Observer staff

Permits are now available to those who want to earn money by helping chain up commercial vehicles during the winter months.

In Union County this year, the Oregon Department of Transportation District 13 office in La Grande will issue three permits for the I-84 Ladd Canyon area in Union County, according to ODOT.

Tom Strandberg, public information officer for ODOT, said the permit process is nothing new. Those who have a permit can negotiate with truck drivers to help chain up their trucks for a price. The amount of permits is to limit the number of people on the side of the interstate to alleviate the danger that’s posed during the winter months.

The Pendleton district received five permits and Ontario received one permit.

“We’ve been doing permits for a couple of decades now,” Strandberg said. “The districts came up with the numbers. It’s what we feel is needed for that area.”

Interested parties need to contact the appropriate ODOT district office by Oct. 31. Random drawings will be held Nov. 1 at each ODOT office to determine who will be offered the permits, according to an ODOT press release.

Only persons who have the chain-up permits will be allowed to provide this service to truck drivers in designated chain-up areas. The permits will be valid between Nov. 1 and April 1, 2019, according to the release.

“This is a safety issue,” ODOT Permit Specialist Tom Lapp said. “Limiting permits for each district is necessary to help control the number of people working along state highways during winter weather conditions.”

The amount of crashes that occur on the interstate during the winter time increases dramatically. The cold temperatures make for slick conditions, which is why a limited amount of people can be on the side of the road.

In the past, crashes have occurred because people are not driving for the road conditions. In 2015, a chain reaction of accidents occurred because one lane of the interstate was blocked by trucks chaining up. A two-mile stretch of accidents happened during that incident.

Just days before Christmas in 2015, a semi-truck driver out of Nampa, Idaho, was driving a 2011 Kenworth truck in the left lane and was allegedly traveling too fast for the conditions. The driver had to brake suddenly when the vehicle in front of him had either slowed or stopped in the lane, OSP Sgt. Kyle Hove told The Observer.

See more in Monday's edition of The Observer.