Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Another trucker stuck in Smugglers’ Notch. Seriously?

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”

These lyrics to the Five Man Electrical Band song “Signs” probably have a whole new meaning within the Vermont State Police department every time a trucker gets stuck on hairpin turn or twisty road at Smugglers’ Notch. Despite increased fines and all the signs, it has happened again.

Two of several signs warning truckers near Smugglers' Notch.
(Photos courtesy of Vermont State Police)
In May, I reported on bill H876 in Vermont, which would increase fines from $162 to $1,000 for any trucker who gets stuck at Smugglers’ Notch on Vermont Route 108. Tractor-trailers have been prohibited from using the road due to the extremely tight turns on the narrow roadway. Since the problem kept popping up, lawmakers hoped the significantly increased fines would get drivers to turn around.

I wrote that story before the bill was signed by the governor in June. When speaking with Col. Jake Elovirta, director of Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles’ Enforcement and Safety Division, I could tell he was annoyed by the situation.

“It seems like no matter how much education we try to do or reach out or signage, we’re having an issue specific to tractor-trailers,” Col. Elovirta told me in May.

The very next day after speaking with Elovirta, he sent me an email notifying me of another stuck trucker within the previous 24 hours.

On June 2, Gov. Shumlin signed H876. As of July, any trucker caught driving on Vermont Route 108 in Smugglers’ Notch can be fined $1,000, up from $162. If the incident causes major traffic delays, that fine can increase to $2,000. Second and subsequent convictions within a three-year period will double the fines.

Apparently, it didn’t do much.

A trucker and his 53-foot trailer were found stuck on Monday, Aug. 15, blocking traffic on both sides for more than an hour. Consequently, he was fined the full $2,000. According to a Vermont State Police press release, the trucker passed three signs in addition to an electronic message sign that explicitly informs truckers they are banned on Route 108.

Wow.