Auto chains for commercial drivers: Commonly asked questions

Written by Leonard D'Orlando,

Timeliness is crucial in the transport business, especially in icy and snowy conditions. Discover more about the solution of automatic snow chains in North America in this blog post by an Onspot sales team member.

As the West Coast Regional for Onspot I manage a large territory from Colorado - West to Alaksa. So, like many over the road drivers I spent the majority of my time on the road traveling to visit customers and dealers. Quite often during my travels I receive calls from drivers either interested in auto chains or who already currently own Onspots. What follows are some frequently asked questions and concerns from drivers.  My hope is that these will provide you with a better understanding of the Onspot automatic tire chain system and whether or not it is right for you.

Is the auto chain system legal? Yes, the system is legal in all fifty states and Canada. (you find the European regulations here ) and   I hear this question from many drivers who feel auto chains are not legal to run on the road. This in part is both true and false. ANY traction device should not be run on roads unless ice and snow conditions are present. The advantage of the Onspot system is that it is permanently mounted to the truck suspension, always at the ready to provide traction. It is just like having conventional chains hanging from racks on the truck or trailer when not in use.  The added bonus, however, is that you never have to get out of the vehicle to put chains on. I received a call once from a driver in Colorado who told me they used their auto chains during a brief hailstorm on an otherwise clear and sunny day.

Out West the auto chain system is also recognized as an ATD or Alternative Traction Device in all states with chain control areas. (In Norway you have similar regulations and can read more about them here)  This means that drivers with the system can roll through these areas without having to stop and chain up. Instead of throwing iron they just simply throw a switch inside the vehicle to engage the auto chains for DOT to see.  Often times the miles of road between the chain up area to the area where you take them off is not always covered in ice and snow. Therefore, an additional benefit of the auto chains on mountain passes is that you only use it when you need it.  

Is the system a good option for owner/operators? Bottomline is to justify an investment in auto chains it must make sense. As an owner operator you need to look at where travel takes you and what times of the year. If you run the Southern states and have never really encountered snow and ice or run most of the time during the summer months in states that do see snow and ice then there is probably little need for auto chains. However, if you run during the winter months and travel takes you out West and back, over mountain passes, then the system has its advantages.

What about fleet owners? The same can be said for fleet owners and their drivers. Chances are that maybe not all the trucks in the fleet run in areas where winter conditions are present, however for other driver’s mountain passes are a daily part of their route. Therefore, perhaps only some trucks in the fleet will need the auto chain system. Another consideration is driver retention. Some company drivers may be new to running mountain passes out West or older veteran drivers with experience using conventional chains maybe having more difficulty slinging iron. In these instances, the auto chains offer a measure of safety and support.

One set or two? If you travel the East coast or Midwest states and do not travel out West, then one set of auto chains on the front drive axle provides plenty of traction. If, however, travel takes you through mountain passes and chain control areas out West, then you will need to have two sets of auto chains on both drive axles to be compliant. The two sets are equal to throwing a single set of conventional chains on all four corners of the truck. We even offer systems for trailers to act as a drag link.

In future blog posts I will share some stories from over the road customers, and company fleets that run the auto chain systems and their experiences. Below is a link to information about the differences between friction and traction.

"What is traction, friction, and road grip?"


Snow chain Improve performance on icy roads Truck driver safety Fleet Managers Improving Fleet Productivity Slippery Roads Automatic Snow Chains onspot Commercial Drivers automatic tire chains icy conditions driver safety Commercial Driver tire chains US | Traction aids for heavy vehicles Traction aid for heavy vehicles snow chains fleet efficiency 2023

Leonard D'Orlando

About Leonard D'Orlando

Leonard has six years with Onspot Automatic Tire Chains in North America. Four years as a field technician on the East Coast and two years as a Regional Sales Manager. During the four years as a field technician Leonard provided install and maintenance training to dealers. Leonard also performed fleet reviews for customers and provided technical service support. An alumnus from the University of Maine, Leonard graduated with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Education. Leonard also attended Texas State Technical College where he earned an associate’s degree in automotive mechanics.


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