Driving in winter weather is just part of the over the road driving career. There is no way around it. As such, the vast majority of truck drivers have to think about tire chains from time to time. There are two questions to consider in this regard, the first being whether to purchase chains or to use chain banks along major routes that supply them. The second question is one of deciding whether to chain your truck or to park it instead.
The answers to both questions really depend on the individual driver and how much risk he or she is willing to take. Ultimately, though, it is the driver who decides whether to proceed in bad weather or not. Federal and state laws prevent employers or dispatchers from forcing drivers to continue driving when they believe weather conditions endanger their safety.
Tire Chain Basics
Tire chains are available in two basic options: the ladder design and the zigzag design. The ladder chains looks just like a mini version of an aluminum ladder you use to paint your home, except that it’s made with chain links instead of pieces of aluminum. The ‘steps’ of the chain ladder go across the horizontal surface of the tire while the rails fit over the side.
The zigzag tire chain looks a lot like a shoelace, crossing from one side of the tire to the other. A zigzag chain can consist of one or two ‘laces’ held together by two side rails. Some truck drivers prefer this pattern because they believe it provides extra bite; others prefer the ladder design.
Regardless of which type a driver chooses, the chains are applied to the tires and held in place with either additional chains, bungee cords, or rubber rope. It is important for drivers to check chains within a few hundred yards of installation to make sure they are tightly secured. It is possible for chains to fall off during travel if not properly secured.
The states have different regulations when it comes to tire chains. For example, California does not require truckers to use chains in a general sense. However, police do have the authority to prevent truckers from entering certain roadways, under certain weather conditions, without chains. Colorado is a bit stricter.
The laws in Colorado apply to every interstate and state and federal highway when weather conditions warrant. When the regulations are in effect, DOT officials post signs along roadways warning truckers to chain up. Chains can only be removed when bare pavement is encountered on a descending grade.
Parking versus Chaining
Truck drivers ultimately have to decide whether or not to chain or to park. Having said that, some trucking companies have established policies indicating they do not want their drivers ever using chains. If weather were bad enough to require chaining, these companies would prefer drivers pull over and park their rigs instead. They do not want to risk driver or equipment in such bad weather.
Independent contractors do not have the luxury of a company policy making chaining decisions for them. Therefore, they have to consider their own schedules and financial requirements. The one thing that should always be remembered is that human beings cannot be replaced. Delivery schedules can be changed, extra work can be taken to make up for lost income, and equipment can be repaired or replaced. However, a dead trucker is a dead trucker.
Chains are appropriate in certain weather conditions and inappropriate in others. At the end of the day, a driver needs to be objective when it comes to deciding between chaining and parking.