Split the Difference

The goal for anyone looking for a relationship is to find the special someone who “completes you,” who meshes with your personality and character so well you coexist in perfect harmony. This is not to say one must be identical with the other person, rather complement each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. As with all ideals, there often comes a time for compromise, but how much compromise is too much? The article this week will discuss compromise in the face of statutory truck law contradictions.

In the courts, judges and juries decide where the compromise begins and where it ends. Once a police officer issues a citation, only the courts have the authority to change, accept or dismiss a citation or arrest.

However, police officers have an incredibly powerful tool called discretion. Discretion is what gives a police officer the ability to make decisions appropriate for the situation. Without discretion, there can be no compromise and cohesiveness becomes diluted in a world of black and white law enforcement.

The Illinois Vehicle Code makes a compromise with certain trucks having what is commonly known as a “split tandem”. As most truckers and truck officers know, a tandem is a series of two or more axles where the distance from the center of the hub on one axle, to the center of the hub on the next axle is more than 40 inches, but is less than 96 inches.

In a normal configuration, a tandem is allowed a maximum weight of 34,000 pounds. However, if the distance from hub to hub is between 72 and 96 inches, this configuration is called a split tandem and may receive additional weight under certain circumstances.

Confused? Continue reading…

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has a document called the Hamilton Weight Chart. It is a reference guide for ITEA members (both enforcement and industry) to use to help distinguish what types of trucks receive what weights. Cement mixers come in many configurations and are covered extensively in the chart, since they are infamous for causing confusion and frustration to truck officers.

Last month a certified ITEA truck officer stopped a 4-axle cement mixer registered as a Special Hauling Vehicle (SHV) that was driving on a public highway with its rear adjustable axle in the air. Since the truck only had three axles on the ground, it was treated the same as a 3-axle cement mixer. The problem the officer ran into was that the cement mixer had a split tandem.

The distance between the two drive axles was 74 inches. The officer turned to the Hamilton Weight Chart and discovered a contradiction in Illinois Vehicle Code law. The Hamilton Weight Chart states a 3-axle truck registered as an SHV with a split tandem receives 36,000 pounds on the tandem. However, the weight chart also states that a 3-axle rear discharge cement mixer registered as an SHV receives 40,000 pounds on the tandem.

So which is it? It would appear this vehicle qualifies under more than one category. Because the officer was trained by the ITEA, he made the mature decision in favor of the industry. He took the high road and gave the truck the higher weight allowance which resulted in the trucker driving away without an expensive ticket. He then took it upon himself to share this information with the ITEA so it could be discussed.

Contradictions are nothing new to the law books of Illinois and they are nothing new to police officers. Contradictions are an inevitable discovery for police officers, and they will not be reproved for being unable to figure out which way to proceed without help. Rather the officer will be praised by the ITEA when they decide to make a decision which protects the industry.

 

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Stretching Out

Sitting still has never done a person good. People need to get up, move and exercise to maintain their health. Holding fast to sedentary habits leads to all sorts of medical issues. To combat the illnesses associated with doing nothing, one must purpose to change or atrophy sets in. There is no greater example of this in truck law than vehicle length limits. Read on to learn about a radical change to Illinois length law now sitting on the Governor’s desk!

No one would legalize murder to save money on prosecuting and incarcerating criminals. Nobody would raise the DUI per se limit to .200 to accommodate drunk drivers needing to get to work. Merely changing laws for the sake of an evolving culture, which could put public safety at risk, is hardly advisable.

However, vehicle length law is not murder. It’s not as dangerous as excessive speeding or driving highly intoxicated. Yes, there is a length ceiling which trucks probably should not exceed which could put public safety and infrastructure at risk, but that does not mean current length standards are appropriate either.

The overall length law for semi-tractor trailer combinations has not changed in Illinois since the 1950s. Bumper to bumper, the maximum legal measurement for this configuration of vehicles on local roads is 55’.

Unless a 53’ trailer is coupled with a 2’ tractor, these combinations will always be over length on local roads. Should the law change solely to legalize illegal operation of vehicles? Couldn’t carriers simply choose to operate shorter trailers?

More than forty years have passed since 53’ trailers have been introduced on the highways of Illinois and the law has not changed to accommodate them on local roads. They are the industry standard for truckload operations.

Opponents have argued the infrastructure of Illinois cannot handle the longer combinations, and in theory there is some truth to this. Many intersections in cities and villages were engineered for shorter combinations. However, as communities have grown, much infrastructure has been modified to meet changing industry standards even if statute has not changed.

Further, there is a lack of scholarly studies which prove longer combinations have played any role in jeopardizing public safety or are responsible for a disproportional amount of damage to the road system.

The reality is these combinations have been operating for decades with a minuscule percentage of problems compared to mega volume of 53’ trailers on the highways.

What has happened is a dramatic increase in enforcement of this ancient length standard. Truckers in violation of this law, although having done nothing else wrong, have also been found liable when crashes occur due to the negligence of other motorists.

The argument is this, “Hey – if the trucker would have complied with the [ridiculous] length law, it would not have been on this road and my intoxicated client with a suspended driver’s license would not have run into the truck and killed himself.” That’s fantastic. Thanks Mr. Lawyer.

Similar to increasing all highways to a uniform 80,000 pound maximum gross weight limit across all highways in 2010, Illinois is last to hold onto a 55’ overall length limit for semis. Failure to update this law keeps business from moving into Illinois and enforcement of the law is pushing business out. One more log thrown on the damnation fire for a state teetering on the brink of financial hell.

Both the Illinois House and Senate have passed HB 683 which will now move to Governor Rauner to sign or veto. If signed into law, the overall length of semi-tractor trailer combinations will increase from 55’ to 65’ on local roads. This will cover most 53’ trailers pulled by day cabs, but those trailers being towed by a sleeper cab will most likely still be in violation.

The law also provides two carrots to local government. First, it allows local government to seek compensation for damage to infrastructure caused by combinations exceeding 55’. Also, the law protects local government from being mandated to improve infrastructure to accommodate the longer vehicles (which were already operating anyhow).

A small bit of improvement for Illinois. Here’s to hoping the next common sense vehicle length law change does not take four decades to pass.

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Fixing Mistakes

The most important life lessons learned are from bad decisions made. Time and experience can be excellent teachers when a lesson is learned from poor decisions. Experience comes from a way of living and making adjustments. Failure to learn from mistakes runs the risk of repeating them. Unfortunately, for many people, it takes a few repeats of the same mistake to learn the lesson. One costly mistake that is often made in trucking is operating overweight vehicles.

Overweight vehicles come in many different varieties. These vehicles can be overweight on an individual axle, overweight on a tandem or series of axles, overweight on the overall gross weight or overweight on registration.

Vehicles operating at legal weight can also be ‘temporarily overweight’ if they cross an elevated structure, are driving down a weight restricted road or have their tandem or fifth wheel in an incorrect position. Vehicles operating under the authority of an overweight permit can be overweight if their axle spacings are incorrect, if the wrong number of axles are engaged or if the driver makes a wrong turn onto a road not listed on the permit.

Thankfully, there is a way for overweight vehicles to make adjustments and keep commerce progressing – legalize it. No, the ITEA isn’t talking about a green leafy substance, but rather legalizing the load carried. So, before your eyes turn red and hazy and you get the munchies, please read on.

The method in which the load is legalized depends on the way the vehicle is overweight.

Overweight on Axles or Gross Weight – The solution here is relatively unpretentious. The load either needs to be adjusted or part of the load needs to be offloaded. A simple task if the load is palletized, but not so simple if the load is an aggregate. An adjustment of the fifth wheel location or sliding the trailer tandem back or forward may also accomplish the task.

Overweight on Registration – Another easy fix. The Illinois Secretary of State will allow a vehicle owner to register for as much or as little registration weight as desired. Despite rumors and wives’ tales, there is no such rule mandating a person to buy specific license plates or purchase enough registration weight to cover the GVWR of the vehicle.
An owner can buy a brand new 2017 Peterbilt 579 sleeper cab and walk into the Secretary of State and register the truck for 8,000 pounds. The same person can buy a new Ford F150 and register that vehicle for 80,000 pounds. There are no rules to the contrary.

Not purchasing enough registration weight is a huge problem in the Land of Lincoln. Truck enforcement officers issue more tickets to truckers for being overweight on their registration than any other type of overweight ticket. Fleet managers and owner/operators need to know the actual gross weight their vehicles will be operating at and register their vehicles accordingly.

In the event a truck is found to be operating above its registered weight, there are two easy solutions. One, offload part of the load to lower the weight to the registered weight. Two, purchase more registered weight at that very moment before the truck is driven any further.

Overweight on a Permit – Any vehicle operating on a valid permit must be within the weight limits listed on the permit. If a permit load is found to be operating beyond these weights, the permittee needs to reapply for a new permit covering the actual weight of the vehicle at the time it was stopped and weighed.

Being able to fix a mistake on scene and continuing operations is something unique to the trucking industry. When police stop drunk drivers, the officer does not stay on scene and wait for the driver to sober up and then let them drive away. A driver with a suspended driver’s license cannot simply call the Secretary of State to fix the problem over the phone. When these types of violations are discovered, there is no passing go. It’s straight to jail.

The best way to fix an overweight vehicle is to prevent it from being overweight in the first place. Read Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code where laws pertaining to vehicle weights are codified. Follow those rules, call the ITEA with questions and avoid costly mistakes!

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No Trucks Allowed

It’s a common theme among trucking associations – trucks make America’s economy move. Everyday deliveries are made to every corner of the country. Big trucks, little trucks, trucks with trailers, they all brings goods to stores, homes and factories. So how do those goods get where they need to be when a town has restricted every road in their jurisdiction from trucks?

Illinois allows local governments to restrict roads from vehicles based on weight. How a municipality chooses the weight restriction is up to them. The manufacturer’s suggested gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), registered weight (license plate weight) or actual weight (on the scale) can all be used to keep larger vehicles out of neighborhoods.

The intent behind the law is solid. No one wants their subdivision or residential street to be used as a cut-thru for trucks going from one business to another, or from one state or county highway to another. However, enforcement of the law has caused a lot of heartache over the years. When a police officer detects a violation, it’s not an overweight with hefty fines. The violation can be cited two different ways.

First, purest to the plain language of the law, a citation may be issued for violating a local weight restricted highway. This violation carries a maximum $50 fine.

The other way an officer may cite the violation is as a simple traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control device. This carries the standard Illinois fine of $120, which should be enough to deter trucks from taking a shortcut.

The question remains though: what is a trucker to do when it’s not a shortcut, but a delivery to a home or business on the restricted street?

For example, a person is very ill and needs to take delivery of their medical equipment, which includes oxygen and other lifesaving supplies. What happens when the vehicle used to deliver these life and death supplies cannot lawfully travel on the roads needed to get to the destination?

What happens when a resident of a town owns a vehicle which is registered with a weight exceeding the restriction? The vehicle in question is a personal vehicle, but it’s still illegal to drive on the very roads the homeowner is paying taxes to maintain. Should enforcement be overlooked because he is a resident?

This same homeowner is now spending thousands renovating his kitchen and a delivery truck with a refrigerator, dishwasher and stove must now stop at the corporate limits of the municipality and walk the appliances through town to the person’s house. It seems silly to walk blocks carrying kitchen appliances because the municipality refuses to allow delivery truck on their streets.

Using back roads to cut-thru and avoid traffic or traffic signals is not a safe move by truck drivers. Larger arterial roads are designed to handle heavier traffic and should always be used when possible. Municipalities should use roads restrictions to keep these trucks from making their small roads highways.

Wise, common sense discretion is displayed when local government makes sure restricted roads are not being used as a cut-thru and not compromising regular deliveries necessary for the municipality or its citizens.

Drivers, pay attention to the restrictions and respect the community’s goal of keeping their neighborhoods safe.

Municipalities and the police enforcing the ordinance, use the restrictions with purpose. The delivery you are preventing may one day be necessary to save a life.

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Exemplary Police Work #12

In 1989 a movie was made which will forever be ingrained in American movie culture. This sequel was about four individuals who started their own business to capture and eradicate the supernatural and unwanted ectoplasmic entities of New York City. In Ghostbusters 2, New York City is overcome by psychomagnotheric slime that is created from all the negativity within the city. In the end, the residents join forces to create enough positive energy to overwhelm the negativity, and the movie happily ends.

It seems the law enforcement community of this country is also overcome by never-ending negativity, and positive reflection is needed now more than ever. The ITEA will take any chance to share a positive moment when trucking and law enforcement cross paths, and one of these moments happened last month.

In late January 2017, an ITEA certified truck officer was on routine patrol when he stopped a two-axle truck showing signs of being overweight. The officer told the driver what he observed. From the truck officer’s perspective, there was nothing special or unique about this truck compared to the hundreds of others he had stopped during the first few years of his truck enforcement career.

The officer escorted the truck to the scale, obtained the axle weights, checked the driver’s CDL, insurance/registration paperwork and certificate of safety. Everything appeared to be in order and up to date.

However, the officer learned two things during his investigation. First, the truck was overweight on its rear axle by 3,450 pounds, and second, it was overweight on registration by 3,100 pounds. Both citations combined carried a fine of more than $1,000. In the world of overweight vehicles, these are relatively low amounts, but still a hefty sum for any trucker.

The officer issued the driver a citation for being overweight on the rear axle, and a citation for being overweight on the registration. To keep business moving, the officer released the driver on nothing more than a signature and told him he was free to drive away once the load was legalized.

At the end of his tour, the officer handed his tickets and paperwork into his supervisor. The supervisor, whom is also a member of the ITEA, was reviewing the paperwork and recognized the name of the company cited as a local business in a nearby town.

The supervisor and officer discussed the traffic stop, the nomenclature of the truck and the citations that were issued. During this discussion, it was learned the truck was a ‘rendering vehicle,’ and not an ordinary truck.  The supervisor showed the officer the Illinois Vehicle Code and an ITEA Resource Document titled the Hamilton Weight Chart that shows two-axle rendering vehicles in Illinois receive an extra 2,000 pounds on an individual axle.

Without being prompted by his supervisor, the truck officer began taking steps to correct the mistake he made. He immediately contacted the company and confessed his error. He explained to the company why their vehicle receives an extra weight allowance, and told them the citation will be cancelled without any prosecution.

The company was extremely impressed with how the officer took the initiative to correct the problem, and even admitted to the officer that they were unaware their own vehicle received an extra weight allowance.

Police officers make mistakes. It is reasonable to believe officers assigned to enforce a complex area of policing which has special guidelines, unique restrictions, temporary exemptions and rules which change from season to season, will make mistakes. Making mistakes is only an issue when the officer who made it does not have the conviction to fix it.

This situation involved a small dollar mistake. Unfortunately, other truck officers have made mistakes which cost the industry much more. The dollar amount of the mistake is not of the highest concern. It’s what takes place after the mistake is discovered which makes an officer’s actions relevant.

This officer did not fix this problem because he feared it would be discovered, he fixed it because he had integrity. His actions protected the trucking industry. Protecting the trucking industry through proper enforcement is the prime directive of the ITEA.

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Spoilers

No, the title of this article is not about aftermarket products added to the trunks of modified foreign cars. No, this article is not about those people who leave comments on website reviews of movies which ruin the suspense. The article this week is about loads which have a shelf life, can spoil or even die. To illustrate the message, please join the ITEA on an epic journey of one man (Jim Harris) and his quest to balance the law with police officer discretion.

The rise of James Harris Trucking Inc began in 1985 when James (aka “Jim”) signed on as a dispatcher for a local trucking company. In 1989, knowing his potential was far greater than sitting behind a desk, he hung out his own shingle and incorporated his own carrier business. His wife Juanita couldn’t have been more proud.

Little did Jim know the troubles he would face as he strived for success hauling various commodities. “Not all loads are created equal, bubb” was a common quip Jim was known for mumbling throughout the years.

Early in his trucking career, Jim learned there was a peculiar law on the books in Illinois. In 625 ILCS 5/15-112(b), police officers are required to “legalize” an overweight truck. Jim was convinced if he was ever caught operating an overweight truck, the police officer would probably exercise his mandated authority.

One day, while sitting around at the MacDonalds (as Jim’s fave day of the week was “Macs Monday”), Jim had a conversation with himself.

“Would a police officer tell me to keep speeding after a citation? No way.” surmised Jim.

“Would a police officer allow a drunk driver to get back in his car and drive drunk again after arresting him? Nope.”

This potential scenario kept the big man awake many nights, as his first venture in the trucking industry was hauling garbage. What would happen is a police officer found his compactor overweight and required him to legalize? Jim knew no one, not even him, wanted to smell garbage dumped on the street.

Lo and behold, Jim got weighed. He truck was heavy, and he was prepared to make a mess on the street. The officer (who Jim later described as a “pretty good dude”), still wrote the ticket, but gave Jim a firm, yet unexpected admonishment.

“I’m not telling you its okay to drive this garbage truck overweight,” the officer said, “and it’s your duty to legalize the load before traveling again. If you get caught, or end up in a crash, I told you not to drive. Now I have a very important meeting to get to.”

Jim never described himself as the brightest bulb, but he was able to read between the lines. He saw the wink and understood the nod.

After a few years, Jim had enough hauling other people’s waste, so he moved into the ready mix concrete business. “Ah ha” said Jim (aka “Tony” to his closest friends), “the law says I can only be made to legalize if the truck is more than 4,000 pounds overweight.”

Jim was correct, but he was concerned. “Hmmmmm,” he pondered, “if a police officer made me legalize, it could not only spoil the load of concrete, but it could ruin my drum. Hmmmm.”

Well wouldn’t you know it, the same policeman who stopped Jim with an heavy load of garbage all those years ago stopped him again with an overweight load of concrete.

Interestingly, Jim got the same admonishing speech and the policeman conveniently had another meeting to get to. Jim was impressed with the deportment of the now-balding officer (who was wearing an “ITEA Certified Truck Officer” pin). So impressed was Jim that he offered the officer a Jim Harris Trucking company jacket and side-job as a driver. Wisely, the police officer politely declined both.

Little adventures such as this proved too much for Jim to remain in the concrete business, so he began a livestock transportation business. There is no way the fuzz would require a truck load of turgid pigs to legalize, especially during the summer months.

Now many years had passed inbetween these instances, and Jim (sometimes referred to as “Meat” by his even closer friends) was driving his GMC Jimmy haulin’ hogs when he ran into some bear on I-90. He was expecting to see his old flatfoot friend with the keen commonsense.

Wrong. The superstar policeman he once knew had been promoted and shipped off to midnights. The swine were not only overweight, but the smell of them hogs was getting intense.

As it turns out, Jim had only been operating with a Class-B (B for “bushleague”) CDL all these years. The policeman made Jim phone a friend (who Jim referred to as a “confidant” who always “bailed him out”) with the Class-A (A for “awesome”) CDL and another truck.

“By golly”, the officer told Jim in a robotic voice, “there’s a law for a reason and my video camera and microphone require me to be accountable to the public in the event of a FOIA request. I have taken an oath to uphold the law and will enforce said law with zero discretion. Sir, you shall remove your pigs this instant and obey my statutory authority.”

While they waited in the summer heat to off-load the extra weight, Jim lit up a menthol ciggy-butt (code for cigarette) and stewed. Several razorbacks died and Jim decided it was time to get out of owning a trucking business altogether. The letter-of-the-law spoiled a good thing.

Jim recently announed he would be retiring from truck company ownership, effective March 1st, 2017. He CHose to raise  fainting goats in Kentucky after he completes a brief stint hauling mulch for another company.

Godspeed in your retirement Jim. You’re one of the best and will be sorely missed.

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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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Up or Down?

The introduction to this article serves as a reminder that all Illinois truck & trailer flat weight base plates were due for renewal on Thursday, June 30th.  Luckily, the Secretary of State is also open on Saturdays!  While the topic of remembering important things is flowing, let this article provide a second reminder; drop your axles.

Call it what you will.  Drop, tag, cheater, booster, lift, etc.  This article sends a reminder to engage adjustable axles as required.  Not vertically, but horizontally.  Tandem axles on trailers slide back and forth, a fifth wheel slides front to rear and adjustable axles move up and down.  The ITEA has discussed lift axles in previous articles, and even has a Standard of Practice explaining lift axles.  The SOP is openly available to all ITEA members.  While the purpose of lift axles is obvious, some of the rules surrounding them are not.

The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) is silent as to rules and regulations regarding the use of adjustable axles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) mentions adjustable axles only once in its thousands of pages of rules and regulation.  The FMSCR states under 393.207(b): “Adjustable axles. Adjustable axle assemblies shall not have locking pins missing or disengaged.”

That’s it.

However, adjustable axles are mentioned and covered in the International Registration Plan.  The rules of IRP dictate, for purposes of registration under the IRP plan, “an axle is any such assembly whether or not it is load bearing only part of the time.”

This means 3-axle vehicles, weighing less than 26,000 pounds, which only have two axles engaged can be considered apportioned.  It also means 3-axle trucks coming into Illinois bearing foreign base plates are required to have apportioned registration whether the lift axle is engaged or not.

Ask any experienced truck officer how often they encounter loaded vehicles having a lift axle disengaged and they will say it happens all the time.  Most truckers tell officers they didn’t think they needed it, they don’t like how it makes the truck start/stop on wet pavement or it makes cornering turns difficult.

Earlier this year on a rainy day in the western suburbs of Chicago, a certified ITEA truck officer was following an 8-axle permit load traveling on a state highway.  The officer was able to locate a valid permit for the truck, but noticed when the vehicle turned left onto another continuous state highway, the driver lifted an adjustable drive axle just before it made its turn.

Once the truck finished its turn, the driver lowed the axle back to the ground.  Since the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Illinois Department of Transportation (the permit issuing authority) grants no special provision or authority for truckers to raise adjustable axles while turning, the officer stopped the truck.

The officer told the driver that he was in violation of his permit when raising his axle to turn.  The driver told the officer that the adjustable axle also serves as a steering axle and when the roads are slippery, the axle tends to push the truck while turning making it difficult to maneuver the truck in tight turns.

The officer weighed the truck, and found the drive tandem was overweight on its permit by more than ten thousand pounds because the axle was lifted.  In his discretion, the certified ITEA officer decided against writing the trucker a ticket for several thousand dollars.

Could the officer have issued a citation?  Yes.  Would the trucker have had any recourse other than a court battle?  No.
Hopefully this situation strengthened and protected the bond between the trucking industry and the law enforcement community who serves them, the decision was binding only to this one incident.

In the end, trucks must have as many axles on the ground as the permit stipulates.  There are no exceptions provided.  While a driver may have a rational and articulable reason for raising an adjustable axle, the letter of the law governing an overweight permit says they cannot lift it at all.

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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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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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