Truck stuck in Smugglers' Notch, again, and Vermont plans to take action

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smugglers notch truck stuck
Vermont's treacherous state route 108 claims yet another truck, just two days after the "season opener" truck got stuck on this same stretch of road.
Vermont State Police

The second truck in just a few days has ignored plenty of signage and perhaps some measure of common sense by getting itself stuck on the Smuggler’s Notch stretch of Vermont state route 108.

This marks yet another turn in a bizarre week for trucking in one of the nation's smallest states, as on July 3, the day between the back-to-back Smugglers' Notch incidents, a truck driver had to swim to shore after driving a tractor trailer into a lake in Wilmington, Vermont. 

Vermont State Police identified Byambadorj Avirmed, 63, of Harbor City, California, as the driver who on July 4 around 2:30 p.m. was found stuck. From the police report, it seems like bystanders called this one in.

"Vermont State Police received multiple reports of a tractor-trailer unit attempting to drive through Smuggler's Notch," the report read. "Troopers located the tractor trailer and assisted with backing the truck and trailer out of the Notch."

Avirmed "told Troopers that he observed all the posted signs but continued anyways," just like the driver did two days prior. Avirmed got a ticket, which cost the last driver around $3,500. 

Funnily enough, the near-constant stream of trucks getting stuck on the clearly marked, winding and treacherous seasonal road has become a source of entertainment for locals.

The Rotary Club in nearby Stowe actually had a betting pool on when the first truck would get stuck, and raised $6,000. The winner of the prize will get half that, with the other half going to the club. 

"Just trying to raise awareness about a problem that just doesn't seem to want to go away," said Richard Litchfield, president of the Stowe Rotary Club told local media outlet WCAX. "It's a regular occurrence to get trucks stuck in the Notch, and it's a big drain on the emergency crews who need to respond to these events."

[Related: The most dangerous road for truckers? Vermont's Notch Road claims another]

Stowe, Vermont Rotary Club Smugglers' Notch raffle

Indeed a local wrecker crew recently told Overdrive these jobs can require two or three wreckers and cost thousands. 

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Given the wide range of drivers who find themselves stuck on the Notch, Overdrive reached out to Vermont's Agency of Transportation to see what could be done. 

Of the half-dozen or so signs warning truck drivers about the road, "some include French to address drivers from Quebec," Todd Sears, Operations and Safety Bureau Deputy Director told Overdrive. "The majority of stuckages, however, do not involve language issues."

Instead, the real blame lies with "the drivers who use the standard mapping packages such as Google Maps or Apple Maps," he continued, also noting that the state had reached out to GPS providers in the past to make sure the route was appropriately marked.

"Please use freight-specific navigation systems, not standard mapping apps," he said.

Also, he noted, the Notch isn't even some great shortcut. 

"Bypassing VT108 (the Notch Road) to get from Stowe to Cambridge will only be approximately 7 minutes more," he said. "Stuckages are expensive between fines, fees, cost of removal, and opportunity costs, not to mention the frustration it causes to the vehicles that are waiting for the stuckage to be cleared."

[Related: Truck driver takes a swim after crashing into reservoir]

So, in response, the AOT will "be installing a chicane course this season, which is intended to mirror the tight angles found in the Notch itself, and will force a turnaround of oversized vehicles when they discover they can’t navigate it."

A "chicane course," is just a stretch of serpentine road meant to slow traffic or, in this case, get through to foolhardy drivers. The official statute states that "Single-frame motor vehicles over 40 feet in length and tractor units with one or more attached trailers over 45 feet in total length are prohibited from operating on the Smugglers’ Notch segment of Vermont Route 108."

But ask any local, and they'll tell you even four-wheelers struggle with the hairpin turns on 108 at times. 

“Drivers traveling in the Stowe to Cambridge direction (Northbound) will encounter a chicane at Barnes Camp and would use the Stowe Resort parking lot to turn around. Drivers traveling in the Cambridge to Stowe direction (Southbound) will encounter a chicane near Smugglers Notch Parking Lot No. 1 and would use that lot to turn around," Sears said. 

Will this be the end of the Smugglers' Notch stuckages? Will the Stowe Rotary Club's new tradition see another year? 

These questions can only be answered by the bravest, boldest and most negligent truck drivers on the road today. Safe travels. 

[Related: $2,000 fair warning, a third time: Vermont route 108 between Stowe/Cambridge off-limits]

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