Snowmobiles couldn’t save him: trucker rescued on Beartooth Highway hauling sleds

WYOMING — All too often, truth is stranger than fiction. This is one such story.

A semi-truck got stuck in the snow on November 27 on US 212, the infamous “Beartooth Highway.” Wyoming Highway Patrol was dispatched at 11:28 a.m. They called Park County Search and Rescue, too, thinking they’d have to snowmobile in to retrieve the stranded driver and passenger.

But the driver and passenger were fully equipped with snowmobiles themselves. The tractor-trailer was carrying a full load of snowmobiles. They were no help in this case.

WHP was able to drive an all-wheel-drive vehicle to the stranded truck. Yellowstone National Park maintenance sent a loader and plow truck to clear a path for wreckers from Cody. The truck and its sleds were freed by 6:43 p.m.

When asked why the driver was on Beartooth Highway, the driver said the GPS told him to go that way. Here in Wyoming, technology doesn’t always know best. A regulatory sign near the junction would have told him the road closed in 17 miles, and a cautionary sign would have warned vehicles larger than 40 feet to turn around, had the driver listened. As it was, he listened to his GPS and was unprepared for the wintery alpine conditions despite the load he was hauling. He also didn’t have tire chains or a front tow hook.

WHP reminds motorists to always be prepared for changing road conditions and to look beyond their GPS for route information. Thankfully this driver was able to utilize his company’s messaging system to get help. However, with a little trip pre-planning and watching the roadway signs, he wouldn’t have gotten into that predicament. 511 and WYDOT’s travel information website both showed US 212 eastbound as closed. It happens too often on US 212 in the spring and fall, and drivers take that route because of their GPS instructions.

US 212 is not maintained by WYDOT, but by the US Park Service. With multiple motorists becoming stranded each year in deep snow, the WHP has requested a gate or barrels at the US 212E/WY 296 junction and better signage, for the safety of motorists. Kudos to the USPS maintenance crew, and Park County Search and Rescue for their assistance.

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