Trucks are not Bicycles

Back in 1892, British songwriter Harry Dacre penned a little jingle about he and a woman named “Daisy” riding on a bicycle built for two, more commonly known as “tandem”. Ever seen a pair of horses pulling a trailer? Yep – a tandem. In truck world, a pair of axles is sometimes called a tandem, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a tandem is more than two axles. Either way, in the vast world of truck terminology misunderstandings, the tandem is not forgotten. This article will clarify the ongoing schism about tandems.

First, understand there are two kinds of tandems. The legal definition in the Illinois Vehicle Code, and the street version. The reader may use the term tandem to describe whatever he wants, but that does not mean he is statutorily correct.

In Illinois law, a tandem is two or more consecutive axles, with a minimum spacing on center of 40” and a maximum spacing of 96”. This can be found in 625 ILCS 5/1-204.3. Its plainly obvious in this definition that a tandem is not limited to only two axles.

If a vehicle manufacturer can cram three or more physical axles into the 40” to 96” window, all those axles are considered one tandem. In the weight laws of Illinois, this group of more than two axles will receive a maximum 34,000 pounds of weight (barring any special exceptions).

If two axles are so close together they do not have a minimum 40” between the two of them, they are not a legal tandem. Even though there are two physical axles (making it a tandem by the street definition), the maximum weight for the two axles is measured as a single axle, or 20,000 pounds. This is common on small landscaping trailers.

If two consecutive axles have more than 96” between them, they may very well be a street definition tandem, but again, they are not a legal tandem. They are instead two single axles, each receiving a maximum 20,000 pounds individually. Depending on their spacing, they may receive anywhere from 38,000 to 40,000 pounds under the Federal Bridge Formula.

Where the real confusion about tandems comes into play is on overweight permits issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and other local agencies.

For instance, a 9-axle mobile crane which weighs 187,000 pounds gross weight obtains a permit from IDOT and some local agencies. On the vehicle, there may very well be several sets of two consecutive axles with a spacing of 40”-96”.

The confusion comes in because the permit may list a tandem, but on the scale, these tandems have weights greatly in excess of 34,000. What the term tandem really means is a “group of axles”. This same 9-axle crane may have a group of two axles, then a group of four axles, then a group of three axles. On the permit, it may list each group as the first tandem, second tandem and third tandem.

Unfortunately, many enforcement agents have applied the legal tandem definition (and weight of 34,000 pounds) to these groups of axles and issued very costly overweight citations. This is erroneous for two reasons.

First, this display of the word tandem is an alternate version, not the legal version. Second, because it is overweight, the legal definition is a moot point anyhow. The permit authority has issued a higher weight for this group, and enforcement must honor those weights.

Words matter, and keen discernment recognizing the differences between legal definitions and street definitions is paramount to truck enforcement efforts. Police officers and truckers alike must be clear and detailed when explaining these situations to guarantee correct interpretations are applied. Loose and uneducated interpretations wrongly cost people a whole lot of time and money.


Raising the Red Flag

In recent years, there has been quite a controversy about flags in the United States. As the political polarization of this nation continues to divide, arguments over the display of Old Glory, the Confederate flag and even the Blue Line flag (to commemorate fallen police officers) have been subject to heated debate. The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) has something to say about flags too, and unfortunately there is not much to debate.

However, flags on trucks are a source of confusion. This is because the legislature has specialized in writing language throughout the years which lack harmonization.

It would seem simple enough to say if a vehicle is required to display a red flag, the specifications of the flag would be consistent throughout the Code. As usual, this would be faulty thinking.

Here are some excerpts from the IVC when flags are required to be displayed on trucks and other vehicles.

Snow Plow Blades – 625 ILCS 5/15-101(c)

Legal width for any vehicle is 8’6”, including snow plow blades. However, snow plow blades can extend up to 12’ wide when certain conditions are met, one of which is displaying an 18” square flag on the driver’s corner of the blade.

Note the only requirement for these flags is to be 18” square. Fly the 18” square red ITEA flag. Fly the blue Chicago Cubs W flag. The law does not limit creative flagging, but clean, red flags are advisable.

Implements of Husbandry – 625 ILCS 5/15-102(b)(2)(B)

Scroll down a few paragraphs and find flag requirements for overwidth implements of husbandry (aka “farm equipment” for the lay reader). Like snow plow blades, these flags must be 18” square.

Unlike snow plow blades, the flags must be clean and bright red. What qualifies as “clean” and “bright” are subjective and left to the interpretation of the police officer, which is not always a good idea. Also, these flags must be free from advertising, words, emblems or insignia. No ITEA or Chicago Cubs W flags for Farmer Jim.

Portable Buildings – 625 ILCS 5/15-102(b)(3)

Moving an overwidth portable building? A red flag will be needed, but unlike the flag scenarios above, two flags are required. These flags must be red (not “bright” red) and only have to be 12” square. The flags also must be cloth, so no cheap plastic imitations of red. Be mindful where the flags are mounted, as the lawmakers have a prescription for this too.

Projecting Loads – 625 ILCS 5/12-204

The weekend warrior picks up some 12’ base trim and loads the merchandise in the back of his Ford Explorer with the rear glass up. Guess what? It the material projects more than 4’ from the back of the vehicle, and during daylight hours, guess what he needs? You guessed it. A red flag.

But it’s not only limited to a red flag, but could also be a red cloth. Notice this does not require the red flag to be made of cloth, only that a red cloth is an acceptable substitute for a red flag of any consistency. Either way, the choice belongs to the driver, but it has to be a minimum 12” square.

The more important lesson here is that while this statute does not reside in Chapter 15 of the IVC like other weight, size and load laws, this applies to all vehicles. This includes commercial vehicles with loads projecting more than 4’ to the rear.

2nd Division Vehicles – 625 ILCS 5/12-702(a)(3)

All second division vehicles (trucks, trailers and buses) weighing more than 8,000 pounds (on the scale) must carry two red-cloth flags which are 12” square or larger. Not two red-plastic flags.

Wide Loads – Administrative Code Title 92 Part 554.417

While not in the IVC, the Administrative Code has the force of law. This section is the regulatory authority for those vehicles operating oversize loads on a valid permit, issued for the state highways, by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

When vehicles are overwidth, they must display flags which wave freely in the air, within the same specs as flags in the implements of husbandry section above. Further, these flags must be displayed on the extremities of an overwidth load, and at the extreme ends of all projections, protrusions and overhangs. All four corners of a house trailer must have flags displayed.

Local permit authorities may have their own rules for flags on permit loads. Best to check with them before moving.

For police officers, don’t take enforcement action based on assumptions of what a “flag” means. Read the law critically first. Truckers, do the same or you might find yourself waving a white flag instead.


Ticket to Glide

There comes a time when government regulation creates a crisis with the practicality of day to day life. This has been plainly seen the last nine years when new federal environmental regulations were created to control emissions from commercial vehicles. In response, a whole new market for an old product crept into the industry – glider kits. Their future though has been curtailed by new legislation and regulation.

What’s a glider kit? No it’s not a Styrofoam airplane with a 16d nail in the front. No, it’s not a balsa wood airplane either. In the world of trucks, a glider kit is manufactured by a third-party company. The kit typically includes a new chassis, cab, wiring and a steer axle. It’s a vehicle without a power-train.

The glider kit does not include the power-train components including the engine, transmission or rear axle. These components are what truly define the truck. The engine is what is being regulated so heavily (in terms of emissions) which has driven the glider kit bonanza.

Why would a person want a glider kit? Why not buy a new truck? The emissions regulations are to blame. Prior to 2008, the emissions regulations on trucks were much less disruptive than they are now. Like any new regulation, the user costs to compliance were expensive.

Not only did the new emissions regulations drive up the cost of new trucks, the technology which made the environmental controls possible were unreliable at best. Much time and money has been spent by industry at roadside with breakdowns and regeneration. This does not account for the increase in required fuel additives like DEF.

There is consensus among the industry the emissions technology in new trucks has improved over the last nine years, but the cost associated with it has not decreased. Like many industries, trucking is cut-throat and every penny counts. Carriers who need to purchase new tractors at the higher costs are at a competitive disadvantage to those running with grandfathered vehicles.

Trucks wear out though. After a million miles, a truck may need or an overhaul or be replaced entirely. The cost of these new trucks has priced carriers right out of business. Glider kits, however, have been an attractive way to get the best of both worlds.

Instead of buying a new truck and all the fancy green technology, a carrier can remove the power-train components, rebuild them and then install them on a new chassis, cab and steer axle. By keeping the old power-train, the vehicle did an end-run around the emissions regulations.

Glider kits have been around for ages, but the new revolution increased their quality, reliability and desirability. It was too good to be true. Government stuck their nose into the market.
No regulation would be worth its salt if it couldn’t be amended to catch them scofflaws who have found a loophole. The benefit to the glider kit was the carrier could use the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the engine to register the rebuilt vehicle.

Therefore, if the owner had a 1997 Peterbilt prior to the glider kit, he still had a 1997 Peterbilt afterwards. Bam! Grandfathered into the old emissions regulations in a shiny new ride at a fraction of the cost of a new truck.

No dice. In fairness, glider kits do create a maze of problems for law enforcement trying to track down stolen vehicles and parts. Having a vehicle with multiple VINs makes the investigatory process difficult.

In late summer 2016, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation (PA 99-0748) to control the use of glider kits. While glider kits are still lawful and a valid alternative to purchasing new trucks, how the vehicle is titled and registered has done an about-face.

Since the inception of this new law, if an owner uses a glider kit, the vehicle must be inspected by the Secretary of State to obtain title and registration. The power-train components are then re-tagged with the VIN of the glider kit chassis, not the engine. In other words, if the owner rebuilt the engine in his 1997 Peterbilt and reinstalled it on a 2017 glider kit chassis, it’s now a 2017 model year vehicle.

Welcome back environmental regulations. Oh, and don’t forget, after the year 2021, all glider kits must be equipped with model year compliant engines under federal law. This means if the driver operating the vehicle is required to keep log books for hours of service, the vehicle must be equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD).


Put on the Brakes

Spring has officially sprung, according to the 2017 calendar! As one season ends and another begins, certain configurations of trucks and trailers come out of hibernation when the warmer begins. While semi-tractor trailers stay busy all year long, the arrival of spring welcomes the rebirthing of construction and landscaping trucks, and the trailers they tow. Similar to the trucks, these trailers need brakes to stop.  Most truckers who are put out-of-service roadside can attribute their status to bad brakes. Let this article serve as a reminder to put the brakes on bad brakes.

All vehicles needs brakes to stop, and most trailers needs brakes as well with a few exceptions. The larger trailers pulled by semi tractors operate on air brakes. It’s a great system because it is designed to be fail safe. If the brake line is severed or the air compressor fails, air is released from within the braking system and the spring brakes ‘pop’ bringing the trailer to a stop.

Air brakes are a great thing to have in case a trailer separates from the tractor while driving down the road. Smaller trailers generally do not operate on air brakes, but rather electricity.  If the trailer being towed has a gross weight (on the scale) exceeding 5,000 pounds, three different braking components are required.

Service Brakes

When the driver of a semi-tractor trailer, or a truck trailer combination applies the brakes, the service brakes on the trailer must automatically activate as well.  This is required under law in the Illinois Vehicle Code which reads:

625 ILCS 5/12-301(a):

Every motor vehicle, expanded-use antique vehicle, trailer, pole trailer or semitrailer, sold in this State or operated upon the highways shall be equipped with service brakes upon all wheels of every such vehicle, except any motor-driven cycle, and except that any trailer, pole trailer or semitrailer 3,000 pounds gross weight or less need not be equipped with brakes, and except that any trailer or semitrailer with gross weight over 3,000 pounds but under 5,001 pounds need be equipped with brakes on only one wheel on each side of the vehicle.

 If a truck is towing a trailer with a gross weight greater than 5,000 pounds, the trailer must have full service brakes on every wheel.

Independent Braking Control

Every trailer or semitrailer of a gross weight of over 3,000 pounds, when operated upon a highway must be equipped with brakes adequate to control the movement of, to stop and to hold such vehicle, and designed so as to be operable by the driver of the towing vehicle from its cab.

In semi-tractor trailers this braking control is commonly referred to as a “johnny bar”, or “trolley bar”.  It is a lever inside the cab on the steering column which gives the driver the ability to independently control the brakes of the trailer without using the service brakes of the tractor. In smaller truck trailer combinations, this control is built into a proportional trailer brake controller. This control box allows the driver to manually set the intensity of the brakes, and to engage the trailer brake without activating the truck’s service brakes.

Emergency Breakaway System

As mentioned previously, most semi-tractor trailers operate on air brakes. If the braking system fails, the trailer brakes automatically engage as there is inadequate air pressure to compress the spring brakes. In trailers which operate on electric brakes, the breakaway system operates differently.

Such brakes must be so designed and connected that in case of an accidental breakaway of a towed vehicle over 5,000 pounds, the brakes are automatically applied.


The brakes must be designed to ensure that, in case of an accidental breakaway of a towed boat trailer over 5,000 pounds, the brakes are automatically applied.

For the electric braking trailers, a battery is installed on the trailer which serves as a power source to activate the trailer brakes and prevent the trailer from running wild in the event of a breakaway. A cable is connected to the braking apparatus of the trailer and the other end is connected to the power unit.  During a breakaway event, the cable pulls the pin away from the trailer, which completes the circuit, allowing energy from the battery to automatically apply the brakes.

Faulty brakes can be costly. As the construction and landscaping season begins, take the time to make sure a driver can apply the brakes should an emergency arise.


On Demand Trucking

A few weeks ago the ITEA published an article regarding the future technology of autonomous vehicles and how recent developments will impact the world of trucking. The 2016 acquisition of autonomous truck startup Otto by the Uber corporation gave a glimpse into future of on demand trucking. The article this week will explore how load-hailing services may impact the carrier industry and public safety.

Since the onset of a marketplace, there has been competition. Disruptive business models put the status quo on their heels. This is what makes America great and promotes a free market, better pricing for consumers and hopefully jobs.

As it pertains to the carriers, this is no different. As with other industries, competition can rise and fall depending on the level of government regulation. Every company with a new idea loves regulation which benefits them, and loathes any regulation which stifles their profitability.

Nearly 40 years ago, the United State de-regulated trucking. Carriers who had monopolies on routes and commodities saw government play a role in how businesses succeed. Whether or not de-regulation was a good thing is not the question. The question is did it promote public safety?

There’s no doubt the glory days of trucking had advantages. Career drivers and legacies were established. The conditions of vehicles and the fleets they represented were a source of pride. De-regulation chipped away at these things.

There’s no love lost from old school truckers as some brokers and fly-by-night drivers with little experience have entered the free market of trucking. Trucks and trailers are not maintained as well. Drivers come and go. When the lowest bidder always wins, public safety is sacrificed in the name of profits. Who exactly is profiting is still the unknown.

If the pendulum of the regulated market place prior to the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was too far one way, de-regulation has swung the pendulum too far the other. It’s out of balance, and it’s unknown if onset of on demand carriers will center the industry.

Load boards are nothing new, and they are an excellent tool for quality carriers to find work. However, they are a product of de-regulation and have given opportunity to people and vehicles who have no business being carriers.

Reality television has displayed this first hand as there have been shows dedicated to the rat-race of load board drivers. Drivers who have no idea how to secure loads. Drivers who have no ideas how to read maps. Drivers who have no idea how to spot a vertical clearance sign.

These drivers are the scourge of the industry, propped up by de-regulation and made convenient by the mobility of the internet. As companies like Uber begin to dip their toes into the world of commercial vehicles, what guarantees will there be drivers and their vehicles will increase safety?

If the on demand service of transportation network companies (TNCs) in the small passenger vehicle market are any benchmark, there is reason to fear. Companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi and livery market, and that is okay. But their ability to manage driver behavior and vehicle safety continues to decline.

Much like the trucking industry, the taxi industry was once a source of pride for companies and their drivers. The free market has eroded this, and public safety is now on the line. TNCs will tell you they adequately screen their drivers and demand vehicle safety compliance, but the complaints are growing exponentially.

Where state and federal government have failed to provide appropriate regulation of TNCs, the patchwork of local regulation is taking hold, and for good reason. But these quilts of local laws also stifle the free market, the very impetus for de-regulation in the first place.

A few years into companies like Uber and Lyft, and the negatives are beginning to outweigh the positives in terms of public safety. Everybody can now be a cab driver, because driving cars is a relatively common skill.

Trucks are not. Trucks are heavy, tall, wide and long. The de-regulation of trucking began the descending percentage of qualified drivers and vehicles versus non-qualified. Load boards have further exasperated the issue.

If the Uber model of passenger transportation is to be overlayed upon the carrier industry, great concern is appropriate. The crucial need for public safety relies on professionalism drives, vehicles and companies. It’s not a game won by who has the sexiest cell phone app to provide on demand trucking services.


Light the Way

As January comes to an end, the ITEA hopes the first few weeks of 2017 have been enlightening.  As January gives way to February, the days grow longer and life-giving sunlight shines longer each day. When darkness approaches, humans must rely on artificial light to navigate their way through the fray.  Vehicles traveling at night are required to use headlamps, but there are many other types of lights available on trucks. Tow truck or snow plow operators with amber lights which rotate or flash must enlighten themselves before turning them on.

Last month the ITEA wrote an article that mentioned some of the rules governing weight and size limits for snow plows (you can read the article HERE). The article this week will explain the rules and limitations governing the use of amber lighting on both snow plows and tow trucks.

Snow Plows

The Illinois Vehicle Code states under 625 ILCS 5/12-215(b)(6.1):

The use of amber oscillating, rotating or flashing lights, whether lighted or unlighted, is prohibited except on:

“Vehicles that are not owned by the State of Illinois or any political subdivision of the State, are designed and used for removal of snow and ice from highways and parking lots, and are equipped with a snow plow that is 12 feet in width.”

Simply put, the use of amber lighting is allowed on privately owned vehicles specifically designed for snow and ice removal, as long as the vehicle has a 12-foot-wide snow plow blade. However, this is Illinois, so this exemption comes with restrictions!

Under the same section of law the Illinois Vehicle Code provides this restriction:

“These lights may not be lighted except when the motorized equipment or vehicle is actually being used for those purposes on behalf of a unit of government.”

To clarify (or complicate) what is written above, these trucks may have amber lighting. However, unless they are operating under a governmental contract to remove snow and ice from a public highway, these lights can never be used unless it is on private property. So, for all the snow plow drivers out there, do not use amber flashing or rotating lights while on a public highway unless operating under a governmental contract.

However, this is one exemption in the vehicle code that does allow snow plows to use their rotating or flashing lights upon a public highway without being under a governmental contract. If the privately-owned snow plow has blade greater than 102 inches in width, and the blade has an 18-inch flag on the driver’s side, and the vehicle is no more than 12 feet in width, it is required to have and use a flashing or rotating amber light visible at no less than 500 feet.

Tow Trucks

The ITEA considers tow truck law so important that a large portion of the 6th Annual Conference next month is dedicated to tow truck owners and drivers. The ITEA has written two Standards of Practice about tow truck law which are available free to members. Tow trucks, like other specialty trucks in Illinois, have exemptions which come with limitations and restrictions regarding the use of flashing or rotating amber lighting.

The Illinois Vehicle Code states under 625 ILCS 5/12-215(b)(1):

The use of amber oscillating, rotating or flashing lights, whether lighted or unlighted, is prohibited except on:

“Second division vehicles designed and used for towing or hoisting vehicles.”

The above excerpt is what gives tow trucks the legal authority to have (not use) rotating or flashing amber lighting. The next sections states:

“Such lights shall be lighted when such vehicles are actually being used at the scene of an accident or disablement.”

The above is what requires tow trucks to use amber lighting while at the scene of an accident or disablement. The next section states:

“If the towing vehicle is equipped with a flatbed that supports all wheels of the vehicle being transported, the lights shall not be lighted while the vehicle is engaged in towing on a highway.”

This means if the tow truck is carrying a vehicle on its flatbed and not towing behind, the use of amber lighting is prohibited – at all times! No exceptions, no exclusions, but keep reading:

“If the towing vehicle is not equipped with a flatbed that supports all wheels of a vehicle being transported, the lights shall be lighted while the towing vehicle is engaged in towing on a highway during all times when the use of headlights is required.”

This means the use of the amber lighting during a tow operation is restricted and only allowed when the use of headlights is required. If the operator is driving at night, or using windshield wipers in the rain, he is required to use headlights. Therefore, the use of amber lighting is permitted and required.

It is easy to become lost in the quagmire of Illinois vehicle laws. These laws come with restrictions, limitations, changing requirements, time constraints and so on. Don’t forget Illinois has a history of adding, modifying and striking laws every year. The ITEA is all too familiar with these practices. Join other police officers and trucking industry professionals at the 6th Annual Conference next month to learn how to navigate through the truck laws of Illinois. It all starts at


Autonomous Trucking

Imagine driving down the expressway and pulling alongside an eighteen-wheeler. You look up at the driver’s seat what do you see? Maybe the stereotypical trucker with his John Deere hat and flannel shirt? What if you looked up and saw no one sitting there? What will a world of autonomous trucks look like and how will the police enforce violations on a truck with no driver?

In 2016, Anheuser-Busch partnered with Otto, a subsidiary of Uber, to transport 50,000 cans of beer from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, Colorado with a computer responsible for driving on the interstate. The test was successful and trucks driving themselves has become a full-fledged reality. Regardless of whether this is a good idea or not, the question the ITEA asks is “how will these trucks handle enforcement efforts?”

Forget the common traffic violations humans commit but a computer can correct, such as speeding or not using a turn signal. How will a truck handle a restricted route if there is no human to obey the signs? Some GPS units are designed for the trucking industry, but even those are not totally accurate all the time. Local roads have restrictions, and these GPS systems may not be aware of this constantly changing landscape.

How will a truck know it is being stopped by the police or needs to move over to the right to let an emergency vehicle pass? What happens when a truck is stopped for a weight violation? Will the computer system recognize the need to go to a scale and be weighed?

What about motor carrier inspection? Will these trucks be able to understand what a trooper may require at roadside? Who is the citation issued to? How will an out-of-service order work?

As with all things new, questions will be asked for every possible scenario. It would be impossible to eliminate the human element from trucking operations in order to ensure safety and compliance with traffic laws. Someone must be responsible for the decisions made in regards to safely loading the truck and ensuring it is routed safely to its destination.

Currently, some carriers pass through weigh stations and tolls utilizing a “prepass” system. This reduces congestion and saves time, fuel and money for the industry. As autonomous trucks become commonplace, these systems will make the movement of goods over the interstates even more efficient. If the technology is able to load a truck at point A and send it on its way to point B in a safe and efficient manner, this could be a win for everyone.

Technology is advancing and has shown to be a benefit to everyday life. However, all aspects of the advancement must be taken into account, including the enforcement of traffic laws. The ITEA is excited about this future, but it watching carefully too see what this future brings.


Bring The Noise, Or Don’t

Several years back, a stereo company produced a commercial to advertise the audible power of their stereo systems.  It featured what appeared to be two business men dressed in black suits driving a luxury vehicle.  The driver put a CD in the stereo and ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen came on.  The commercial goes on to show the superior sounds the speakers are producing.  The camera eventually pans out so the audience can see the men are driving the lead hearse in a funeral procession!  As entertaining as the commercial was, it turned out that the excessive noise was not a good idea.  Sometimes in the trucking industry, excessive noise can also carry consequences.

Last month the ITEA published an article about engine braking.  Part of that article covered how the ‘excessive noise’ from engine
braking can get truck drivers into trouble.  The article this week will mention how Illinois feels about other excessive noises coming from vehicles upon their highways.

Every internal combustion engine produces a byproduct generically referred to as exhaust.  In a petrol engine, the exhaust coming out of the pipes is nothing more than nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide.  While carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, none of these compounds are toxic.  In a diesel engine, the exhaust is a source of atmospheric soot, which is a component of the air pollution implicated in human cancer.  While these facts are important, they are for another discussion.

As exhaust gases travel through the exhaust pipes, they begin to expand and create noise.  This process is inevitable, as all internal combustion engines in commercial vehicles need to expel their exhaust gases.  It is clearly spelled out in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) under 393.83.  What’s not spelled out is the noise the exhaust is allowed to make.  The FMCSR does clearly explain how much noise a commercial vehicle can make, but only when measured from inside the vehicle.  However, Illinois says something different, and possibly more confusing.  Illinois law reads:

(625 ILCS 5/12-602) Mufflers, prevention of noise.
“Every motor vehicle driven or operated upon the highways of this State shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler or exhaust system in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise. No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and such original muffler shall comply with all the requirements of this Section.”

According to the last sentence of the law, it is illegal to modify the exhaust of any commercial vehicle that will cause an increase in noise.

How many trucks are driving though Illinois right now with aftermarket custom chromed out six inch pipes?  Thousands…  Does this mean that thousands of trucks in Illinois are breaking the law?  The letter of the law says “yes”.  The spirit of the law will hopefully mean something different to those charged with enforcing it.

Every commercial motor vehicle needs a horn.  This is common sense and is clearly spelled out in the FMCSR under section 393.81.  This section is very vague and simply states that every truck and truck tractor shall be equipped with a horn.  To no surprise,

Illinois law is more complicated on the matter.  Illinois law reads:

(625 ILCS 5/12-601) Horns and warning devices.
“Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet, but no horn or other warning device shall emit an unreasonable loud or harsh sound or a whistle. The driver of a motor vehicle shall when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation give audible warning with his horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.”

Perhaps easy reading, but Illinois yet again fails to define what an unreasonable loud or harsh sound is.  Is it a loud electronic horn?  It is an air horn?  This is another situation where we all hope that common sense and good discretion comes to the rescue.

Truckers – What does your exhaust sound like?  Are you able to control the noise it emits when engine braking or downshifting?  Do your surroundings dictate you should keep the noise to a minimum? Is your need to use the horn for the safety and well being of the motoring public, or to remind a driver to get off the phone and pay attention?  Should you go electric or air?

Police Officers – Remember, for truck drivers, especially owner operators, their truck is not only their office, but their home as well.  Most drivers take pride in their mobile offices and customize them as they see fit.  That may often include smoke stacks which stand tall and scream American pride.  Ask yourself if an electric horn is adequate to let the motoring public know that there is a problem with an eighty-thousand pound mobile office barreling down the highway.



Winter Rules Review

Sometimes the list of things to love about Illinois is so long people forget to include one of its biggest assets: winter. Well, maybe that is one of the reasons people flee Illinois, but truth be told, winter is a huge part of the state economy. Snow removal, automotive repair and summer roadwork are jobs provided for as a result of winter. As the cold begins to move in, it’s time to review truck laws as they apply to snow!

Rumor in Illinois meteorology is the winter of 2015-2016 is going to mild. This is because of the natural phenomenon called “El Nino”. Here’s what everyone already knows – winter in Illinois will always be cold. There will be snow. It will probably be miserable. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

Within the scope of trucking, there is a lot of variation based on vehicle configurations, purpose and commodity. This of course means there are unique winter rules which may apply to some trucks, but not all. Several of these have been discussed at length in previous articles, and links are provided in those paragraphs.

Flashing Lights – Click HERE
The ITEA would implore police officers to use good discretion before citing snow plow trucks for this offense. The ITEA would also implore snow plow drivers to be conscientious about this law so you do not get a ticket! Just because you have a snowplow does not mean you are licensed to run around on public highways with your flashing yellow lights on. You are more than welcome to run those lights while plowing private property parking lots as you may very well be required to under contract. However, when you are out on the roadway, the lights must go off, unless…

Plow Blades Greater than 102” – Click HERE
If you have a plow blade which is 102” (8’6”) or less, that is legal width. You cannot have a flashing light. However, if your plow blade is greater than 102”, you are REQUIRED to have a flashing yellow or amber light(s) visible for 500’ in all directions!

Remember, if your plow blade is greater than 102” you are exceeding legal width. The Illinois Vehicle Code provides an exception up to 144” (12’) in width, but you must meet the flashing light requirement, and you must have an 18” square flag on the driver’s side corner of the blade.

Axle & Gross Weights – Click HERE
Vehicles involved in snow & ice removal are not required to conform to gross, axle or bridge formula weight laws of Chapter 15. The question which begs answering is what qualifies as snow & ice removal? It’s pretty safe to say if the truck has a plow blade, spreader and/or a load of salt, it is safe to exceed to exceeds these weight limits. If the truck is just hauling salt from point A to point B, probably not.

Here are two weight laws not exempted. 1) As a truck owner, even if your entire gross weight (vehicle and load) are lawfully exceeding the Chapter 15 weight laws, you still must pay enough tax for registration to cover the gross weight. No breaks there. 2) If your driver is lawfully exceeding the same Chapter 15 weights, he still may not exceed the posted weights on a ton load or legal weight structure. Those are absolutes with no exceptions.

Inclement Weather – Click HERE
Obviously many trucks are built to operate in the worst of conditions. Trucks which may not operate in inclement weather or those operating on a special oversize/overweight permit. As with many things, there is no clear or objective standard as to what is considered “inclement weather”. Unfortunately, this will be subject to the opinion of the police officer and the courts. However, even if you are cited for this, it does not void the permit and knock you back to legal weight and size. It is only a violation of permit citation.

Tire Chains
A common misbelief is tire chains are illegal in Illinois. This is completely false. Reasonable size tire chains are legal on any vehicle (car or truck). The reality it is very rare to see vehicles in Illinois with tire chains. Tire chains are completely lawful as defined in the final paragraph of 625 ILCS 5/12-401:

“Nothing in this Section shall be deemed to prohibit the use of tire chains of reasonable proportion upon any vehicle when required for safety because of snow, ice or other conditions tending to cause a vehicle to skid.”

Be careful out there this winter!



Rollin’ Coal

If you are old enough to remember the glory days of trucking from the 1950s until deregulation in the early 1980s, many images come to mind. Cabover tractors, CB radios, multiple log books, a general lack of law enforcement and billowing black smoke churning from barebone diesel engines. They smelled, polluted the atmosphere and were glorious all at the same time. Forty years later, the environmental war on trucks continues with a new term: coal rolling.

Regardless where one sits on the political fence of the environment, no one can argue that trucks today are not more efficient and cleaner. Costly? Yes. Healthier? Yes. Totally, 100% necessary? Open for debate, but stewarding the environment should be a concern for all.

What is coal rolling? Coal rollers are typically larger diesel pickup trucks, not the big rigs of the commercial world. The owners add aftermarket equipment and/or disconnect standard emissions equipment so that the engine will produce black-as-night exhaust when the throttle is engaged.

Some roll coal because it looks cool and nostalgic. Others roll coal just to irritate people. Some roll coal as close as possible to hybrid and electric cars just to prove a point. Run a search through YouTube and watch the volumes of videos of vehicles rolling coal.

No matter what your stance is on coal rolling, it has attracted the attention of lawmakers. In February 2015, House Bill 3553 was introduced to outlaw the practice of coal rolling. Within a month, it was sent to committee to die. To think this is a dead legislative issue is foolishness. Other states are moving to prohibit coal rolling as well. As in all things, it’s just a matter of time.

The question which continually rears its ugly head is, “what authority do Illinois police officers have to enforce not only coal rolling vehicles, but any truck which is blowing black smoke?” Here’s the answer: nothing.

Many people hate trucks, and the sight of black smoke coming from the stacks adds insult to injury. They want justice! The police however, are not the authority who will administer it.

Whoa whoa whoa…what about the emissions laws in Chapter 13 of the Illinois Vehicle Code? Well, that again is the authority of the Illinois EPA. Not the police. Emissions testing is solely their responsibility with punishment being levied through the Secretary of State on vehicle registration. Only then may the police become involved, but it is indirectly through the enforcement of registration violations, not the emissions laws directly.

Whoa whoa whoa…what about the statute in Chapter 12 of the Illinois Vehicle Code regarding modified exhaust systems? Creative reading of the title of 625 ILCS 5/12-602 may lead one to believe it is illegal to tamper with the exhaust system to roll coal. Then again, if the same person actually reads the text, he will quickly see it has only to do with noise. Not black smoke. Ever.

Like many other issues discussed on this blog, many are not laws at all. They are rumors of laws. They are bills which have not become laws. They are topics which maybe should be laws. But at the end of the day, there is nothing the police can do because they are not laws.

Trailerless hitches. Barefoot driving. Now, rolling coal.