Pack your chains for snow: State Patrol targeting big rigs on I-90

Nov 28, 2023, 5:00 AM | Updated: 9:00 am

i-90 state patrol chains...

(Photo from Washington State Patrol)

(Photo from Washington State Patrol)

The Washington State Patrol is on the prowl across Interstate 90 and the other mountain passes, making sure truck drivers are packing chains to prepare for the snow.

The signs went up on either side of Snoqualmie Pass in October. They remind truck drivers that they must carry chains on their rigs between Nov. 1 and April 1.

More Chokepoints: The mystery of the closed Kirkland overpass

It didn’t take long for the State Patrol and other agencies to follow up. They stopped and inspected 121 trucks over a two-day emphasis patrol earlier this month, 32 of which were not properly equipped with chains.

For State Patrol Sergeant Rocky Oliphant, it was a subtle reminder for drivers to be ready for what is coming.

“The worst time to try to get compliance is when the snow is falling, and we’re pulling trucks over in the snow,” Oliphant said. “We will also do chain enforcement when the snow is falling, but ideally, we want to catch them before it gets to that point before there’s snow on the pass.”

The state’s commercial vehicle enforcement bureau will continue inspections throughout the season.

“Our hope is that they are now in compliance so that when those passes get snow, and chains need to be worn on the tires that they have them equipped,” Oliphant said.

On the whole, Sergeant Oliphant said Washington truck drivers are very good, but a little enforcement goes a long way.

Traffic: Seattle’s morning commute was a doozy

“It is just to ensure that truck drivers are driving safe, that their trucks are safe, and that we limit collisions or fatalities in association with commercial vehicles,” Oliphant said.

I asked Sergeant Oliphant what they look for when pulling over a truck. Speeding is one thing, but how do you know if they aren’t carrying chains or have another issue?

“Within the Commercial Vehicle Division, we’re able to stop trucks to do inspections,” Oliphant said. “I don’t need to see a semi-truck going 72 in a 60 to pull it over.”

And there are different levels of inspection. It can be as simple as a chain check, to a complete look at the truck and its log books.

“Not only are we looking for chains, but we’re looking for a flat tire on a truck or some issues with the brakes or maybe some other safety violation on a truck,” Sgt. Oliphant said.

And it’s not just I-90 and State Route 2 over Stevens Pass, where the chain requirement is active from November to April. There are 12 spots in the state that have this requirement.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


Montlake lid...

Chris Sullivan

Inside SR 520’s safety system in Montlake

I had the chance to get on the new 520 Montlake Lid and check out some of the hidden features and safety systems.

2 days ago

I-90, Mercer Island...

Chris Sullivan

Failing expansion joint continues to plague I-90 on Mercer Island

So why is it taking so long to fix the I-90 expansion joint on the freeway on Mercer Island?

4 days ago

fab freight transit lane...

Chris Sullivan

SDOT experiments with freight/transit lane

A F-A-B lane is a freight and bus lane. It's a lane that commercial trucks and buses can share to improve the overall flow of traffic.

9 days ago

I-5 connection...

Chris Sullivan

Tacoma HOV expansion leaves 8-mile gap

The HOV expansion through Tacoma wrapped up last year, but it left an eight-mile gap.

11 days ago

Image: A SUV drives past a sign near a tire shop on a snow-covered road in January 2012 in the West...

Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: Tire ban, $1,000 fines for idling have life in WA Legislature

The tire ban rose from the ashes and ended up in a seemingly unrelated bill on electric vehicles in the Senate. It ended up passing through a key committee.

17 days ago

Image: A Pierce Transit bus on the road...

Micki Gamez

South Sound on-demand ride service is now easier to use

An on-demand micro transit service called Runner is now available as part of Pierce Transit's all-in-one app.

18 days ago

Pack your chains for snow: State Patrol targeting big rigs on I-90