A Pair of Plates

Since the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association became an information repository to its member police and trucking communities, many questions have been fielded about the confusing laws of this state. Some of the questions require complicated answers, others simple answers and some require a lot of research. In recent weeks, a unique rumor has made its way to the ITEA and the article this week will hopefully clear up the confusion because bad information spreads like wildfire.

While the ITEA does its best to answer questions where law enforcement and the trucking industry intersect, the association does it’s part to try and clear up nonsensical rumors. One of the most famous rumors began circulation in 2009 and can be read HERE.

This rumor had truckers and police officers believing that a trailer hitch, when not towing a trailer, must be removed or painted red. While this may have been a proposed bill in days gone by, it was never the law. The proposal lasted about as long as it will take to finish reading this article.

The rumor dealt with today has to do with vehicle registration. It’s not surprising this rumor is about registration since this is such a dynamic and ever changing category of law.
The situation arose when a police officer stopped a semi-tractor bobtailing. Bobtailing is when a semi-tractor is operating without pulling a semi-trailer. The officer, who was not trained by the ITEA, took note the tractor was operating on a public highway without a rear registration plate. See the ITEA article “One Plate, Two Plate” which can be read HERE.

Through his basic training, he knew that vehicles in the state of Illinois are issued a pair of license plates. This truck had an Illinois (Z) base plate good for 80,000 pounds. Are Illinois Z plates issued in pairs? Sometimes. Here’s what the law says:

(625 ILCS 5/3-413) Display of registration plates, registration stickers, and drive-away permits;

(a) Registration plates issued for a motor vehicle other than a motorcycle, auto cycle, trailer, semitrailer, truck-tractor, apportioned bus, or apportioned truck shall be attached thereto, one in the front and one in the rear. The registration plate issued for a motorcycle, auto cycle, trailer or semitrailer required to be registered hereunder and any apportionment plate issued to a bus under the provisions of this Code shall be attached to the rear thereof. The registration plate issued for a truck-tractor or an apportioned truck required to be registered hereunder shall be attached to the front thereof.

While Z-trucks plates can be issued in pairs, it was not in this circumstance. The truck the officer stopped was a truck-tractor and registered as such, which means only a single plate was issued. It was correctly affixed to the front of the vehicle as mentioned in the statute above.

Luckily for the truck driver, the officer did not issue him a citation. Although the citation would have been dismissed in court, it still would have cost the driver or the company time and money.

Are there any interesting rumors you would like to share with the ITEA? Follow us on Facebook and share your story with us.

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Exempt Vehicle Plates

Red. It is the universal color representing the command to “stop”. Octagonal stop signs are red. Traffic control devices are red. Brake lights are red. While red means stop, it is also the color which represents rage and anger. When things get red-hot, look out! It is also the color of warning. Think of the shiver up your spine when the metaphorical red flags are raised. The article this week discusses the reddest of red license plates in Illinois – the Exempt Vehicle (EV) plate. Does this plate represent anger? Does this plate mean “stop”? The answer to both questions is yes, but the better questions are why does the plate provoke anger and who is the plate trying to stop?

The “who” question will go first, which explain the “why”. The answer to “who is the red EV plate trying to stop” question? The police officer, that’s who. What the what?

Vehicles in Illinois, whether they be cars trucks, trailers, or buses, are required to be registered with the Secretary of State (SOS). When it comes to truck and trailers, also known as second division vehicles, registration serves as more than an external, steel plate of identification.

Registration for these vehicles also serves as tax to carry weight on the highways of this great state. The heavier the vehicle, the more tax the owner must pay. When the police stop and weigh a vehicle which has not paid enough tax, they are issued an overweight ticket with fairly significant fines attached. The stakes are high.

As is the re-occurring theme of this blog for the last six years, nothing is easy with truck law. It is complicated. It is confusing. The benefit of the doubt will be extended to the police officer because although he may take the incorrect enforcement action, it is reasonable to understand why he makes a mistake.

While all vehicles are required to be registered, there are exceptions to the rule. It goes without saying that if a vehicle is exempt from registration, it needs not display a steel license plate. If this is the case, why then is there an EV license plate at all? Does that not completely defeat the purpose of being an exempt vehicle?

Yes. The logic is spot on. However, because the law surrounding exempt vehicles is confusing and open to interpretation through the regulatory authority of the SOS, police officers sometimes err (they are human too). They sometimes mistake an exempt vehicle not displaying registration as second division vehicle which requires registration. Therefore, they feel there is an overweight enforcement action which can be taken.

The sole purpose of the red EV plate is to alert the police officer the vehicle has been declared by the SOS to be an exempt vehicle which does not require any registration. There is not an overweight on registration citation to be issued.

Unless, of course, the EV plate is being used improperly, or was applied for with fraudulent information. In those instances, the vehicle might have been required to pay a tax for the weight, but not necessarily. Truck officers need to use great discretion and check with the SOS prior to assuming they have navigated the law correctly.

Needless to say, vehicle owners have been left seeing red when the police officer has misinterpreted the validity of the EV plate. The owner who has done their homework, lawfully applied for and received EV plates, has some legitimate consternation. This does not excuse deconstructive behavior on their part to humiliate or prove the officer wrong at roadside.

Mistakes, as unfortunate and inconvenient as they are, can usually be corrected. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has stepped in and settled this issue many times, and will continue to provide education to both professions to minimize the confusion.

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Acronyms

When a person conveys an intended meaning from one to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules, they are communicating effectively. Communication uses words, sounds and behaviors to express or exchange information to successfully share an idea, thought or feeling. As the communication process of human beings continuously evolves, so does the efficiency. Sometimes communication methods break down, and the article this week will address one issue which generates much confusion in both the police and trucking communities.

One way to streamline communication and make it more efficient is to use acronyms. Acronyms are nothing new to the English language. Although the use of acronyms did not become commonplace until the beginning of the 20th century, some literature suggests acronyms were used in ancient Rome. While there are no universal standards for the structure of acronyms and their orthographic stylings, they are littered across the law enforcement and trucking communities.

The ITEA (an acronym, by the way) has written many articles about topics which are an acronym themselves. A reader may recognize some of them as IFTA, SHV, ITEA, COP, OTR, LTL and so on. The article this week will discuss an acronym used less frequently, but is quite important.

HVUT. This is an acronym for “Heavy Vehicle Usage Tax”. Most truckers and those responsible for renewing the registration of fleets have seen this acronym before. The HVUT is a fee assessed annually on heavy vehicles operating on public highways at registered gross weights equal to or exceeding 55,000 pounds.

A common misconception about HVUT in Illinois needs to be clarified. When carriers register vehicles with Illinois flat weight plates, the physical registration card lists HVUT status on the same line as Special Hauling Vehicle status. Sometimes the word “suspended” is printed next to HVUT/SHV. This does NOT mean the vehicle’s SHV is suspended. Police officers must contact the Illinois Secretary of State, Commercial and Farm Truck Division to obtain the legitimacy of an SHV before taking enforcement action. The term “suspended” means the IRS is exempting the carrier from having to pay the HVUT.

In short, any vehicle with a registered weight of 55,000 pounds or more is subject to this federal tax. And the tax is different depending on your registered weight category. Vehicles registering up to 75,000 pounds pay a flat fee of $100.00, then $22.00 for each increment of one-thousand pounds above 55,000 pounds. Vehicles registering for 75,000 pounds or more pay a flat fee of $550.00.

Like all things truck law, there are exceptions and exemptions to the rules. Groups like federal, state and local government, the American Red Cross, fire departments, mass transportation authorities and so on do not pay this tax. Certain vehicle types such as agricultural vehicles traveling less than 7,500 miles a year, any commercial vehicle traveling less than 5,000 miles a year and qualified blood collection vehicles also do not pay this tax.

So why is HVUT important? HVUT helps to level the playing field for those who pay taxes to help fund road maintenance projects. The US Department of Transportation, in its most recent highway cost allocation study, estimated light single unit trucks, operating at 25,000 pounds or less, pay 150 percent of their road costs while the heaviest tractor-trailer combinations only pay 50 percent.

The HVUT also levels the playing field by ensuring that operators of heavy trucks pay a little more for the highway network relative to the motorists and light trucks who also meet their responsibility through other forms of taxes (e.g., registration fees, motor fuel taxes), but do less damage to the highway infrastructure.

The highways of this nation need funding. The HVUT is a significant source of transportation funding. HVUT generates more than one-billion dollars every year. While that may seem like a lot, it represents less than five percent of the total funds generated annually for highway maintenance by the USDOT.

Like all things truck law, a question which comes up routinely is whether or not local police officers have authority to enforce HVUT. The answer is no, but the secondary effects of failing to pay HVUT fees does create an enforcement scenario for all Illinois police officers.

The Illinois Secretary of State will not register any vehicle until the HVUT tax has been paid. Failure to obtain valid registration to carry weight on Illinois highways can result in an overweight on registration citation.

Like all things taxes, the IRS expects their HVUT payments. Be sure to fill out IRS Form 2290 when renewing and applying for new plates!

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Deals and Discounts

Before the turkey and stuffing were digested (or in some cases prepared) newspapers, television and radio were overtaken with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” advertisements. For those who participated in the madness which 3:00 AM brings the Friday after Thanksgiving, the hope is the deals ventured out for were discovered. For those who spent Monday glued to their devices searching for rock bottom prices on the “must have items of 2016”, the hope is the bosses didn’t notice the inevitable lack of productivity. There are still plenty of deals to be had at the friendly local Secretary of State Office! The article this week will discuss some great deals and discounts offered for second division vehicle registration.

What’s even better about Jesse White’s registration deals is one doesn’t have to wake up at preposterous hours of the morning, or search through hundreds of websites to find it. These deals are available all year round and there is only one website to visit to find all the information: www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

These deals and discounts are not part of any type of promotion or sale, they are special types of registration offered for certain vehicles qualifying for their use. Over the past year, the ITEA has released several blogs about different types of specialized registration which can be purchased for a variety of vehicles. The fact is there is likely a special type of registration to fit the specific needs of any trucking company in Illinois, the land of over 100 plates.

Many of the specialized types of registration, such as Permanently Mounted Equipment (PM) and Farm Machinery (FM), may only be used on vehicles which perform specific functions or carry certain items. These plates are offered at a significantly reduced cost due to their limited use.  There is, however, one little known type of registration which has the versatility to meet the needs of many intrastate carriers in Illinois.

The Mileage Tax registration plate is offered for second division vehicles registered from 12,000 lbs up to 80,000 lbs. These plates may be used on a second division vehicle being operated for virtually any purpose. This type of registration is offered at a cost ranging from $95 to $1630, depending on the weight covered by the plate. Mileage Tax plates are also offered for trailers with a cost ranging from $98 to $870 depending on weight coverage. These rates are nearly half of what one would pay if purchasing base weight plates.

Like any specialized registration, Mileage Tax plates do come with some restrictions. The most obvious of them being the mileage restriction itself. For every vehicle bearing these plates, a log must be kept recording the miles traveled annually. This information must then be provided to the Secretary of State at the end of the registration year.

The miles a vehicle can travel annually is also restricted based on the plate. Mileage Tax plates allow vehicles to travel from 5,000 to 7,000 miles annually depending on the weight rating of the plate. In addition to the original registration fees, a $500.00 surety bond is also required at the beginning of the registration year.

This bond will be used to cover any overages in mileage that may occur throughout the year. The penalty for traveling over the allowed mileage is between $0.02 – $0.27 per mile depending on the weight covered by the plate.

Power units and trailers which are registered with Mileage Tax plates must have a working odometer or hubometer in order for the plates to be considered valid. Any vehicle caught operating without a functioning odometer or hubometer will be considered operating without valid registration. The vehicles will be weighed and fined the amount which a base plate would cost for the vehicle, plus court fees.

Finally, and most importantly, Mileage Tax plates may only be used for intrastate trucking as they have no reciprocity in other states. Those traveling into other states must stick with flat weight (and the important “trip permit”) or apportioned plates.

While Mileage Tax registration may not work for everyone, it can be a cost-saving option for many companies. Sometimes savings, deals and discounts are available all year round. One only needs to know where to find them. No early mornings, waiting in line or dealing with unruly crowds is needed when you subscribe to the ITEA blog!

There are many more registration options buried deep within the pages of the Illinois Vehicle Code. These will be covered by the ITEA in future blogs.

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You Can’t Have Your Cake

Think about the last purchase of your car’s license plates or registration renewal sticker. For most people, it’s as simple as entering credit card information into the Secretary of State’s website and clicking submit. Likely, the hardest decision to make regarding license plates was whether or not to spend the extra cash on a Chicago Cubs specialty plate at the risk of looking like a bandwagon fan. These are the same issues thousands of Illinois vehicle owners face every day. These issues, however, are almost laughable when compared to the process owners of commercial vehicles go through when purchasing registration.

There are many angles an owner of a commercial truck needs to consider before shelling out hard earned cash to Jesse White. How much does the truck weigh empty? How much will it weigh loaded? What kind of special plates does it qualify for?

These are just a few of the many questions which need to be asked before a purchase is made. If these questions aren’t asked and answered appropriately, the monetary consequences can be significant.

In Illinois, the cost of registering a truck can range from $101 to about $3200. While it can be expensive, the logic is easy: the more you pay, the more you can weigh.

This simple rhyme is easy to remember and is relatively accurate when referring to flat weight Illinois truck registration. However, it is not all inclusive as Illinois does offer special types of registration for certain vehicles.

Special plates are typically offered at a significantly reduced cost from flat rate registration plates. The caveat is use restrictions. Restrictions such as the type of equipment which can be carried on the vehicle, the miles traveled annually or the distance traveled from the owner’s registered address.

Owners applying for special registration plates must sign an affirmation statement acknowledging all of the provisions of the special plates and associated fines (and possible revocation of privileges) for violations.

So what is the benefit to purchasing special plates? A huge cost savings to the owner if they are used appropriately. In the case of mileage tax plates (when vehicles are restricted by annual mileage) the cost of an 80,000 pound plate is about half of the cost of a flat weight “Z” truck plate. In the case of a truck registered with farm machine (FM) plates, the cost of an 80,000 pound plate is only $13 every two years!

When vehicles qualify for these types of plates, it is an outstanding deal. But remember, with great deals comes great responsibility.

Reduced rates come with a different type of cost in the form of strict regulation. If any of the restrictions listed on the affirmation statement are violated, the plates are being used unlawfully and the vehicle may be considered unregistered.

In Illinois, any second division vehicle which is operating on a roadway while unregistered is considered overweight on registration from zero pounds. The vehicle can be weighed by a law enforcement officer and fined the amount that would cover the cost of the appropriate registration as listed in 625 ILCS 5/3-815. This means no more special deals or discounts. Only the price of a flat weight plate to cover the weight of the vehicle as it sits on the scale.

Recently, an ITEA officer stopped a vehicle bearing expired special plates. Since the vehicle was considered unregistered, the officer weighed the truck and assessed a fine which would have covered the appropriate registration.

The fine exceeded $2,000. The company argued if they had renewed the specialty plates, the plates would only have cost $270. They further believed the $270 should meet the definition of “appropriate registration”.

While this theory may seem logical, the fact is the company is not entitled to the benefits of the special registration if they have not paid to renew them. Similarly, they would not have been afforded the benefits of those plates if they were valid and it was determined that they were not operating under the guidelines of the affirmation statement. The law is clear – this vehicle falls under the flat weight registration fees in both instances.

The moral of the story is you can’t enjoy the benefits of special plates, if you don’t want to play by the rules set out by the Secretary of State. In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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Wives’ Tales & Rumors

In a world where speed and convenience supersedes a person’s desire to ascertain facts through proper outlets, misinformation runs rampant. What is often forgotten is even before Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, information was still very often misrepresented and sometimes flat out incorrect. One of the oldest forms of spreading incorrect information is through “wives’ tales.” When it comes to the world of commercial vehicle enforcement, the topic of truck registration requirements is packed with wives’ tales. The source of the rumors regarding truck registration may never be found, but the record will be set straight in this article.

Remember when mom said making a funny face may get stuck that way? This little lie was her way of scaring kids to not making funny faces for fear of looking incredibly strange for the rest of their life. Children know that probably wasn’t the case, but who were they to question what their own mother stated as fact? More importantly, it wasn’t worth the risk if mom was right.

Kids grow into adults, but still must deal with forms of wives’ tales in their professions.

Registration of commercial vehicles is spelled out in chapter three of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Essentially, registration is a tax which is paid to operate a vehicle on the roadways of this state. Simply put, when it comes to commercial vehicles, the more one pays, the more he can weigh.

Flat weight plates in Illinois start at 8,000 pounds and can cover up to 80,000 pounds, with the respective fees ranging from $101 up to $3191 per year. Those in the carrier industry are familiar with these fees and pay them annually as the cost of doing business.

While this concept seems easy enough, there have been numerous instances when improper enforcement actions have been taken due to incorrect information being disseminated. Below are a few of the truck registration wives’ tales which circulate through both the trucking industry and law enforcement:

Registered weight cannot exceed the GVWR of a vehicle
This is the most common misconception heard around the commercial vehicle enforcement community. The fact is a vehicle can be registered for any weight the owner wishes. For example, the owner of a ½ ton Chevy Silverado could register his truck for 80,000 pounds if he desired to do so. The Illinois Secretary of State will gladly accept the payment for “over-plating” the truck. There is no law on the books which prevents someone from “over-plating.”

It is, however, important to understand that a two axle pickup truck plated with 80,000 pounds registration will not actually be able to carry that much weight. Remember that the gross weight of a vehicle is determined by the Federal Bridge Formula, and is completely independent from registration weights. Again, registration is just a tax to carry weight on the road, not a permit to exceed legal weights.

Not displaying a steel plate makes a vehicle overweight
While operating a commercial vehicle without displaying a proper license plate is a sure-fire way to gain the attention of any truck enforcement officer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle is overweight. If a truck is found to be operating without a plate affixed to it, but registration can be confirmed through the Secretary of State, it is not overweight on its registration. While citations may be issued for improper display of registration, if the proper fees have been paid, the display of the plate is irrelevant to determining an overweight violation.

Not displaying IFTA/safety test/registration sticker makes the vehicle overweight
Again, none of these violations have anything to do with the weight (registration/gross/axle) of a commercial vehicle. While citations will most likely be issued for any of the above offenses, registered weight is determined only by the fees paid to the Secretary of State. If the vehicle is displaying an expired registration sticker, but the plates are returning as valid in the Secretary of State’s database, there is no registration overweight violation.

Having an improper license classification makes the vehicle overweight
Proper licensing of commercial vehicle operators is essential to the overall safety of all motorists on our roadways. Operating a vehicle which requires a Commercial Driver’s License while not properly licensed is a Class-A misdemeanor in the State of Illinois. This means the driver can be arrested and the vehicle towed from the scene. A Class-A misdemeanor carries fines up to $2,500.00 and one-year in jail. These violations are very serious and will not be taken lightly by the courts. With that being said, driver’s license class/status and vehicle registration are mutually exclusive and have no bearing on one another.

The list of these tales is almost endless. About when the ITEA believes all rumors have been quashed, another ridiculous story comes along. The best way to combat these nonsensical anecdotes is to keep educated.

Police officers: attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class and continue your education every year by attending the certification courses.

Truckers: you may contact the ITEA and ask for a certified ITEA instructor to speak with your drivers. Remember  some rumors and wives’ tales may seem logical, but it’s best to seek the advice of experts if ever in question. After all, who still waits an hour after eating to swim?

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No License Required

Illinois, at its core, is an agrarian state. A great portion of its commerce is driven by agriculture. Generations of agricultural families are rooted deep in communities and share their name with some of the most traveled local roads. Local agricultural communities stick together in ways unmatched by the trucking industry. The trucking industry may share a common lobby or trade organization, but when the life of someone from the agricultural community is cut short, all other local members step up to help the family, the farm and the community.

The agricultural community benefits by having commercial trucking laws tailored to its local, farm specific operation. These laws cut some of the red tape inherent with operating a small business which essentially only operates season to season and is often times operated at the family level. The issue surfaces because the local community often doesn’t understand these statutes or the conditions/limitations associated with them. So, what are some of these red tape laws?

• Farm tractors and their outfits are exempt from operating in compliance with elevated structure weight laws.

• Often times to the frustration of the motoring public, farm tractors are permitted to slowly travel our busiest local roads in order to access fields.

• Farm tractors and implements may operate beyond standard dimension restrictions while driven on the operated on the roadway.

• Farm tractors and implements transported on a trailer are not required to obtain state permits when operated in compliance with other typical over-dimension requirements such as flags, escorts, maximum speeds, and during daylight hours.

• While operating on the roadway in connection with farming operations, surprisingly, no license is required to even operate the largest of farm tractors. This doesn’t excuse the need for the driver to use due care.
With all of these exceptions for the farming community, drivers are often frustrated by on-road tractors.

Motorists stuck behind slow moving tractors regularly take chances which endanger other motorists or even result in crashes that injure or kill the tractor operator. While farm tractor drivers are still required to use due care, nearly all will tell you it is a rare occasion when the tractor operator causes the hazard.

The ITEA recently had a conversation with a farm sprayer driver who told of motorcycles passing right under their sprayers while the sprayer is moving at full speed.

A southern Illinois farmer was killed after his farm tractor and homemade trailer was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer.

A farmer was killed in a rural suburb of Chicago after a motorist attempted to overtake his tractor in an intersection while he was beginning a left turn.

Another tractor operator died near Springfield after his tractor was rear ended by a passenger car.

Motorists must recognize farm tractor operators have reduced visibility and limited ability to hear horns or other vehicles around them. These crashes are completely preventable.

With harvest season approaching, don’t be the reason a farming community has to rally around one of its own farm families. Instead, use your understanding of farming operators to educate others in being patient and cautious around farm tractors and implements this season.

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Christmas in July

Like children gathered around an advent calendar, truck enforcement officers throughout the state will be gathered around their duty schedules waiting for that one magical day to roll around. The one day when they will go on patrol to find an abundance of violations to which they are specially trained to enforce. The single day where it is actually “easy” to be a truck officer. The day being referred to is July 1st, and it’s known in the truck enforcement world as “Christmas in July.”

As all truck officers know, and what those in the industry should know, is July 1st represents the day all flat weight Illinois registration plates expire. All intrastate carriers should be checking right now to ensure the process of registering second division vehicles has at least been started, if not been completed.

Consider this article the friendly reminder that the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) will no longer sends reminders. Please remember, the SOS has suspended the issuance of mailed expiration reminders for vehicles registered in Illinois. Many people operating their personal passenger cars have suffered the consequences of relying on the State of Illinois for a reminder to update their registration. The difference is a citation for a passenger car bearing expired registration is $120, while a citation for expired registration on a second division vehicle (truck or trailer) could reach over $3,000.
Here is the information for owners or operators of vehicles bearing Illinois flat weight truck plates:

1) While all truck officers in Illinois aren’t actually shaking in anticipation of this date, agencies are aware of the expiration of these plates and will allocate manpower to enforce expired registration offenses. Even officers who do not specialize in commercial vehicle enforcement will be looking for expired registration plate stickers on July 1st.

Commercial motor vehicle drivers with expired registration should expect to be stopped by the police, weighed and cited. The overweight citation fine will be the cost of the plate required to cover the weight of the vehicle and load, plus court costs. The financial burden does not end there as the driver is still be required to pay the appropriate fee to properly register the vehicle once the plates are renewed.

2) Carry all the appropriate paperwork and proof of registration renewal in the vehicle. Keep in mind if a vehicle is still displaying an expired registration sticker (or no sticker at all) the driver will likely be stopped by police. Keeping the paperwork in the cab of the truck showing renewed registration is important.

Providing this information to the officer may be the difference between an expensive citation and a warning. Keep in mind an officer may not honor the paperwork provided if the registration still comes up as expired in the SOS database. While this may seem ridiculous, people lie, cheat and attempt to deceive the police ALL THE TIME.

A simple piece of paperwork or receipt from a currency exchange is not hard to fabricate, and is not an uncommon method for dishonest truck owners to attempt to bypass paying for registration on time.

3) If a citation for expired registration is received, and it can be proven the renewal was purchased prior to the time
stopped by the police, bring the information to court.
The time to argue the issue is not at roadside, and chances are the driver is not going to win the argument with the officer anyways. Be cordial, polite and courteous and the officer will most likely reciprocate that demeanor.

Most officers understand mistakes are made and sometime the SOS system does not update immediately upon purchase of registration. Both the prosecutor and officer will most likely be open to dismissing the charges if appropriate.

4) If the renewal was late, do not operate the vehicle. Officers who have been around truck enforcement for any amount of time have seen almost every attempt to fake, hide or cheat renewing registration. The fact of the matter is that doing so will almost guarantee significantly more serious offenses being cited.

It’s simply not worth risking fines, arrest or possibly seizure of equipment to operate on expired registration. The revenue lost from a single day of down time will pale in comparison of fines, court and attorney fees if you attempt to cheat the system.

Finally, please be courteous of the Secretary of State and renew your registration is a timely manner. The SOS Commercial and Farm Truck Division works very hard throughout the year to provide the best possible service, but become very overwhelmed leading up to July 1st.

The best thing to do is submit renewals early to prevent any issues. Focus on celebrating this great country’s independence over the 4th of July weekend as opposed to being concerning with citations, fines and court.

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Beach Towels & Tow Trucks

Imagine you are on the beach – taking in the sun, the breeze and the sound of the waves are only slightly drowned out by the cool rhythms of some classic Bob Marley. Now think about the colorful floral beach towel that you bought just for your trip to this sandy destination. It’s a comfy, large, soft towel, and you paid good money for it. It only seemed appropriate you would take a “beach towel” to the beach.

The next day, you decide to keep your toes out of the sand and instead head to the pool. You grab your expensive beach towel and head out for a quick dip. You jump in and feel the cool water rush against your skin before emerging to the top and eventually exiting and grabbing your beach towel to dry off. But now there is a problem.

You’re approached by a lifeguard who hands you a citation for improper use of a towel. He tells you the towel you are using is specifically designated for beach use and not for pool use. Astounded, you think back to your purchase of the towel.

You recall the towel costing the same as other similar towels. There were no specific directions telling you the towel could only be used for beach purposes, even though the price tag did specifically call it a “beach towel.”

This particular situation helps illustrate a past problem an ITEA member tow company had with law enforcement regarding their use of “tow truck” registration.

This particular law enforcement officer had stopped the company for a registration violation after seeing the company hauling a generator on a flat-bed tow truck. Since the vehicle was not being used to “tow” a disabled vehicle, the officer informed the driver his registration did not cover the move because the vehicle was being used to transports goods for commerce.

He also advised the driver making similar moves in the future would require the company to purchase flat weight or apportioned registration, thereby dual registering the vehicle as both a tow truck and commercial truck.

Thankfully no citations were issued. However, poor and inaccurate explanations of the law were given.

A more accurate explanation of the statute would show tow truck operators may register such vehicles with tow truck registration plates. Also, in section 625 ILCS 5/15-111, tow trucks need to meet a variety of requirements to be considered tow trucks and to qualify for special weight exemptions.

Nowhere in the statute does it specifically state tow trucks may not use those same vehicles to carry or tow loads other than disabled vehicles. This type of movement would only negate the weight exemptions afforded to tow trucks who are in fact towing disabled vehicles. It would not void the registered weight they paid for.

Also, in 625 ILCS 5/3-810.1 the legislature spells out the cost of tow truck plates in Illinois. The cost of these plates are concurrent with the cost of flat weight plates in Illinois. This mean that a tow truck plate for 50,000 lbs costs the exact same amount as a flat weight “Q” plate, which is also good for 50,000 lbs. Therefore, it makes sense if tow companies pay the same amount as regular trucking companies for registration, they can use vehicles plated with tow truck plates to haul other commodities.

The explanation to the company (requiring they purchase two types of registration for the same vehicle) is not only ridiculous, it is not supported in the Illinois Vehicle Code. The only time dual registration is ever covered as a requirement is when it addresses registration of semi-trailer plates on special hauling vehicles. This topic will be covered in a future article.

At the end of the day, the poor advice of the officer did not cause any financial harm to the member company, but it did serve as another example of some of the inconsistencies in commercial vehicle enforcement the ITEA works to remedy on a daily basis.

ITEA certified officers continuously work to educate themselves in order to provide the most accurate information available and disperse it to those they come in contact with. This is something those in both law enforcement and the trucking industry should not only expect, but demand.

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The Clock Is Ticking

With its roots in 19th century warfare, the phrase “deadline” has an interesting, somewhat literal, etymology. According to author Christine Ammer, the term “deadline” was coined at the hellish Andersonville, GA prison camp, and first appeared in writing in a report of Confederate Inspector-General, Colonel D.T. Chandler, on July 5, 1864. In the trucking industry, companies and owner-operators are chased by deadlines all year long.  The article this week will talk about those inevitable deadlines which haunt the trucking industry throughout the calendar year.

Deadline #1 / January 1st
With a new year comes new responsibilities.  If it’s January 1st and you drive a flat weight plated tow truck in the State of Illinois, your registration just expired.  All of the weight allowances you spent your hard earned money on no longer have any meaning while operating upon a public highway.  This means that your tow truck is overweight on registration from pound one.  This applies not only to the average tow truck, but to the heavy lifters and rotators which have flat weight plates as well.

Deadline #2 / March 1st
Do you have three or more axles on your power unit?  Are you registered for, or have, an actual weight exceeding 26,000 pounds while traveling in two or more states?  If you do, then you are required to have a motor fuel tax license and decals as you are subject to the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA).

The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is an agreement among states and Canadian provinces to simplify the reporting of fuel use taxes by interstate motor carriers.  The letter of the law says you should have had your license paid for by the first of the year, but the not-so-business friendly State of Illinois gives you two whole months to display your decals as proof of purchase.  This means that if your decals are not properly displayed by March 1st at midnight, you are open to enforcement.

Deadline #3 / April 1st
Are you one of the tens of thousands of truckers who travel interstate?  If you are, there are several requirements you must meet before you do.  Not only do you need to have your IFTA license, IFTA stickers and a medically certified CDL, you must have apportioned registration.  What is apportioned registration?

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is a registration reciprocity agreement between the contiguous United States and Canadian provinces, which provides apportioned payments of registration fees, based on the total distance operated in participating jurisdictions, to them. IRP’s fundamental principle is to promote and encourage the fullest possible use of the highway system.  While all states have different expiration dates for their apportioned plates, the Land of Lincoln renders them expired at midnight on April 1st.  In Illinois, when your apportioned registration plates expire they are purged from the Illinois Secretary of State’s database.  No apportioned registration means overweight from pound one.

Deadline #4 / July 1st
In Illinois, this is perhaps the most infamous deadline in the trucking industry.  On July 1st at the stroke of midnight, all flat weight registration plates will expire.  With the exception of TA-trailer and B-truck plates, all flat weight trailer plates expire as well.  What does expired flat weight registration mean?  It means the vehicle and the load in its entirety is overweight on registration from pound one.  Most responsible trucking companies are well aware of this deadline and begin the registration renewal process well in advance.  Most police departments with truck enforcement programs will be hunting those vehicles which have expired.

These deadlines are like time. It’s like a predator, always stalking you.  You can try to outrun it with a 45-day temporary IRP card- or paperwork which says your registration is ‘applied for’, but in the end, time is the clock which keeps on ticking.

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