Chain Laws By State: What Are Tire Chains, and How Do They Impact Trucking?


No matter where you live, it’s likely that your supply chain is impacted by winter weather. Shipments are delayed, trucks get stuck and sometimes main roads close completely. 

When your freight can’t wait, it’s tempting to take any necessary steps to keep the truck on the road and moving forward. After all, things like tire chains exist to make it possible to drive in any weather conditions, right? 


Not always. Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) has been running freight for 68 years — in conditions as diverse as beautiful summer days, heavy rains, severe winter storms and more. We’ve learned a lot about the importance of balancing urgency with safety. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through quite that much hassle to learn about chain laws. Read on to learn more about tire chains, see the related laws in each state, and prepare yourself to make decisions about whether or not you should use chains. 

What Are Tire Chains?

Tire chains are metal chains that wrap around tires to provide additional tread and safety on icy or snowy roads. They are designed for use over short distances and are applied by the driver as needed. 

Alternatives are cables (coiled metal ropes that have a less aggressive design) or studded tires (rubber tires with embedded spikes that can be raised and lowered when needed). 

Tire chains are designed to dig into the surface of the road to provide better grip for the vehicle. On a snow-covered road, they will dig into the snowpack to give the tires a surface to grip onto, while also breaking up the snow. 

If there is no snow on the road, the chains dig into the asphalt surface of the road itself, damaging the asphalt.

Because of the potential to damage the road, many state and local jurisdictions prohibit using chains unless required by the condition of the road. However, the safety provided by tire chains makes them necessary in some areas and some circumstances. 

When Are Tire Chains Required?

Chain laws vary by state, as shown in the chart below. 

  • Many states allow snow chains when needed at the discretion of the driver. 

  • Some states restrict the use of tire chains to a certain time of the year. These restrictions keep chains off the road during warmer months when they aren’t needed and can damage the road.  

  • Some states require tire chains in certain areas when warning signs are posted. These are usually mountainous regions where chains may be required to help the vehicle stay on the road until it reaches a safe place to stop. 

Chains are not intended to be used for long-distance driving. They damage the road, and they can also damage your vehicle — chains can snap in use, damaging the body of the vehicle as well as areas close to the tire (like the mudflaps). 

How Far Can Trucks Drive with Snow Chains? 

Even on snow-covered roads, there’s a limit to the effectiveness of chains. 

Tire chain manufacturers recommend a maximum speed of 30 mph. They are also not recommended for driving on bare pavement as they stop the tread of the tire from meeting the road and cause the vehicle to slip.  

When using tire chains, the recommendation is to apply the chains, drive to a safe location and park. 

Safety should always be first — for truck drivers and  everyone on the road. The bottom line is that if you can’t safely drive without tire chains, consider if it’s safe to be on the road. 

ATS’ safety team has decided that our drivers do not chain. If chains are required, the driver’s role is to get to the next safe place to park and wait out the storm. They may need to apply chains to get to the safe area, but they are instructed to get off the road at the next opportunity. When choosing a transportation provider, consider how they balance the priorities of safety and on-time delivery. 

No freight is more important than safety. Staying off winter roads might disrupt your supply chain, but causing an accident will have even more serious consequences. 

Winter driving can pose serious hazards, regardless of if tire chains are in place. Do not consider chains as an alternative for safe driving decisions and staying off the road. 

Before setting off on a long journey, it’s helpful to understand the state-by-state rules regarding tire chains for winter driving. 

How Much Does It Cost for a Driver to Apply Tire Chains?

Drivers are not paid to apply tire chains. The process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour — depending on how the chains are applied, how many are required (some states only require them on drive tires) and if the weather is slowing the application. 

The time spent to apply tire chains, plus the reduced travel speed while they are on, will mean a significant delay to your pick-up or delivery. While this may slow down your delivery, it’s unavoidable due to the conditions of the road. 

What Are the Chain Laws In Each State? 

The best source of information about tire chain laws is always each state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) website. This information is provided as a quick reference guide to each state’s laws.  


Chain Law Summary


Allowed when required.


Tire chain laws vary by location, check local laws. 


Use snow tires, chains or studded tires as recommended, required or both on snowy, icy roads.


Permitted when required November 15-April 15. 


Tire chains are required in mountain areas. Follow posted signs. 


Drivers must carry tire chains in certain areas September 1- May 31. 


Studded tires and non-skid devices may be used November 15-April 30.


Chains are allowed when needed. 


No tire chain laws.


Tire chains required when posted. 


No tire chain laws.


Chain laws apply to vehicles over 26,000 pounds on mountain passes.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


May not be used unless the road is ice-covered or vehicle has an ice shoe at least 6 inches wide. Limit on diameter and spacing.


Allowed when required.


Permitted when necessary November 1-May 1.


Required when a snow emergency has been declared, not allowed on vehicles weighing more than 10,000 lbs.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Not permitted April 1-November 1.


Vehicles are required to carry tire chains October 1-April 1 when indicated.


Allowed when required.


Required on all vehicles over 10,000 pounds when posted. 

New Hampshire

No tire chain laws.

New Jersey

Allowed when required.

New Mexico

Allowed when required.

New York

Allowed when required October 16-April 30. 

North Carolina

Allowed when required.

North Dakota

No mandatory chain law.




Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.

Rhode Island

Allowed when required.

South Carolina

Allowed when required.

South Dakota

Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Chains required when posted


Required in certain areas when posted.


Allowed when required.


Required on certain routes when posted.

West Virginia

Allowed when required.


Allowed when required.


Required when posted.


Many state laws leave room for driver discretion. This applies to truck drivers as well. When a driver chooses to stop in a safe place rather than continuing with their load, that decision is made for the safety of the driver, the freight and the motoring public. 

Drivers are paid by the mile. They don’t voluntarily decrease their income unless the weather conditions are serious enough to require it.

When Should Truck Drivers Use Tire Chains?

Tire chains are a valuable tool for enhancing safety on icy or snowy roads. While they provide additional tread and grip, it is important to use them responsibly and according to state laws. Understanding the chain laws in your state and other states on your route is a crucial part of ensuring a safe shipment. 

Safety should always be the top priority for all drivers. If you find yourself unable to safely drive without tire chains, it may be best to reconsider your travel plans and wait out the storm in a safe location. Remember, no freight or event is more important than safety. 

Stay informed, stay prepared and stay safe on winter roads

If you’re ready for a quote on your next shipment, contact the ATS team. Or download the Transportation Provider Scorecard for guidance when choosing a provider this winter (or any time).      

Jody King

Written by Jody King

Following 19 years as an over-the-road truck driver, and more than 2 million accident-free miles, Jody joined ATS as a safety specialist in 2019. Today, using his well-rounded knowledge of truck driver safety and safe practices, Jody acts as a driver safety counselor overseeing ATS' newest safety program, ATS Safety Driven University. Jody approaches each day in the transportation world with self-confidence and poise as he helps ATS's many drivers improve their safety knowledge and practices.

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