A Word is Worth $1,000 (or more)

About a year ago the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association wrote an article on this blog regarding misconceptions of what constitutes a combination of vehicles versus a single vehicle. While sometimes the language of truck law appears straightforward, it becomes distorted when mixed with street vocabulary. The consequence of not knowing what the legal definition of a word means, compared to the common definition, is felt in the wallet when fines are levied. The article this week will discuss the erroneous descriptions of vehicles and loads when applying for oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits.

Many local (municipal/township/county) jurisdictions require permits for vehicles exceeding legal weights and dimensions mandated in the Illinois Vehicle Code. A permit to travel OS/OW is obtained upon application, and the application is methodology for gathering information.

Many locals, similar to the OS/OW permit application used by the Illinois Department of Transportation, want to know the how and why of the load itself. One such question, or field of information, asks a carrier to declare one of three things:

Is the OS/OW load actually “loaded” on another vehicle?
Is the OS/OW load being “towed” behind another vehicle?
Or is the OS/OW load moved on its “own power”?

These terms may sound simple enough, but the reality is many carriers make the wrong choice. This delays the time it takes to receive an approved permit or the carrier may flat out get denied. In an effort to help understand the differences between these three choices, and to help expedite the permit process, here’s a closer look at what each term truly means.

Loaded
This is probably the most straight forward of the three. The word “loaded” could very well be interchanged with the term “carried”. A carrier should only select this choice when they are transporting an object on top of the highway vehicles. Think of movements of construction equipment, pre-cast concrete or roof trusses.

Towed
This is where things start to get sideways. Imagine a lowboy trailer is hauling a piece of construction equipment. Is the load being towed? Well, yes, but it’s also be carried. In the case of the lowboy or flatbed, the correct option is “loaded”. The trailer alone is most likely not OS/OW.

A towed OS/OW load is when a trailer is being pulled behind the power unit, and the trailer itself is OS/OW. Examples of this would be manufactured housing or tub grinders.

Own Power
Do semi-tractors move under their own power? Yes. Do straight trucks move under their own power? Yes. Does this mean when the OS/OW permit is applied for, and the vehicle is a power unit, the applicant should select “own power”? No. All permits loads require power to travel.

However, “own power” means the OS/OW load is the vehicle itself. The most common “own power” permit loads are mobile cranes. Other representations sometimes include concrete conveyors, well-drilling rigs and heavy wreckers.

When it comes to truck law, words matter. While it’s cool to talk truck slang with boys at the shop, there’s nothing fun about the tickets which may result in a lack of understanding.

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The Goose and the Gander

Illinois, we’re sorry. No one is happy about the recent income and business tax increase in the Land of Lincoln. Even more irritating is paying state income tax and federal income tax. The same occurs in truck world when it comes to oversize and overweight (OSOW) permits. The State of Illinois issues OSOW permits for roadways under their jurisdictions and so do many locals. Similar? Yes. Different. You betcha. The article this week will discuss a scenario which occurs during enforcement of state permits, but not necessarily local permits.

In 2006, the Illinois Department of Transportation began issuing “blanket” or “LCO” (limited continuous operation) permits for overweight vehicles carrying interchangeable loads. One of the conditions of these permits was the minimum axles spacings listed must be met. In the event the minimum axle spacings were not met, the permit is considered void. A voided permit results in the truck only receiving legal weights, which is usually accompanied by a large fine.

When IDOT released its automated permitting system (ITAP) in 2013, the new permit format began listing individual axle spacings on overweight permits. Per Administrative Rule 554.212, an overweight permit which does not meet minimum axle spacings, is fraudulent. A fraudulent permit, per the Illinois Vehicle Code, is void.

The question truck officers are routinely asked by carriers is “why is a permit deemed fraudulent if the minimum axle spacings are not met?” The reason is engineering. When an applicant inputs axle spacings and axle weights into the ITAP system, there are countless algorithms evaluating roadway and elevated structure integrity for the entire route.

While the math is complicated, the theory is not. The more weight spread over a short footprint will do more damage to the infrastructure than less weight spread over a greater footprint.

If the route selected by the applicant passes, the permit will most likely be approved on the contingency the axles weights and spacings are truly representative of the vehicle in real life. Unfortunately, unscrupulous carriers will enter axle weights and spacings which in reality are shorter than what was entered into ITAP.

The goal of this deception is to get the system to approve higher weight limits using routes calculated on a longer wheelbase. The goal of law enforcement is to detect carriers who do not meet the minimum axle spacings as listed on overweight IDOT issued permits.

The question the ITEA is routinely asked is if trucks officers can enforce this same minimum axle spacing scenario on local roads covered by local permits.

The answer is both yes and no. The Illinois Vehicle Code, which is enforceable by all police officers throughout the state, is silent to the issue of minimum axle spacings. As mentioned earlier, IDOT has an Administrative Rule, or policy, to define the term “fraudulent” which in turn has a statutory penalty. If a local police officer wishes to enforce the axle spacing issue on their local permits on their local roads, they first need to create a similar policy defining “fraudulent”.

Second, the local permit must also collect axle spacings and axle weights similar to what IDOT collects. It would be a defensible argument to show a police officer enforced minimum axle spacings on a local permit which did not actually list minimum axle spacings.

What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

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Two Completely Separate Entities

Consistency. This one word is what the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has strived to provide in all truck enforcement efforts across the state for the better part of a decade. Those from Illinois know when it comes to government functions, there is often much to be desired when it comes to consistency. The only thing which seems to be consistent is the constant change in rules and regulations. This article will discuss a specific delegation of duties in Illinois which typically leaves police officers and carriers begging for regulatory consistency.

One of the most commonly entangled areas in commercial vehicle enforcement, from both an industry and law enforcement perspective, are the responsibilities of the different regulatory agencies within Illinois.

Take, for example, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS). Both regulatory agencies have specific responsibilities who seemingly have little impact on one another. Most individuals are aware the Illinois Secretary of State handles issues regarding registration, driver’s licensing and vehicle titles, while the Illinois Department of Transportation deals with all things Illinois roadways.

While it doesn’t happen very often, there are occasions when these two worlds collide. When this collision occurs, the financial consequences can be quite burdensome for carriers.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Illinois Department of Transportation, and units of local government, is the issuance of oversize and overweight permits. Generally, the issuance of these permits have very little, if anything to do with the registration of the permitted vehicle.

In its Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class, the ITEA teaches officers the concept of equivocation. Essentially, while the information on a permit should be accurate, the fact that it is not perfectly accurate doesn’t necessarily make the permit itself void. Part of this process has to do with the registration listed on the permit.

In many circumstances, if a permit has an incorrect license plate listed and the vehicle is stopped by law enforcement, the consequence would be a $120.00 citation for a violation of the permit.  The reasoning is this: just because a company changes out a power unit, it doesn’t mean they didn’t pay the permit fee to carry the extra weight on Illinois roadways.

While permit information should be accurate, statute allows leeway in this situation. This idea is simple enough – allow a margin of error while still holding carriers responsible for the inaccurate information supplied. The permit is still valid, but there is a problem demanding enforcement.

As it pertains to IDOT, the rule to only cite for a violation of permit only applies to permits having a pre-approved route assigned as a single or round trip permit. The validity of the permit must be equivocally compared against the vehicle, the load and the permittee collectively.

When looking at IDOT’s Limited Continuous Operation (LCO) permits, the game is completely changed. LCO permits allow oversize and overweight vehicles to operate continuously on state highways without a pre-approved route.

Unlike assigned route permits, the license plate listed on an LCO permit is the sole criteria to establish validity. If a vehicle stopped by law enforcement has an LCO permit with the incorrect plate, the permit is not valid for that move.

This means the vehicle will only receive legal weights and dimensions and can be cited for those violations. The fines in these circumstances can be in the thousands of dollars.

Why the difference? The simple answer is LCO permits are far less regulated than assigned route permits. This makes these permits more susceptible for abuse by carriers. A carrier could obtain an LCO permit and allow multiple vehicles to use the permit with the only real consequence being a $120.00 citation. This would put legitimate, law abiding companies at a competitive disadvantage.

While registration plays a primary role in the aforementioned scenarios, what role does the Illinois Secretary of State play in these violations? The answer is none whatsoever.

The SOS has no interest in which agency issues oversize/overweight permits, which vehicles are operating on this authority or which roadways in Illinois those vehicles are traveling. As long as the vehicle owner pays the appropriate fee (weight tax), they are good to go in the eyes of Jesse White and his staff.

How could this be? Because the SOS and IDOT are two completely separate entities who regulate two entirely different aspects of trucking.

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Pilot Cars

The average person who sees an oversize/overweight vehicle thinks one thing: big. It’s huge. It’s a massive truck. They only say this because their point of reference is a world full of small cars and SUVs. The truth is many oversize loads really aren’t all that big in the world of oversize loads. The presence of a pilot car is a sure sign to the lay motorist the load ahead is a big one. As in all things trucking, even pilot cars are controversial and their necessity is a point of contention state by state.

The first point of controversy is pilot cars go by two names. The first? Pilot cars, duh. The second name these vehicles are referred to are “escorts”. The Illinois Department of Transportation, in their OPER 993 form, refer to them as escorts. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in an effort to harmonize all things oversize/overweight, the details matter. For this article, they will be referred to as pilot cars so as not to be confused with escorts of a different trade.

The second point of controversy in Illinois is the lack of statutory mandates regarding pilot cars. The Illinois Vehicle Code requires pilot cars for certain oversize movements of implements of husbandry and buildings for agricultural/livestock raising operations. The IVC also gives IDOT the authority to create rules for pilot cars and sets fees for when the Illinois State Police serve in this capacity.

A common misconception among motorists (and sometimes police officers) is pilot cars are required for ALL oversize loads. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the IVC does not mandate is pilot cars for local roads. Each township, municipality and county has the authority to set their own rules regarding the use of civilian pilot cars or local police officers.

The third point regarding pilot cars in Illinois is the lenient standards of IDOT. This is not a bad thing, as for once Illinois is not the most restrictive state in the midwest.  IDOT requires a progressive number of civilian pilot cars based on increasing dimensions of the load.

Illinois State Police troopers are not required until the load is greater than 18’ high, 18’ wide or 200’ long. No pilot cars are needed for legal weight, oversize-only loads, nor are pilot cars needed for overweight-only loads.

Compare this to the State of Missouri. A state trooper is required in the front of the move and a civilian pilot car is required at the read for overweight loads weighing 160,000 pounds or more, even if they are not oversize. These two pilots vehicles are also needed if the load exceeds 16’ wide, 16’ high and 150’ long. The State of Indiana requires four State Police vehicles piloting their superload permits.

Where Illinois is more restrictive with pilot cars is the size of the pilot car itself. Illinois Administrative Rule 554.408 requires the vehicle to have gross weight of 8,000 pounds or less. Some have interpreted this to mean the manufacturers GVWR or the registered weight, but that’s not what the regulation says. It only says “gross weight”.

In Missouri, the law does not specify a weight. It only says the pilot car must be a single vehicle such as an “automobile, pickup truck, utility vehicle, station wagon, or equivalent”. Indiana requires the vehicle must have a minimum four wheels and a gross vehicle weight of 12,000 pounds or less.

The thought process behind the smaller pilot car requirement in Illinois is for a few reasons. First, a smaller car allows greater maneuverability through intersections. Second, the purpose of a pilot car is not to transport freight for the permit load itself. One could reason the bigger the pilot car, the more a person can stuff into it. The smaller pilot car limits this opportunity.

Are these regulations right? Are they wrong? It’s an ongoing debate nationwide as the carrier industry attempts to harmonize regulations across borders and struggles with the idea of civilian pilot car certification. The ITEA encourages the states to continue to discuss this topic, and for local agencies to play ball as well.

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A Truck Divided

The basic principle of a divisible load is simple, only those items broken down to the bare minimum qualify. One bucket per excavator. One excavator per trailer. Nothing more, nothing less. Cranes cannot carry extra equipment or building materials, and concrete pumpers must be made as light as possible. Permits were created to provide objects too heavy to be legal weight an opportunity to be brought to a job site. But as with anything in the trucking industry, sometimes divisible items are considered non-divisible loads. Read on for a few examples.

Concrete pumpers use water (and a lot of it) to help push the material over a longer distance, or sometimes up a great height. Water is easily divisible, as it could be carried to the job site by a different vehicle or an on-site water source. By allowing the concrete pumper to simply pay for the extra weight of the water by obtaining a permit, they are able to be more efficient.

For many years mobile cranes were not allowed to carry counterweights, requiring a separate “oiler” truck had to follow behind with all the necessary equipment to make the crane functional. In recent years, IDOT has relaxed this rule and has allowed counterweights when they are securely mounted on the crane. Crane companies can save thousands of dollars by eliminating the second vehicle.

One thing which has not been addressed is spare tires. Every vehicle is required to have spare tires in the event they get a flat. Some trucks use different size tires for different axles requiring multiple spares to be brought with. The advantage is if a flat occurs, the truck driver knows he has the correct spare and does not have to rely on the tire service company called to the scene.

But where does this allowance end? When does a non-divisible load change to a divisible one? The importance of safety in keeping spare tires with the truck is obvious, but how many tires should be allowed? And how much water in the pumper is too much? And when do the counterweights of a crane become too much weight in too small a space for the roadway it’s driving on?

Business in Illinois must move efficiently and effectively, and sometimes there are legitimate exceptions for divisible loads. It’s important for the trucking industry and law enforcement to work in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Transportation to understand what is an acceptable exception to the rule and what is simply a divisible load.

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is here to work with the trucking industry, law enforcement and the Illinois Department of Transportation so everyone has a uniform understanding and agreement as to what is divisible and what is not.

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Legal Illegalities

In 1989, James Bond received a License to Kill. What? Where does one obtain such credentials? The truth is no one has a license to kill, or to commit any other crimes for that matter. There are times when the law affords law enforcement, the military or even a private citizen the right to use justifiable force which could result in death or great bodily harm, but no one has a license for such. Illegal behavior is illegal, but as in all things truck law, there is an instance when trucks can legally be illegal.

Trucks which are oversize and overweight are illegal. To be oversize or overweight means the vehicle and/or its load are exceeding the maximums established by the legislature. In Illinois, the General Assembly has said there are absolute limits to weight, width, length and height. No more. End of story.

There are other absolute limits to vehicle legality in Illinois. How about speed limits? The sign says the maximum speed limit is 35 mph. Going 36 mph is illegal. One would hope a police officer uses some good discretion here, but strictly speaking (to the letter of the law), a driver cannot exceed 35 mph.

What about blood alcohol levels? This association would strongly encourage and ask people to never drive with any amount of alcohol in their system, but that does not make it illegal. It’s only illegal when the driver is impaired or the blood alcohol concentration exceeds .080. There’s a line in the sand.

Now decide for yourself if this makes any sense. A driver who can never make it to work on time walks into the police department and asks to purchase a permit to exceed the speed limit. Employment is important and losing a job due to tardiness is not good. Would anyone expect a local government to actually sell such a document to make illegal speed legal again? Not a chance.

The unfortunate truth is some people function better when they have a certain amount of alcohol in their system. Just ask your friendly neighborhood policeman. Would it serve the public interest to allow a drunkard the ability to purchase a permit to exceed the legal blood alcohol level? Asinine.

This is exactly what oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permitting is though. A permit is a legal document which makes what was illegal, legal. It is very unique to trucks.

It’s not illegal to build a fence around your yard or install a new deck, yet those jobs need permits as well. The difference is those permits are designed to ensure compliance with the law, safety and aesthetic measures. Very different than OS/OW permits.

Because it is illegal for a vehicle to be OS/OW, there is no guaranteed right to a permit. The Illinois Vehicle Code is very clear on this topic. In 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a), it states the Department (IDOT) and local authorities (everyone else) “may, in their discretion” issue a permit to exceed legal size and weight. It does not compel, mandate or require any unit of government to issue OS/OW permits.

Are there good reasons why some vehicles need to be OS/OW? Absolutely. Is it good for economic growth to allow trucks to obtain OS/OW permits? Most definitely.

However, there is no entitlement. A local community has the absolute right to say “no, we are not going to issue any permits to be oversize or overweight”. This refusal does not give the carrier the right to move OS/OW without a permit either simply because they have an important and legitimate need.

Conversely, a local authority does not have the right to say, “we don’t issue OS/OW permits, so go ahead and move without one”. This is poor governance because the law specifically states if a truck is exceeding lawful weight and size, it requires a permit, and this permit must be in written form.

No verbal permission. No taking someone’s word for it. That is setting the carrier up for failure and liability when a crash occurs, a low bridge is struck or a long vehicle gets hung up on a turn.

Local governments – do the right thing and issue OS/OW permits up to certain size/weight limitations which will protect your roads and communities. There are solutions out there to do this fast, quick and easy in a business friendly way.

Carriers – encourage local towns who issue permits to do so in an expeditious manner. Demand nothing less than permissions issued in some sort of writing.

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Permit Jumping

Have you ever been to a sporting event and seen people move up to better seats than they paid for? Maybe you are that person! Usually the usher approaches them and makes the person return to their rightful seats. Rarely does the person get kicked out of the event. Trucking companies who move oversize or overweight items sometimes have to move up to a larger permit depending on the load. So what happens when a truck with a limited continuous operation permit has their single trip permit voided?

When a company regularly transports large pieces of equipment, they will purchase a limited continuous operation (LCO) permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation. This permit allows them to move a piece of equipment on almost any state route almost anytime they need to. The maximum weight an LCO permit allows is 120,000 pounds.

A company who has an LCO but has a piece of equipment larger than 120,000 pounds will need to purchase a single or round trip permit. The single or round trip permit tells a company where they may drive, and what the load consists of.

When a truck is stopped by a police officer, and that officer finds the permit to be void, that officer should use the valid LCO permit for the overweight ticket. For instance, if a truck has a permit for 140,000 pounds, and the load is more than a mile off its route on a state highway, the permit becomes void.

The truck driver produces a valid LCO permit which allows for 120,000 pounds and meets the criteria for that permit, except for the weight. A police officer takes the truck to the scale and finds it to be 132,000 pounds. Instead of dropping the allowed weight to 80,000 pounds and writing a 52,000-pound overweight, the officer must drop the allowed weight to 120,000 pounds and only write a 12,000-pound overweight.

Mistakes happen, and a trucking company that has paid for a permit, and then purchased another permit for additional weight should not be punished excessively for that mistake. Had the trucking company not made the effort to purchase the additional permit, the officer would use the LCO permit to issue the overweight ticket anyway. So why punish someone for trying to do the right thing?

This is not an opening for someone to try and get away with not obtaining a permit. The fines for being overweight on permit can still be high, even if they start at 120,000 pounds. Any attempt to cheat could end up with the state not issuing a permit to you in the future.

The ultimate goal in law enforcement is voluntary compliance. A police officer should recognize an error and only enforce the law as is reasonable. A truck driver should make sure they are following the rules and not cutting corners. By doing these things, everyone can enjoy the game from the seats they rightfully paid for.

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Permits In Your Pocket

Back in the day, your math teacher would tell you that you won’t always have a calculator so you better be able to find the solution in your head. Fast forward to 2015 and in your pocket is a smartphone that has the ability to do any math problem as well as instantly talk to anyone around the globe, play games and even write a blog post. Your smartphone also does one more thing – display your oversize/overweight permit to whomever needs to see it. So how did electronic permits keep up in 2015? Read on to find out…

The Illinois Department of Transportation has been using its Illinois Transportation Automated Permits (ITAP) system to permit loads up to 249,999 pounds as well as practical maximums for size. This means that of the 230,197 permits issued in 2015, 179,771, or 78 percent, were issued electronically with no human intervention. The time saved by the trucking industry is enormous, with permits being issued immediately versus within a day or two.

To add to the simplicity of the electronic permit system, many local, township and county agencies have begun using online methods to issue their permits. One company, Oxcart Permit Systems, has gone from two agencies to twenty-five providing their permits online, simplifying the process for the trucking industry. Oxcart processed more than two thousand permits in 2015 and is working to make online permitting a one-stop-shop for the trucking community.

There is no question that when a trucking company has to apply for multiple permits for one movement, this can be time consuming and costly. Some communities require in-person applications, some by fax and some communities do not require permits. Many companies have at least one person dedicated to applying for permits. When the information is easily found and applied for online, this saves time and money as well as improves efficiency.

Communities who use online permits can work together with businesses when routing these large movements. For instance, a bridge restriction from IDOT routing a load onto a local road means another permit for the company they weren’t expecting. With the online system they can easily find and apply for a permit without having to sit on the phone all day or fill out various forms and wait for a response. And the police agency that patrols those roads can instantly see the permits and know that that truck belongs on that road.

An ITEA certified truck officer can access the ITAP system to check permits before even stopping an oversize load. They can verify the validity of the permit and ensure everyone is following the rules. This keeps these loads moving with less interruption, saving money.

When a company doesn’t follow the rules, the officer can provide that information to the Illinois Department of Transportation so they know which companies are violating their rules. The officer can also save the information as evidence to bring into court.

The future is now and online permits are simplifying the process for both police and truckers. Both sides win when the information is easily available and simple to get through. Speak to those who handle permits and encourage them to go online to save time and money, and help the police better enforce permit movements with less interference. Please join the ITEA at their conference March 17, 2016 to hear more about what IDOT is doing with the permit process.

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Exemplary Police Work #9

Turn on your favorite news service and watch the turf wars. Pakistan and India are at peace, but Kashmir is still disputed. For millennia, the middle-east has waged war over Israel. Wisconsin continues to battle for rights to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Okay, the last one isn’t true, but turf wars are nothing new. The article this week will describe a common turf war found in Illinois truck enforcement and the exemplary way a local police officer dealt with it.

Want another turf war example? Arsenal Road belongs to the Will County Division of Transportation, however it once belonged to the Illinois Department of Transportation. After a nearby municipal rail crossing was closed by the Illinois Commerce Commission, a massive amount of trucks carrying overweight intermodal containers were forced onto Arsenal Road. Predictably, the county did not want to be responsible for overweight permitting and repairs to Arsenal Road, so jurisdiction is being transferred back to IDOT! This example may be a high profile, but the truth is IDOT and local government transfer road jurisdiction quite often.

The challenge to the industry, particularly those involved in specialized oversize/overweight (OS/OW) transportation, is determining the correct jurisdictional authority so appropriate permits may be purchased. With tens of thousands of centerline miles in Illinois, it’s not unreasonable to believe the paperwork for a block here, or a half-mile, there may be in dispute.

Technology and mapping systems have greatly improved efforts, but humans are still required to input data. Where there are humans, there are errors. When there are errors, there may be trucks off route. When there are trucks off route, there may be enforcement.

During the first week of August 2015, a local truck enforcement officer observed an eight-axle crane traveling on a local road. It was fairly uncommon to find OS/OW loads on this highway, and the officer made a lawful traffic stop because he had reason to believe it was overweight without a local permit. After being stopped, the driver produced an OS/OW from the IDOT.

Much to the surprise of the officer, the state permit claimed the local road was actually a state highway. He believed the jurisdiction of the road had transferred many years ago from IDOT to the municipality.  A cursory check with some other local officials led to the same belief. Over the years, this town had created a local weight restriction, plowed, fixed and maintained the roadway it as if it was their own. Turns out they were wrong.

Was the officer wrong for making the stop? No. Was he wrong for believing the highway belonged to his municipality? No. This left the officer with two choices:
1.   Weigh the crane, write the $40,000 overweight and leave the driver to defend himself in court.
2.   Let the crane go and do nothing.

The officer chose option #3: Let the crane go, but go the extra mile. Why, because it was not the fault of the crane company. Even if the highway was truly under the jurisdiction of his municipality, what was the carrier to do? They applied for a state permit and the state said the road was theirs.

The officer began an exhaustive search of local records to determine who the road truly belonged to. He also contacted the IDOT permit office in Springfield and spoke with the local roads division. The IDOT workers dropped what they were doing and immediately began combing through their records and the local officials did the same. All parties came to the same conclusion: it was indeed a state highway. No jurisdictional transfer had ever occurred.

The officer could have used his authority to write a very expensive overweight, but he chose reasonableness. He could have left the carrier to mount an expensive defense, but he chose compassion. He could have done nothing afterwards to sort out the confusion, but he honored his office and launched a thorough investigation.

The exemplary conduct of this ITEA certified officer is to be commended. Instead of igniting a turf war and driving more wedges between enforcement and industry, he proved how police, carriers and regulatory officials can work together. This is what the ITEA is all about.

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Digital Paper

Everything on the internet is true…everything! Don’t believe that statement? Well good, because it is obviously false. As technology has increased, society’s dependence on physical reference has decreased. As the functionality and portability of electronic devices has increased, dependence on paper documentation has decreased. Make no mistake truckers, the law requires you to carry certain documents in your vehicle. How to carry these docs is another story…

Two terms need to be discussed here: compulsory and discretionary. Compulsory is a mandate. This is the “shall” of the law. No wiggle room. The legislature has spoken and all will follow lest they suffer the consequences.

Discretionary means there is more than one avenue to get to the same point. Sometimes the law provides this. Sometimes the law is left vague (which usually serves to only create more confusion). Discretion is a choice for the police officer to make, even though many times the motorists feel entitled to it.

There is already an article each on this blog about compulsion and discretion. When it comes to regulatory paperwork to be carried in a truck, the law is clear. What the law is not clear about is what medium the documentation must be presented.

Three items of documentation will be discussed below. These are insurance, registration and oversize/overweight permits.

Insurance
Insurance is compulsory and must be carried in the vehicle. However, this was the first law regulating discretion for electronic display of required documentation. Police officers must honor the electronic display of insurance on either a phone or portable electronic device.

Thanks to law enforcement leaders, the legislature also indemnified police officers from liability if the electronic device is dropped and broken. The choice belongs to the motorist, as does the cost of replacing the gadget.

Registration
Every set of license plates comes with a paper card. What is goofy in Illinois is what to do with the card. Carrying the card is compulsory in second division vehicles (trucks) but not in first division vehicles (cars). This law is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-411.

Regardless, it is highly recommended to file away one copy of the card at home and another carry the other copy in the vehicle. Many states require cars to carry the registration card. There is no percentage in arguing roadside with an out-of-state police officer about compact states and reciprocity rules, just carry the card.

Do Illinois police officers have discretion to honor an electronic version of the registration card as valid? Absolutely. Is it compulsory? No.

Truck drivers should not feel entitled to electronic display of registration cards. The law does not mandate it nor does it indemnify the police officer for damages to an electronic device.

Oversize/Overweight (OSOW) Permits
There are two regulatory authorities in Illinois when it comes to OSOW permits – the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and everyone else. But first, IDOT.

Several years ago, the trucking industry pleaded with IDOT to allow electronic display of their permits, and IDOT agreed. This regulation is included in the permit manual (which is the Administrative Code and has the force of law) and is in the OPER 993 form required to accompany every permit. The electronic copy of the permit must be open to inspection by any law enforcement.

Carrying an OSOW permit is compulsory under the law when operating under its authority. IDOT used their rule-making authority to regulate discretion in the display of the permit. However, they did not include indemnification to police officers like the legislature did with insurance.

Everyone else? These are local permits from the 102 counties, 1400 municipalities and 1400 townships in Illinois. There is no compulsion for electronic display of local permits. The ITEA would greatly encourage local communities to allow for this practice, but it is totally discretionary.

Police officers – be reasonable and use good discretion with how truckers display their documentation to you. The medium does not equal legitimacy. What’s more important is using privileged resources to determine the authenticity of documents. Both paper and electronic copies can be forged.

Truckers – don’t act entitled or get upset when police officers, in their discretion, refuse to accept electronic display of documents without compulsion. They’re doing their job and agency policies and ordinances may prohibit them from doing so.

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