Idaho Senate committee OKs state’s first mandatory chain-up law

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An Idaho Senate committee has unanimously approved legislation to give the state its first mandatory chain-up law, the Spokesman Review reported Thursday, Feb. 14. The law would apply only to big, interstate trucks on Lookout and Fourth of July passes on I-90, and on Lolo Pass on Highway 12, according to the newspaper.

Idaho State Police Capt. Clark Rollins told the Senate Transportation Committee those passes now are often closed by jackknifed big rigs in snowy weather, creating huge backups, disrupting commerce and even endangering lives. “If we have a critical patient coming from the Silver Valley, and Fourth of July is blocked with spun-out trucks, there’s no way to get ’em there,” Rollins said.

Shoshone County Sheriff Chuck Reynalds said traffic backs up all the way to Wallace – 12 miles – when Lookout Pass gets clogged with semi-truck spinouts. “I’m the first line of defense,” Reynalds told the panel. “I have two people on graveyard. A lot of times, they’re on the pass.” A mandatory chain-up law for the big rigs, he said, “just makes sense.”

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, sponsored the bill, SB 1379, which exempts local logging trucks and other local trucks that fall into a category already exempt from certain trucking regulations. The effort, which now will move to the full Senate for consideration, comes four years after an earlier, broader mandatory chain-up bill for everyone was roundly rejected by the Legislature, according to the newspaper. Montana, Washington and Oregon all already have mandatory chain-up laws.

Skip Smyser, lobbyist for the Idaho Trucking Association, said his group supports the bill and would support removing the exemptions and making it apply to all big rigs. But Rollins said local trucks aren’t the ones that have typically been spinning out – it’s been interstate traffic. Broadsword said local truckers know to put on winter tires, but some interstate trucking firms send their trucks out west with regular highway tires and drivers unprepared for the conditions.

The three passes were selected – even though there are others where similar measures could help – because they’re the ones that now have sufficient areas for truck chain-up pullouts and signage, Rollins told the the Spokesman Review. “We’ve got to get some regulation on our passes, because right now it just turns into a melee,” he said.