even for passenger vehicles. Every year, a trucker gets stuck here. Correction: truckers, as in more than one.

In fact, not one, but at least three trucks have been stuck on Smugglers’ Notch this month alone. We’re only midway through October.

Smugglers' Notch signs
These signs should make it clear to stay off Smugglers’ Notch.

According to the Vermont State Police, the latest occurred on Thursday, Oct. 15. The victim was a 26-year-old Illinois trucker. He was fined nearly $1,200 for his avoidable mistake. On Oct. 7, a 25-year-old driver from Georgia drove into the same situation.

It is easy to blame this on a young driver. However, a similar incident on Oct. 3 happened to a 46-year-old driver based out of Maine. What is not known is how long that trucker has had a CDL. Blaming this on inexperience is just speculation.

However, we do know two things about truckers and Smugglers’ Notch.

First, some drivers are relying too much on GPS systems. Back in 2016, Col. Jake Elovirta, director of Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles’ Enforcement and Safety Division, told Land Line exactly that. One issue is that truckers are not using navigation devices specifically designed for commercial motor vehicles.

Second, there are more than enough signs warning truckers to stay off Smugglers’ Notch. Even four years ago, when asked if more signage is needed, Col. Elovirta said he is not exactly sure what to do since there is plenty of signs warning truckers.

“It seems like no matter how much education we try to do or reach out or signage, we’re having an issue specific to tractor-trailers,” Col. Elovirta said.

Several years and numerous violations later, he’s absolutely right about that.

Something else happened in 2016. Fines for truckers driving on Smugglers’ Notch increased tenfold. Before 2016, that fine was $162. Fed up with no one taking them seriously, government officials increased that fine to a range of $1,000 to $2,000. Apparently, that’s not working either.

That brings us to why this story is being written. Consider this Land Line’s public service announcement: STAY OFF SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH. Spread the word. LL