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Chain Gang Rules: Tire Chain Laws

Truckers in heavy-snow states already know how strict tire chain laws can be, but do you?

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Truckers in heavy-snow states already know how strict tire chain laws can be, but do you? In Colorado, drivers of commercial vehicles who ignore the tire chain law by failing to carry them are fined $100. It gets tougher; if that driver is involved in an accident that blocks the highway, he or she will also be fined $500, plus a $60 surcharge.

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With that in mind, are you taking the time to sell the best tire chains and tire chain configurations to your commercial tire customers? Take a look at how tire chain laws affect truckers in other states, and draw your own conclusion.

Trucks (defined by a GVW of 10,000 pounds or more) on Washington’s highways must carry chains at all times between Nov. 1 and Mar. 31. And, with the exception of all-wheel-drive vehicles, the state patrol requires all vehicles to chain up for safety during a specific enforcement period. The fine for failing to carry chains is $101, and failure to put chains on during the enforcement period results in a mandatory court appearance.

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In California, there is no tire chain possession law, but truckers better not get caught without them if the weather deteriorates, says the state’s Department of Transportation. California’s DOT reserves the right to prohibit any vehicle from entering a “tire chain control zone” when it is determined that the vehicle will experience difficulty traveling safely through the area.

In Nevada, truckers are required to carry tire chains for at least two wheels of a drive axle and two braking wheels of a trailer. Wyoming laws state that travel on a highway may be restricted to all-wheel-drive vehicles or motor vehicles equipped with tire chains. This law goes into effect when the state determines that travel is hazardous due to snow and ice.

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In Oregon, all vehicles may be required to use chains in very bad weather, regardless of vehicle or tire type. This is called “conditional road closure.” Such a closure may occur on any of Oregon’s highways, and the state’s chain law goes into effect.

Drivers who disregard Oregon’s warning are subject to a Class C traffic infraction and a fine of $141. If they’re involved in an accident and don’t have chains on their tires, the cost climbs to $165.

Somewhat surprisingly, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin have no tire chain requirements, although law enforcement officers in Wisconsin prefer that truckers use them in slippery conditions.

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Make sure your fleet customers are carrying the right size and type of chains at all times, and be certain they understand the dollar cost of fines and unnecessary downtime.

War of Words

When the state legislature in Maine updated the language in its tire inspection standards, the New England Tire & Service Association (NETSA) strongly objected.

In particular, NETSA proposed that the following sentence be removed from the legislation entirely: “If the rim (wheel) size on a vehicle has been altered, the overall diameter of the wheel, with the tire, must be within the vehicle manufacturer’s specification.”

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NETSA’s proposed language, replacing this sentence, was handed to Maine Representative Nancy Smith on Dec. 17, and reads: “If the rim (wheel) size on a vehicle is altered, the overall diameter of the wheel with the tire must be within plus-or-minus 3% of the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.”

NETSA is also addressing the ambiguity in Maine’s approach to speed-rated tires, which reads: “A vehicle may be equipped only with tires that meet or exceed the load and speed rating of the original equipment tire.”

Says NETSA: “We’d like to see speed rating categories broken down this way: Ultra – V, W, Y, Z; High – H; Standard – Q, R, S, T, U.”

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Independent tire dealers shouldn’t be forced to put on a T-rated tire when an S-rated replacement would suffice, the organization contends.

NETSA is also proposing that ABS-equipped vehicles and those with 4WD or AWD be equipped with four tires of the same size. Tread depth on all four should be within 25% of each other.

Tire construction must be the same, and tread patterns on winter tires should match up. Ditto for all-season, rib-type and directional tires.

Maine’s legislature reconvenes this month, and Representative Smith has NETSA’s proposals in hand.

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