County warms up to idea of giving some truckers a break from ‘frost law’
Independent truckers can now get around Garfield County’s “frost law,” which requires a $500,000 bond to haul heavy loads during the spring thaw.
The so-called “frost law” reduces weight limits for trucks on county roads from 80,000 pounds to 35,000 pounds. It applies when warming spring temperatures melt underlying soil on paved roads and heavy trucks punch through the asphalt.
Problems with frost thawing and refreezing occur primarily on county roads between Divide Creek south of Silt to Parachute, south of the interstate, county road and bridge supervisor Tom Russell said at Monday’s county commissioner meeting.
When frost layers melt, the law goes into effect. Truckers can apply for a permit to operate late at night when the ground freezes again, but they must put up a $500,000 bond.
While that’s no problem for the larger operators such as the natural gas companies, it’s a hardship for small independent truckers, Russell said.
“We’ve got to find a balance somewhere to allow us to mitigate the impacts but to allow the small operator to load cattle or a track hoe, and not shut them down for 90 days,” said Commissioner Larry McCown. “We leave them no option but to violate the law … or sit idle for the time the frost laws are in effect. We’re crippling the little guys.”
But as the regulations are now written, permits can’t be obtained without the $500,000 bond, Russell said. The law can’t be changed without a review by the Colorado Department of Transportation and a public hearing.
County attorney Don DeFord said it would take at least 30 days for CDOT to review the proposed change and another 30 days to schedule public hearings.
Rick Bertolini, owner of Dig It Backhoe Service in Silt, said he’s been sitting idle since the frost law went into effect two weeks ago.
“I’m desperate to get to work,” he said. “It’s been cold, so why not lift the law today?”
He suggested the county impose the law on a daily basis, giving the small operators a chance to get their business done “until the board can come up with a way to get around the bond issue.”
The commissioners liked the idea. They went a step further and directed Russell to lift the law during the night hours if the temperatures become cold enough to refreeze the road base.
DeFord was also directed to come up with new language for the frost law that gives the small operator some relief.
Commissioner Walt Stowe suggested a lower bond could be based on no more than three trips a week and a total weight carried in that period of no more than 200,000 pounds.
Such a formula would eliminate the heavy haulers, such as those that service the natural gas wells in the Silt area and make many trips per week.
Russell said he’s also working on amendments to other road use laws, such as bonding requirements for logging trucks and annual road use permits, that he hopes to bring before the commissioners for discussion in the months ahead.
“Maybe we’ll get it right one of these days,” McCown quipped.
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