Vanity. It’s what makes something look good on the outside, but there is no guarantee what is on the inside isn’t completely revolting. A recent bill introduced in the Illinois Senate, SB3098, is exactly that. From a distance, the bill looks like it makes sense, but dig in a little to see how the legislation would play out in the real world, and it’s a nightmare. This bill is not good for the trucking industry and it’s a direct assault on the authority and autonomy of local government.
The bill is quite simple. In the year 2023, local government would lose all authority to permit oversize/overweight (OSOW) vehicles traveling on the very roads they own and maintain. Instead, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) assume OSOW permitting authority for the biggest and heaviest vehicles on local roads which they do not own, do not maintain and do not take any liability for.
In fairness to the heavy haulers who travel in Illinois, obtaining local permits historically has been problematic. Every city, village, township and county has their own system to accept, review and issue permits. Due to this patchwork of regulation, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (aka “CMAP”, a state agency), recently commissioned a $250,000 taxpayer funded study to recommend a solution to the problem of local permitting, thereby improving Illinois commerce.
The study began in 2014 and was completed in 2016. It was an incredibly thorough study, and included representatives from all levels of local government and leaders from the trucking industry. The final report can be viewed HERE.
Many ideas and solutions were considered, including the idea of IDOT consolidating permit authority over local roads. But guess what? This idea was outright rejected. That’s right, the very solution this bill seeks to implement, was rejected by a committee of carriers and government officials.
What the study did recommend is for local government to participate in a cooperative, online permitting solution. Eventually, as many units of local government take advantage of the program, technology could be created to help integrate the IDOT permit system and the local system.
And guess what? The recommended solution from the CMAP study is being utilized by nearly 70 units of local government in Illinois today, mostly from the suburban Chicago area. Plans and conversations have already been conducted to begin preliminary data sharing between the local system and IDOT. It’s not permit utopia yet, but the local system is growing and evolving. Big things are on the horizon. The solution, as proposed in the CMAP study, is working.
Unfortunately, a bill like this comes along and threatens the very progress being made. It sounds like an easy and simple solution to “just let IDOT do it”. However, it’s not that easy.
First, this bill was not sponsored by IDOT. It was sponsored by one trucking association whose membership consists of a very small percentage of permit load carriers. Does IDOT even want to be responsible for permitting over local roads? Or would they rather participate in the cooperative effort described above?
This is another piece of legislation dreamt up by people who have no idea how the impacted state agency functions. In essence, this state legislature bill creates an unfunded mandate for one of its very own state agencies!
In order for IDOT to effectively permit OSOW vehicles on local roads, within their system, an incredible amount of engineering data most be collected. Data for every mile of local roads. For every bridge and box culvert. For every vertical clearance. For all 1400 municipalities, 1400 township and 102 counties.
Who is going to pay for all these local road studies? IDOT? The State of Illinois is broke. Local government? They’re broke too.
Don’t forget the Illinois legislature in 2018 robbed local government of revenues entitled to them through the Local Government Distributive Fund. To add insult to injury, the legislature then taxed local government 2% to keep their money! It’s insanity. The state robs local government to fund their own fiscal disaster. This impacts local services like police, fire, public works and local road projects.
Instead, this bill would force cash-strapped local governments and/or cash-strapped IDOT to pony up premium engineering funds to make this solution work. Don’t forget, it’s a solution which was rejected by leaders of the industry.
In return, the bill revokes the authority of local government to make decisions on the best way to route the biggest and heaviest vehicles on Main Street. Further, it revokes their ability to charge nominal fees for the very permits they could no longer issue. Instead, the state would charge a fee to permit trucks on local roads. More robbery from Springfield at the expense of local government and their citizens.
For those in the industry, you live in a local community. Ask yourself if you really want the state deciding if trucks could be routed on your local streets.
Will IDOT make sure trucks aren’t going to be driving into parades and block parties? Will IDOT guarantee the trucks aren’t traveling on roads when parents are dropping off or picking up their kids from school? Will IDOT make sure trucks aren’t routed where the public works department is working on road repairs?
This is why local government exists. They know best about their community and how to protect it while allowing the industry to get the job done.
Again, no one knows IDOT’s position on this bill. However, is it unreasonable to think into the future and see a day when IDOT, if they had this authority, could push heavy trucks on local roads? Would it not be advantageous to the state (and disadvantageous to locals) to avoid routing the trucks on the state’s failing infrastructure?
Currently, IDOT recommends local routes, but does not give authority to carriers to move on local roads. This is for many reasons. IDOT does not have the engineering data necessary and does not have intergovernmental agreements to do so either.
Simply saying “IDOT can permit on local roads” is not good enough. To think this bill, if passed, could withstand a constitutional challenge is ridiculous. The legislature, cannot with the stroke of a pen, revoke the authority of local government to protect the property they own. It would be a blatant overreach of the legislature.
Call your local legislator and voice your opposition to SB3098.