DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Motor Carriers Association and in-cab driver alert providers PrePass Safety Alliance and Drivewyze, is helping enhance safety for truckers traveling through the state’s mountainous areas.
The Mountain Rules is a comprehensive, strategic and safety-focused effort to inform and educate in-state and interstate trucking companies and drivers on the challenges of driving in Colorado’s mountains.
It includes information on potential hazards and a consistent reminder on the need to be slow, steady, and safe for the long haul.
“It’s no secret that our mountains create immense challenges for semi-truck drivers,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “The Mountain Rules has a simple mission — get everyone home safely — and this campaign, which supports CDOT’s Whole Safety – Whole System initiative, is a major step towards achieving that goal.”
In addition to an educational effort, The Mountain Rules consists of infrastructure and informational improvements, including:
- Signing eastbound Interstate 70 and all eastbound chain stations, east of the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels, with information on the brake check locations for truckers.
- Restriping the wide eastbound exit ramp at the Genesee Park Interchange into a more defined short-term truck parking area where overheated brakes can cool down and equipment checks can take place prior to the final descent into the Golden area.
- A new subscription-based, in-cab alert system, warning truck drivers about specific areas where brake failures could occur, and the location of brake check and runaway truck ramps.
- Information gathering on the feasibility of a new ramp and other measures to mitigate runaway trucks, such as geometric and signage improvements to the existing Mount Vernon Canyon Truck Runaway Ramp.
“I want to dispel any misconceptions, myths or rumors about truck ramps for all commercial carriers who travel our mountain corridors,” said CSP Col. Matthew Packard. “Commercial carriers will not be cited by law enforcement for using truck ramps. Should your brakes fail, please save lives and use the ramps.”
The I-70 Mountain Corridor will be the initial pilot for The Mountain Rules. CDOT then will expand the program to other mountainous locations.
“Our mountains and the highways winding through them provide some of the greatest vistas in the world and make Colorado special,” said the Chairman of the CMCA Jim Coleman. “These same roadways, such as I-70, pose a particular challenge for truck drivers and truck brakes, with long and steep downgrades of up to 7% percent. This outreach effort and program will go a long way in educating truck drivers of how to navigate through our mountains, which will enhance safety for all highway users.”
Drivewyze said with its alerts subscribers will have their drivers receive in-cab alerts of upcoming safe locations to pull over for brake check inspections and see prompts to gear low while showing suggested maximum speeds down steep grades. It will also alert drivers of upcoming runaway ramps. Colorado was Drivewyze’s first state in the new alert program. Seven Colorado mountain passes are part of the Drivewyze Safety
According to Brian Mofford, vice president of government experience at Drivewyze, Colorado’s I-70 West, which goes from Vail Pass from the west through Eisenhower Tunnel (elevation 11,158) to Mt. Vernon Canyon to the east, represents 60 miles of difficult driving. “It’s a challenge for truck drivers with steep grades and heavy traffic, especially for those new to mountain driving,” he said. “Drivers have to be in tune with their surroundings, check their brakes and be prepared for constant downshifting and speed control. Brakes can get hot and fail for those who are not ready. It’s why we also have notifications for runaway ramps as a last resort safeguard for a safe stop. Our alerts will help keep preparations top of mind to help keep truck drivers and the motoring public safer.”
PrePass said its alerts are a feature of the MOTION weigh station bypass mobile application. The alerts notify truck drivers of steep grades ahead from a distance of approximately five miles away, and also notify them as they approach any of five runaway truck ramps along the route. Drivers will also receive alerts for seven sites along I-70 where they can perform brake checks and/or during winter, complete truck tire chain-ups or removals.
“These dynamic alerts will improve highway safety by notifying truck drivers well in advance of steep grades and sites where they can check their brakes,” said Terry Maple, regional director for PrePass Safety Alliance. Maple, former Superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol, said the additional alerts will minimize distractions because they require no interaction on the part of the driver.
I-70 is known as having one of the country’s most difficult passes for truck drivers. An out-of-control runaway truck in April slammed into stopped traffic near Lakewood, killing four people. Other tragedies have been averted thanks to truck drivers using the corridor’s five runaway truck ramps along the route. The Lower Straight Creek runaway truck ramp along westbound I-70 at milepost 211.83 is the most used truck ramp in the United States, being used once a week on average during the summer months.