Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy Landon Call shows the drivers of two trucks hauling shipping containers over Teton Pass on Thursday morning how to download the 511 phone applications for various states, which would inform them of road closures and trailer restrictions in place. The two drivers were cited for violating the ban on trailers on Teton Pass, part of a rash of such incidents that have plagued the busy commuter artery between Teton Valley, Idaho, and Jackson Hole this winter.
Trooper Austin Willette was driving up Teton Pass to help with two trucks pulling shipping containers on trailers that had snarled the morning commute Thursday when he saw a semi-truck headed straight toward the chaos.
So Willette got the truck to back down to a sand storage shed where there was room to turn around. Once in Wilson, Willette conducted a commercial vehicle inspection.
“Basically, it’s a way for us to hold the companies and the drivers accountable, rather than just the drivers,” Willette said.
While Willette was conducting his inspection, Teton County Sheriff’s deputies and Wyoming Highway Patrol were helping get the two trucks hauling trailers with containers off the top of Teton Pass.
It was the second day in a row a truck towing a trailer with a shipping container slid across both lanes of Highway 22 at the top of the pass, blocking the road and delaying hundreds of people.
Patrol Sgt. Jesse Willcox said he was posted up in Wilson before 9 a.m., keeping an eye out for illegal trailer traffic when Teton County dispatch alerted him to a tip from someone in Victor, Idaho, that trailers were headed toward the pass.
The first truck hauling a container made it to the summit where it was pulled over, but the second slid and jackknifed at the last turn. Since both drivers had already made it past Coal Creek and the road between there and the summit has no good turnaround spot, typically officers try to turn them around on the summit.
“We try to make the traffic stop where it’s safest for all the commuters,” Willcox said, “so the summit for us is ideal, but this guy didn’t make it, and here we are.”
One of the drivers told a Jackson Hole Daily photographer that he wouldn’t drive the pass again.
“I don’t want to die,” the California driver said, declining to give his name. He also said that many more flatbeds with containers would be coming.
Indeed, after finishing his inspection, Willette tried to stop another truck pulling a container but was busy pulling over a tractor trailer near the Phillips Canyon trailhead.
Willette said his “biggest frustration” is that drivers with commercial driver’s licenses should be held to a higher standard.
“They spend more time behind the wheel than your average driver,” he said. “So I would expect them to be capable of adhering to road signs more consistently than your average driver.”
In a winter when road conditions have been consistently slick with frequent snowfall and trucks hauling trailers have been snarling traffic on a regular basis, law enforcement is devoting time to the route.
“Just trying to be present and visible is really important, I think,” Willcox said.
From Nov. 15 to April 1, the Wyoming Department of Transportation bans all hitched vehicles from using the pass: vehicles towing boats or snowmobiles, camping trailers and commercial vehicles with a trailer. As drivers head into Wyoming they pass five or six signs warning of the restrictions.
Impound the trailer, charge $1000/day for storage.
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