Do Colorado chain law fines actually keep I-70 moving in a snowstorm? 

This past Saturday, April 6, was the slowest 24 hours in two months on the I-70 mountain corridor, when a spring blizzard and nasty winds kept thousands of cars off the interstate. 

But in just 20 minutes that afternoon, five semi-trucks got stuck in slick snow on the eastbound tunnel approach.  

None of these commercial motor vehicles had chains. At least two were pulled free by tow trucks before they were ticketed for breaking the law and stalling traffic. 

“If it means somebody gets away with $1000 ticket, we actually would prefer that, as long as we could get the roadway open,” Sgt. Patrick Rice with Colorado State Patrol says. 

Krystal 93 talked with Sgt. Rice about the ticketing protocol for commercial vehicles in a snowstorm. 

Fines start at $50 on a first offense if a CMV driver does not have chains during a standard inspection. Add fees and surcharges, and the total fine is $69.50. 

Penalties jump to $581 if a driver is caught without chains during a storm. 

And, if a CMV driver blocks a lane of traffic for a chain violation, the fine is $1159. 

Sgt. Rice says most drivers comply. But he compares violators to other drivers who break the speed limit. 

“We have some truckers who just don’t care,” Sgt. Rice says. “We have others who do the right thing because it’s the right thing, and there’s everything in between, as far as people who want to comply and not comply.” 

During snowstorms, CSP partners with local authorities to keep at least one patrol vehicle at chain stations in Georgetown, Silverthorne and Vail. 

“One, it’s to keep them (CMVs) from stacking up into the lanes of travel,” Sgt. Rice says. “But also, it’s to make sure that they are complying and putting on those chains.” 

But not every trucker stops at I-70 chain stations, even when chain and traction laws are in effect. They do not have to. It’s not required by law. 

“To be fair to the trucking industry, many of those (CMVs) that people see go by and think aren’t complying, they are complying,” Sgt. Rice says. “They just have an alternate traction device that’s already built into the vehicle.” 

Colorado introduced chain laws in 1996. In 2022 fines were updated to encourage compliance.   

Today, Sgt. Rice says there is no push from CSP or state lawmakers to require stops and inspections at chain stations. 

In some other states, like Pennsylvania and portions of California, state patrols will hold CMVs on mountain passes and other dangerous highways to prevent blocked lanes.