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Chain laws

Whether you choose chains or cables, it's time to get fitted for the season. Here is Land Line's annual winter-wear update for commercial vehicles

While most states require CMVs to be equipped with chains/cables when conditions demand it as a precaution for safe driving, several western states still have chain laws that require carrying/using winter traction devices at certain times or under certain road conditions.

First, let's review the rules for the states that do have "carry" laws. Don't try to bend the rules in California, Oregon or Washington. Failure to carry and or use winter traction gear as prescribed by local authorities can result in fines and or other penalties.


California's chain law gets a bit complicated when it comes to commercial vehicles. As for cables, the state doesn't prohibit using them instead of chains, but the state expects CMVs to be equipped with chains, not cables, if weather conditions warrant it. In other words, if an officer sees a truck in a ditch and it has cables on its tires, fines may be in order.

A spokesman for the commercial vehicle section, Jack Schwindinger, invites truckers to give the office a call if they have chain or cable questions. Questions about chain laws should be directed to the California Department of Transportation: (Sacramento) (916) 653-2143. For road conditions call (800) 427-ROAD; outside the state call (916) 445-7623.


Oregon's chain laws are specific and apply to all highways throughout the state. The Oregon Department of Transportation suggests drivers of commercial vehicles contact an ODOT Port of Entry, as Oregon roads are subject to conditional road closures. If you have access to the Internet, you can get specific chain-up graphics. Go to:, click on winter chain requirements.

Mike Haenny, of Quality Chain Corp., Hillsboro, OR, has years of experience with chain-up requirements. His advice for truckers traveling through Oregon is to carry a spare set of chains. The highway patrol enforces the law differently on the east and west sides of our state," he says. "Cable and link chains are legal in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming in all positions."

The TripCheck number for road conditions is: (800) 977-ODOT or call one of the following. ODOT: (Southern half) at (541) 452-4344 or ODOT: (Northern half) at (503) 985-3005.


Washington law states: "all vehicles over 10,000 lbs. gross weight shall carry a minimum of two extra chains in the event that road conditions require the use of more chains or in the event chains in use are broken or otherwise made useless." The Washington vehicle code warns that the state patrol may and will stop any vehicle from entering an area where chains are needed.

Commercial vehicles must carry chains from Nov. 1 to April 1 on routes I-90 between North Bend (MP 32) and Ellensburg (MP 101); SR-97 between (MP 145) and Junction SR-2; SR-2 between Dryden (MP 108) and Index (MP 36); SR-12 between Packwood (MP 135) and Naches (MP 187); SR-97 between the junction of SR-14 (MP 4) Columbia river and Toppenish; SR-410 from Enumclaw to Naches; SR-20 between Tonasket (MP 262) and Kettle Falls (MP 342); Sr-155 between Omak (MP 79) and Nespelern (MP 45); SR-970 between (MP 0) and (MP 10). CMVs must have at least two side chains of hardened metal so that at least one cross chain is in contact with the road surface at all times. Plastic chains are not allowed, but cable chains are okay.

The number to call for pass reports is (800) 695-7623 or check out their web site at Click on traveler information and go to motor carrier services. Highway Advisory Radio pass reports are available on Snoqualmie Pass (I-90) at 1610 AM and on Stevens Pass at 530 AM.


Nevada's office of the highway patrol says they are very specific in the way they handle commercial vehicle traffic under winter snow conditions. If chain-up signs are posted and a unit is more than 10,001 lbs. it must chain up.

"Trucks only receive a citation if they aren't chained. It does not depend on varying weather conditions or the discretion of the officer on duty," says Carl Stone of the NHP. Stone also reminds truckers to fit chains before traveling through snow areas. "Carrying the wrong chain size will get you a ticket. We check," he said. Tune into radio station 530 AM when in the Reno area for weather information.

Nevada has no specific law on the books regarding the use of cables. Nevada requires you to carry chains for at least two wheels of a drive axle and two braking wheels of a trailer.

Call for road conditions any time of the year at (775) 688-2500 or (775) 793-1313 for I-80 over Donner Summit.


Colorado's chain laws still apply to every state highway, federal highway and interstate. Signs will be placed along roadways when the law is in effect, indicating which vehicles must chain-up. Failure to do so can net you a fine of $100.

HazMat trucks 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. Colorado's cable law is as follows: Only cables constructed with high strength steel spring cross member rollers that are at least 0.415 inches in diameter or greater can be used instead of chains on commercial vehicles with the exception of single drive axle combination units. Call ahead for road conditions at (303) 639-1111 or call the highway maintenance department for questions on chains at (303) 757-9649.

Special Note: The I-70 corridor chain-up areas are as follows:

Eastbound Westbound
MM 180, 182.6, 183.8 - shoulder only
MM 186.2 , 203 - Frisco Scenic overlook
MM 210.8 - three miles below the Eisenhower tunnel
MM 228 - Georgetown
MM 221 - Bakerville
MM 218.5 - Herman Gulch interchange
MM 195 - Copper Mountain overlook


In Utah, chains are only required when chain-up signs are posted. Use one set of chains on a drive axle, none are required on a trailer. Cable chains fall under the same rules as chains.

Utah's rules are not based on the season. "It doesn't depend on time of year," says Chris Repp, an inspector for Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). "Utah's weather varies significantly area to area."

For weather inside the Salt Lake basin call UDOT at (801) 964-6000. Outside the Salt Lake metropolitan area call the UDOT weather line at (800) 492-2400.


Idaho has no specific chain laws for CMVs. The same rules apply for cable use. According to the Idaho Motor Carrier Department, the precedent is to shut down the roads under bad conditions. Whether or not to carry chains is at the driver's discretion. Drivers should call (208) 336-6600 for information and select the option that will help evaluate their situation.


Montana has no clear-cut law regarding chain or cable usage. Chains are required if chain-up signs are posted and in certain areas such as mountain passes. "Drivers are expected to have chains when needed," says Motor Vehicle Inspection Bureau Chief Curt Rissman. Montana's rules call for one chain to cover one tire on one side of the drive axle. Truckers can call (800) 226-7623 for winter road conditions or summer construction reports.


According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the state has no explicit laws on the books in respect to chains or cables. State regulations dictate that all vehicles "likely to encounter slippery conditions" may be required to be equipped with chains or adequate snow tires.

Again, it's best to call ahead. Outside Wyoming call (888) 996-7623 for road conditions or construction reports. Also, KUWR-FM 89.9 broadcasting from Laramie has a running commentary on road conditions during the winter.


Arizona has no specific rules regarding use of chains on tractor-trailers. They are neither prohibited nor required. ADOT says if weather turns ugly in certain areas (such as along I-40 near Flagstaff), a chain requirement is up to the discretion of the officer on duty. Truckers with chain questions may contact ADOT Trail Master at: (888) 411-7623.

Central U.S. road and weather condition resources

Keep in mind that western states require trucks to carry one pair of extra chains; when in doubt, carry a spare.

North Dakota Chains and cables are neither required nor prohibited within the state. "We're pretty flat here," says Motor Carrier Operations Manager, Doyle Schultz. "CMVs won't be fined if chains aren't on board."

Iowa has no laws on the books regarding chains or cables for big rigs. While the Iowa Highway Patrol says the state has not had enough snow in the last two years to warrant tire chains on any vehicle, it's best to call ahead. Truckers can call (800) 288-1047 for weather or road conditions within the state, or (515) 288-1047 outside the state.

Minnesota is prone to some rough winter weather. Though the DOT doesn't require or prohibit usage of chains or cables, they suggest that truckers call their weather hotline number at (800) 542-0220. This neat "hands-free" menu allows you to simply answer yes to hear about the area you want to travel through.

Wisconsin, a state that sees its share of bad weather and slick roads, does not prohibit the use of chains/cables. The state patrol says they will tolerate chain or cable use if it's a really serious ice or snowstorm.

Other state winter road resources

Rules for using tire chains

Do not deflate tire to install tire chains

Make sure your tire chains are properly sized. Proper fit is the key to performance

Never use tire chain for towing purposes

Pull off highway to a safe place to install or remove tire chains

Apply as tightly as possible by hand, drive one-quarter of a mile, stop and check chains

Carry rubber adjusters to keep chains snug to tight

Do not exceed 30 mph while using chains

Michigan Their chain law ordinance states that it's not illegal for CMVs to use chains or cables on state roads, but chains cannot touch the road's surface. According to Sgt. Pederson of the Michigan State Police, this means the road must have a snow-packed surface, such as those in the Upper Peninsula. Emergency and highway patrol vehicles may use studded tires.

If you are online, go to Michigan provides amazing up-to-the-minute information on weather and travel throughout the state. The MSP suggest truckers call the National Weather Service hotline for conditions (inside or outside the state) at (517) 321-7576.

Ohio Chain laws in Ohio are incorporated under their studded tire rules. Commercial vehicles are permitted to use chains during the period of Nov. 1 to April 15, or "within the proximity of extreme weather conditions." The Ohio Highway Patrol suggests truckers call the weather hotline at (888) 2OH-ROAD for updates.

Pennsylvania It is not mandatory to carry chains in Pennsylvania. PennDOT says the only time chains are required is if a truck is traveling on a route designated for snow emergencies. The state has not set a standard for chains or cables.

New Jersey The state patrol says truckers don't have to deal with chains or cables in their state because winter roads are kept clean at all times. (Honest, he said that...)

New York's office of Motor Carrier Safety states chains are not required in the winter for CMVs. Nor are they prohibited. The office says the "ultimate decision is left up to each municipality."

Connecticut The state road maintenance department says the state has no chain law regarding commercial vehicles. Truckers can carry cables or chains for bad weather. Note: The state prohibits the use of studded tires.

Carrying chains can add a lot of weight to your outfit. Some approximate weights are as follows: Chains for an average tire weigh in at 51 lbs per apir for singles and 92 lbs per pair for duals. Cables weigh 18 lbs per pair for singles and 35 lbs for dual triples.


The DOT provides a weather and road condition for most states. One useful site To find the weather report, scroll to the state you want. Weather and road conditions will be listed under traveler or transportation information.

Another site is Scroll down to Drivecast and click on route conditions. Point and click on the area of the country you are driving through. This site provides air temperature, wind speed, visibility and weather conditions.

Mike Haenny, spokesperson for Quality Chain Corp., the largest supplier of tire chains in the U.S., said his company give out the following graphic to driver of commercial motor vehicles. In California and Colorado one set outside tire on the primary drive axle on dual drive axle trucks. Cable and link chains are legal in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming in all positions.