A new draft process in place in Pennsylvania for when and how the state will restrict vehicles — especially trucks — during snowstorms and other bad weather is aimed at reducing the burden on truckers when winter weather hits.
The state’s trucking industry, while optimistic, is waiting to see how things go once serious winter weather arrives.
The draft plan is a five-tiered process that restricts travel by vehicles based on the severity of the weather and highway conditions. The first tier limits travel by certain kinds of vehicles, including some trucks, while the fifth is a complete travel ban for all vehicles except emergency response vehicles. When the first tier is activated, all trucks still allowed on the restricted roads will be required to slow down to 45 miles per hour and move to the right lane.
Trucks exempt from travel restrictions include those with public utilities restoring essential services; fire and other emergency services; tow trucks; and trucks making emergency deliveries of liquid fuels such as fuel oil, gasoline, and propane.
The draft policy comes on the heels of numerous complaints a year ago that limited or banned truck travel numerous times, often resulting in fines for truckers.
Alexis Campbell, PennDOT’s press secretary, said the agency worked for the past several months with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Turnpike Commission and the state police to formulate the draft framework for handling winter weather travel restrictions.
Kevin Stewart, president of the 1,400-member Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, said his organization requested the inclusion of the “45 mph and stay in the right lane” provision.
“This is better than last year,” Stewart said. “But the proof will be in the pudding of how this works out this winter.”
Stewart also said PennDOT agreed to have a separate page on 511PA dedicated to commercial vehicles where restrictions on trucks could be posted and on social media outlets before they are put into effect. Last year, Stewart said restrictions were in effect as soon as they were announced, and truckers often had little if any warning.
Campbell noted the plan will remain a draft through this winter, allowing PennDOT and other agencies to make changes based on crash statistics and other data.
The decision to enact restrictions is made collaboratively between PennDOT, State Police, PEMA and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Campbell said PennDOT, the state police and PEMA review CMV restrictions hourly once they have been initiated to determine if the conditions warrant the ban or if it can be lifted.
The five tiers of weather-related travel restrictions include:
•Tractors without trailers
•Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded enclosed trailers, open trailers or tank trailers. A lightly loaded CMV is defined as a vehicle that is less than 1/3rd of the GVWR (vehicle weight and cargo weight combined).
•Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded tandem trailers
•Enclosed cargo delivery trucks that meet the definition of a CMV
•Passenger vehicles (cars, SUV’s, pick-up trucks, etc.) towing trailers, to include Recreational travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers; enclosed cargo trailers; open cargo trailers; vehicle transport trailers
•School buses, commercial buses, and motor coaches
Tier 1, plus all CMV’s towing loaded tandem trailers
Tier 1 and 2, plus all loaded CMV’s except for those carrying full coverage tire chains for at least two drive wheels, or those with approved alternate traction devices (ATDs). Tire chains do not need to be installed but need to be readily available for use should the vehicle become stuck and not be able to move because of poor traction.
Tier 1, 2, and 3, plus all CMV’s regardless of loading or availability of tire chains or approved alternate traction devices. This is referred to as a complete CMV ban.
Tier 1, 2, 3, and 4, plus all passenger vehicles