Mountain passes like the I-5 over the Grapevine (Tejon Pass), I-80 over the Donner Pass, I-50 over Echo Summit, I-395 over Sherwin’s Grade, State Route (SR) 58 near Tehachapi, and I-15 over Cajon Pass close or require commercial rigs to use tire chains.
You can easily check the Caltrans website for road conditions on a specific route or call 1-800-427-7623.
I’m sure you’ve heard the song “It Never Rains in California.” Many believe that and even worse, they think it doesn’t snow, so they don’t bother with tire chains. When facing a mountain grade of 12 to 14 percent, you might want to stop and put those tire chains on before you test the grade and your driving skills.
Although it’s a less-traveled road, at least for truckers, SR-108 over the Sonora Pass between Modesto and Bridgeport has a 26 percent grade in some places. These CA passes can be inhospitable for many commercial motor vehicles and their drivers.
According to the Caltrans website:
“Whenever chain controls are posted over Donner Pass on Interstate 80, heavy trucks are usually required to have link-type chains on at least the main drive axle.”
Since you never know the conditions at higher elevations, it’s best to have those on board. If you don’t, you might need to park your rig until conditions permit you to continue. That might be fine for some independent truckers with no deadline, but most fleet managers will not take kindly to the delay.
Moreover, there might be no place to park your rig. You might need to take a long way around. CHP could issue a citation if you are caught without traction devices when required.
When you’re trapped and must take the long way, is no time to ask yourself, “Why didn’t I…” That typically means you could have been better prepared.
If you must travel these roadways, you need to be prepared. No matter how long you’ve been driving or the degree of your driving skills, long winding grades will test any driver.
What Does the California Traffic Code Say about Traction Devices for Commercial Motor Vehicles?
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 605, Tire Traction Devices, requires “…devices or mechanisms having a composition and design capable of improving vehicle traction, braking, and cornering ability upon snow or ice-covered surfaces.” Therefore, unless the checkpoint authority requires explicitly another device, tire chains, cable chains, link-type chains, or Automatic Traction Devices (ATD) can be used.
However, ATDs are typically mounted on the vehicle’s underside and can be automatically deployed when extra traction is needed, which might not be enough on specific grades.
How to Prepare Your Commercial Motor Vehicle for the Winter
Although snow and ice can pop up at any minute in the higher elevations, autumn is the best time to prepare for those abrupt shocks.
Drain the compressed air system when you park for the night. The moist air in the tanks, particularly the wet tank, will condense and freeze. Repair or replace an old air compressor. When oil gets into an old air compressor, it can foul up the desiccant cartridge and render it ineffective.
Check for and remove any restrictions or kinks in the lines. Those are points that will most likely freeze. Your primary focus is to keep moisture in lines from fouling up those brake valves.
Winter can be hard on your commercial motor vehicle’s electrical system. Inspect the charging system closely. Heater fans, heaters, lights, and all the amenities in your sleeper constantly use power.
Therefore, your batteries never get a full charge. Clean the battery cables and terminals to ensure proper starting. When it’s minus 15, you don’t want a truck that won’t even idle so that you can cook and keep warm.
Make sure you or the mechanic checks the alternator and starter wiring connections. Fix or replace any questionable connectors or cables.
Check the fuel tank for water and replace filters. Water in the fuel lines can freeze and plug up the flow. It might be a good idea to carry some airline antifreeze in your jockey box.
Check tire pressure frequently, as cold will affect air pressure.
Seasoned commercial motor vehicle drivers know and understand that these checks are necessary. Seasoned operators also understand that when ticketed, they must challenge any moving violations in traffic court with a CA traffic attorney.
Contact Bigger & Harman, APC, About Commercial Motor Vehicle Tickets in LA County
We assist CDL holders in resolving traffic tickets in LA, Kern, Kings, Fresno, Nevada, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento Counties. Give us a call; you won’t regret it.
Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook Copyright 2022.
The Caltrans webpage, Truck Tire Chains Requirements.
CVC 605, Tire Traction Devices.
The Truckinginfo article, How to Get Trucks Ready for Winter.