HOMESTAKE PASS — Winter has arrived here in southwest Montana, making driving conditions treacherous overnight for drivers in town and on the interstate—especially on Homestake Pass where semi-truck drivers are required to use chains to get over the mountain.
"You get some guys up here, like I said, they’ll be up in Montana from the Southern states with no chains on their trucks and they’re not prepared," says Robert Wysocki, a trucker with Hiball Trucking based in Billings.
Wysocki is from Three Forks and has been driving truck for over ten years, so he’s confident on the road but on days like today, he says he does worry about what other drivers are doing.
"For the most part, the dangerous part is the people around ya. You get these guys and they're just—cause they don’t—they’re automatic trucks, just like driving a car," says Wysocki.
Per Montana law, it is required for drivers hauling loads over 26,000 pounds to chain up when it is posted but aside from chains, Wysocki says he often sees unsafe drivers on his journey.
"You see a driver going down the road, he’s driving, his head should look like a chicken. You know? That’s one of the rules. You should be checking your mirrors, checking your gauges. Checking your mirrors, checking your gauges. Checking traffic a quarter mile to a half mile ahead of ya, at all times," says Wysocki.
Wysocki reminds drivers to carry extra water, warm clothing, blankets, and an extra heat source, but there is a new trend he finds particularly alarming.
"With truckers, I’ve seen a couple on the side of the road, already talk to them on the CB, 'Hey, driver! You alright?' Three quarters of these drivers out here no longer use CBs. They’re on their phone. During weather conditions like that, that’s just not—you know, it’s not safe. You should always have a CB in the truck and nobody uses them anymore," says Wysocki.
When the temperature drops below freezing, slipping off the side of the road can become a life or death situation so Wysocki reminds drivers to use caution.