Winter often means snow-covered and icy roads. Experienced truckers know that the lighter the load, the less traction the tires have. But even trucks hauling heavy loads can lose traction in the snow and ice. That’s why many states will put chain law into effect. Chain law requires truckers to put tire chains on their tires in order to gain more traction. Usually, when chains are required for trucks, cars are also required to use chains or snow tires.
Chain law is publicized by road signs and state road condition portals- websites, road condition hotlines, and the like. You’ll usually only see chain law go into effect on mountain passes, but states can require chains on any roadway that encounters dangerous winter travel conditions.
Some states require that truckers carry the minimum required chains through the winter months, even if they aren’t planning to chain up. Many states may allow cables instead of chains, but most will require truckers to carry chains. Cables are generally frowned on for being less effective.
California Chain Law
Road Conditions: 800-427-7623 (in state) or 916-445-7623(out of state)
California Chain-up Requirements
California does not require truckers to carry chains during certain times of the year. However, when trucks enter a posted “chains required” area, they must be carrying chains. And when chain law is in effect, truckers cannot proceed without chains on their tires. Cal-Trans will set up “truck screening” areas when chains are required to make sure that truckers are carrying the minimum required chains, so that if they need to use chains, they will be able to install them.
Generally, California requires 5-axle trucks to have chains on all tires on the main drive axle, two tires on the other drive axle, and one tire on each side of the trailer- any axle.
California has three Chain Conditions they enforce.
R-1 Chain Law:
Chains are required on all vehicles except passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks under 6,000 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on at least two drive wheels. Chains must be carried by vehicles using snow tires. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on one drive axle. Trailers with brakes must have chains on at least one axle.
R-2 Chain Law:
Chains are required on all vehicles except four-wheel-drive vehicles under 6,500 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on all four wheels. Chains for one set of drive wheels must be carried by four wheel-drive vehicles using snow tires.
R-3 Chain Law:
Chains are required on all vehicles without exception.
Colorado Chain Law
Road Conditions: 511 or (303) 639-1111(out of state)/877-315-7623 (in state)
Colorado Chain-up Requirements
Chain law applies to commercial vehicles- if the truck has a gross weight rating of 10,001 lbs and the combined vehicle weight rating (truck and trailer) is 26,001 lbs, if the truck has a weight rating of 26,001 lbs, or if the vehicle is designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
Drivers are required to carry chains on I 70 from mile marker 163 to mile marker 259 from September 1st through May 31st. If you are caught on this stretch of road during these dates without chains, you may be fined $50 plus $13 surcharge ($73).
New Fines! If chain law is in effect but you choose not to put chains on, you may be fined $500 plus $157 surcharge ($657). If chain law is in effect but you choose not to put chains on and you wind up blocking the road, you maybe fined $1000 plus $313 surcharge ($1,313).
Colorado has two levels of Chain Law they enforce.
Level I Chain Law:
All single-axle combination vehicles must chain up. This means if the truck has only a single drive axle (as opposed to duals), chains are required. All drive tires must be chained.
Level II Chain Law:
Chains are required for all commercial vehicles.
Idaho Chain Law
Idaho Road Conditions: 511 or 888-432-7623
Idaho does not require that truckers carry chains during winter months. However chains may be required to continue travel during winter weather.
Montana Chain Law
Montana Road Conditions: 511 or 406-444-6339 or 800-226-7623
Montana does not require that truckers carry chains during winter months. However, if you choose to travel without putting chains on your tires in a posted “chain area” and you get into an accident, you will have a large fine to pay. Montana requires that all tires of one drive axle be chained when chain law is in effect.
Nevada Chain Law
Nevada Road Conditions: 511 or 877-687-6237
Nevada Chain-up Requirments
Nevada has roadside signs that state “When Flashing, Chains or Snow Tires Required.” If the lights are flashing, chains are required to continue travel. Vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs are required to use chains.
North Dakota Chain Law
North Dakota Road Conditions : 511 or 866-696-3511
There is no mandatory chain law in North Dakota.
Oregon Road Conditions: 511 or 503-588-2941
Oregon Chain-up Requirements
During winter weather, trucks are required to carry the minimum amount of chains they would need to don. Oregon doesn’t require that chains be carried between certain dates, but chains are required to be on the truck during winter weather conditions.
During a Conditional Road Closure, drivers are required to install chains on their tires to continue travel.
Oregon uses road signs to inform drivers of the chain-up requirements ahead. If the sign says “Snow Zone, Carry Chains or Traction Tires,” the minimum required chains for your truck must be carried on the truck. If the sign says “Snow Zone, Chains Required on Vehicles Towing or Over 10,000 GVW,” the minimum required chains for your truck must be installed on the tires to proceed. If the sign says “Snow Zone, Chains Required, Traction Tires Allowed on Vehicles Under 10,000 GVW,” the minimum required chains for your truck must be installed on the tires to proceed.
South Dakota Chain Law
South Dakota Road Conditions: 511 or 866-697-3511
South Dakota does not require truckers to carry chains but there are times when travel will be restricted for trucks without chains on the tires.
Utah Chain Law
Utah Road Conditions: 511 or 866-511-8824
Utah requires vehicles that are likely to encounter conditions that require chain-up to carry enough chains for one drive axle.
Washington State Chain Law
Washington Road Conditions: 511 or 800-695-7623
Washington Chain-up Requirements
All vehicles over 10,000 lbs are required to carry the minimum required chains from November 1 to April 1 each year on the following routes:
I 82 between Ellensburg Exit 3 (MP 3.00) and Selah Exit 26 (MP 26.00)
I 90 between North Bend (MP 32) and Ellensburg (MP 101)
Route 2 between Dryden (MP 108) and Index (MP 36)
Route 12 between Packwood (MP 135) and Naches (MP 187)
Route 14 (MP 18) to Junction 97 (MP 102)
Route 20 between Tonasket (MP 262) and Kettle Falls (MP 342)
Route 97 between (MP 145) and Junction SR-2
Route 97 between junction SR-14 (MP 4) Columbia River and Toppenish (MP 59)
Route 155 between Omak (MP 79) and Nespelem (MP 45)
Route 410 from Enumclaw to Naches
Route 542 Mt Baker Highway between (MP 22.91) and (MP 57.26)
Route 970 between (MP 0) and (MP 10)
Wyoming Chain Law
Road Conditions: 511 or 888-996-7623
Wyoming will sometimes shut down the freeway except for all wheel drive vehicles and vehicles equipped with chains or snow tires.