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Controls - Snow Tires, Traction Devices
and ROAD CONDITIONS

During the winter months motorists may encounter traction device controls in the mountain areas of Colorado. When chain controls are established signs along side the road will be opened indicating the type of requirement.

State of Colorado
Chain Regulations

 Chain Regulations - Passenger Vehicles
Winter Tire Tread Requirements
The Colorado Chain Law is the popular term for the requirement for use of tire chains or adequate snow tires on mountain highways during heavy snow conditions. The term is somewhat misleading because chains are not always required. There are two levels of the law that may be invoked as follows:
 Chains or Snow Tires Required
This level requires the use of adequate snow tires or traction devices such as cable chains, etc. Snow tires must have the mud and snow (M/S) or all weather rating from the manufacturer on the side wall.
Chains Only
When this level is in effect, use of conventional, steel-link chains is required. Four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted to operate without tire chains when four wheel drive is engaged.
Studded tires can be used the year around in Colorado
When Snow Are Tires Required:
  Conventional mud and snow tread with (M/S) with or without studs and a minimum tread depth of 1/8".
Tires of the all weather type bearing the mark M/S with a minimum tread depth of 1/8".
Four-wheel drive vehicles (all four wheels engaged) with adequate tires. Adequate tires for four-wheel drive vehicles include those with conventional tread with a minimum tread depth of 1/8" and those listed in 1) or 2) above.
Wavy snow-treads with steel wire protruding.
Any conventional tire with a minimum tread depth of 2/32" when used in conjunction with chains as mentioned in "Chain Only" section.
 Chain Regulations - Commercial Vehicles

      Colorado chain law applies to every state highway, federal highway and interstate throughout the state. When the chain law is in effect, drivers will see signs along the roadway indicating which vehicles should chain-up. In some areas of the state, lighted variable message signs will also alert drivers of the chain-up information.

     Metal chains must consist of two circular metal loops, one on each side of the tire, connected by not less than nine evenly spaced chains across the tread. Commercial vehicles having four or more drive wheels must chain four wheels. Dual tire chains are acceptable.

NEW VIOLATION PENALTIES

     Drivers of commercial vehicles who ignore the chain law can be fined $100 for not putting chains on their vehicles when required. A driver can be fined $500 plus a $60 surcharge if the vehicle is not chained when the law is in effect and as a result blocks the highway.

WHEN ARE CHAINS REQUIRED FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES?

     There are two levels of the chain law that will affect commercial vehicles. A vehicle is considered to be a commercial vehicle if it is used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle:

  • Has a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or more inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 lbs.;

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds.

  • Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

LEVELS OF CHAIN LAW FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

Level 1

     This level of chain law implementation requires that all single axle combination commercial vehicles chain-up. All four wheels of the power drive axle must be chained. Cables are not allowed on single drive axle combination commercial vehicles as an alternative traction device. When level 1 of the chain law is in effect, all other commercial vehicles must have snow tires or chains. Level 1 may be implemented at any time there is snow covering any part off the traveled portion of the pavement on an ascending grade.

Level 2

     When the chain law is in effect at this level, chains are required for ALL commercial vehicles. This includes trucks exceeding 26,001 lb. weight, and buses or vehicles that are designed to carry 16 or more passengers. Autotransports must comply with the law to the extent possible without causing damage to hydraulic lines. Buses need to chain only two drive wheel tires. (Cables are not allowed on single drive axle combination units, they must use chains!)

     Level 2 may be implemented any time there is snow covering the entire traveled portion of the pavement on an ascending grade or when in the discretion of the highway maintenance supervisor (or designee) road, weather or driving conditions make this restriction necessary to protect the safety of the traveling public or minimize occurrence of road closures.

Approved Alternative Traction Devices (ATD's)

     Approved ATD's may be used instead of chains. These include wheel sanders (vehicle must carry enough sand to negotiate the hill), or pneumatically driven chains which when engaged, spin under the drive wheels automatically as traction is lost.

     The rules and regulations disallow the use of tire cables on commercial vehicles. The following are the only two approved situations in which cables can be used:

  • Tire cables constructed with high strength steel spring cross member rollers that are at least 0.415" diameter or greater can be used instead of chains on commercial vehicles with the exception of single drive axle combination vehicles.

  • On a tandem power drive axle commercial vehicle any type of cable can be used only if there are chains on the outside tires of one of the power drive axles and cables on two or more tires of the other power drive axle.

     The Colorado Department of Transportation will be monitoring the use of cables and their effectiveness this winter. The Department can at any time rescind the approval of cables as an ATD.

DOES MY TRAILER NEED TO BE CHAINED UP?

     Colorado has no rule or statute regarding the requirement for chains on trailers. Tire cables are acceptable for use on trailer tires.

WHERE CAN I CHAIN-UP?

     Trucks placarded for Flammable, Combustible, or Explosives may pass the chain-up signs and install their chains where the pavement is covered by snow or ice, at a safe location outside the traveled portion of the highway.

INTERSTATE 70 CHAIN-UP STATIONS

     Eastbound I-70: Milepost 180, 182.6, 183.8 (shoulder only), 186.2, 203 (Frisco scenic overlook), 210.8 (three miles below Eisenhower Tunnel).

     Westbound I-70: Milepost 228 (Georgetown), 221 (Bakerville), 218.5 (Herman Gulch interchange), 195 (Copper Mountain overlook).

AFTER I PUT MY CHAINS ON, CAN I CONTINUE WITH MY LOAD?

     Colorado Department of Transportation personnel or law enforcement may control the reentry of vehicles from the chain inspection stations to the state highway to assist and enhance the flow of traffic as assure the safety of the traveling public.

AT WHAT POINT CAN I TAKE MY CHAINS OFF?

     The chain law shall cease to be in effect where designated by a sign or when bare pavement is encountered on a descending grade.

Remember! Colorado's weather can change dramatically and quickly. Drivers need to be prepared. Call ahead for road conditions and chain-up information for Colorado's major highways at (303) 639-1111 


Road Conditions

In making winter road conditions safer, the application of anti-icing and de-icing materials can create some road conditions that require particular attention on the part of motorists. Because liquid road treatments lower the freezing point of moisture on the road, travelers should be prepared for wet conditions. CDOT recommends that motorists carry plenty of windshield wiper fluid in order to clear away any backsplash from the roadway, and are prepared to use their automobile's defrost system in the event that rising moisture may fog windows. Additionally, CDOT reminds all drivers to obey posted speed limits with extra care on wet roads and to observe speed advisory plaques posted on curve warning signs. In fact, even the posted speed limit usually is too fast during adverse weather conditions. When liquid anti-icers and de-icers are applied, the road will be wet. Remember that when a highway is wet for any reason, traction is reduced and the chance of hydroplaning increases.
FOR CURRENT UP TO THE MINUTE ROAD CONDITIONS 
AND TIRE CHAIN REQUIREMENTS CLICK HERE
 
 
This includes weather-related information, current travel alerts (like chain laws in effect and passes closed), and current traffic conditions. You can also call CDOT's hotline at (303) 639-1111 in the Denver area or (877) 315-7623 toll-free statewide.

CDOT's website for driving conditions at www.cotrip.org also has statewide reports for travel information. The hotline number also covers all of Colorado and can be accessed by calling (303) 639-1111 in the Denver area or (877) 315-7623 toll-free statewide.