We All Wear Masks

In 1994, actor Jim Carey starred in a comedy called “The Mask.” Carey plays character Stanley Ipkiss who has a reserved, vanilla personality and lackluster social life. He locates a magical mask containing the spirit of Loki, a Norse god which transforms him into a boisterous character who exudes confidence, charm and wit – the exact opposite of his true persona. However, his antics become increasingly perverse and destructive. Ultimately, Ipkiss destroys the mask to prevent it from completely dismantling his life. The moral of the story is that while you can mask certain elements of yourself, you can never truly escape who you are.  A current hot button topic in the world of commercial vehicle safety is a concept called “masking”, and the article this week will explain why it is so destructive to a CDL holder.

Masking occurs when a CDL holder receives a citation for a traffic violation, which is later reduced or amended to a different offense to avoid negative sanctions. This concept was the primary focus of a recent conference attended by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and regulatory agencies from around the nation.

The overwhelming sentiment from the conference was masking violations is detrimental to the safety of motorists traveling on the nation’s roadways. Masking allows dangerous drivers to continue their unsafe driving habits without ever being fully accountable for their actions. Drivers who continuously ask officers, prosecutors and judges to “cut slack”, or make deals to protect the CDL holder’s interests, may never have to face the consequences for their behavior.

The solution seems simple enough – don’t allow violators who hold CDLs to hide their poor driving habits behind amended or reduced charges. After all, CDL holders should be held to a higher standard, right? Well, the answer is not so simple.

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has always prided itself on bridging the gap between law enforcement and the trucking industry. More problems can be solved working together than divided. Masking is another one of those problems which can be overcome through unity and accountability.

To say CDL holders should always be held to a higher standard and should have to face the maximum consequences for every mistake is not only wrong, it defies everything the ITEA stands for. The fact is mistakes are made by the best and the worst of us. The important thing is to discern who’s making the mistakes, the intent of the person and the likelihood the person will learn from the consequence.

However, carte blanche masking of traffic violations because the person holds a CDL is not the proper way to handle cases either. Some individuals who go without proper discipline for their actions are likely to repeat their behavior. This means drivers who take unreasonable risks while driving may continue to do so with the feeling of invincibility because they’re CDL holders.

Conversely, this doesn’t mean every CDL holder is brazen enough to drive without due regard for the safety of other motorists because they drive a commercial vehicle for a living. Repeat offenders almost certainly represent a very small minority of all operators.

Accountability is the arguably the most important core value of the ITEA, but accountability comes in many different facets. As it pertains to the current topic, every entity needs to be accountable for their actions.

To the CDL holders, continue to drive safe and be responsible. If you happen to find yourself on the receiving end of a traffic ticket, understand the officer has made a determination the violation was worthy of a citation. Take a moment to think about the events leading up to the traffic stop and what could have been done to prevent the violation from occurring. Learn from the mistake made and understand the officer is not trying to ruin your livelihood, but make the roadways safer. If you believe the officer was wrong, you are entitled to your day in court.

To the police officers, use your authority responsibly. Because you can write a citation, doesn’t mean you always should. CDL holders have much invested in their licenses, and while they do have more skin in the game, mistakes do happen. Do your best to determine the type of driver with whom you are dealing. Is it the professional who made a simple error, or the habitual offender? While this isn’t always possible, use your best judgment. Chances are you’ll get it right.

To the prosecutors, do your homework on the history of the driver. Don’t assume the person holding a CDL is a pillar of the professional trucking community. On the other hand, don’t assume every truck driver is attempting to get one over on you or will continue dangerous driving habits because you cut them some slack. Most drivers depend on the validity of their CDL to put a roof over their head and food on their table.

What is the best solution to masking? Stanley Ipkiss would likely tell you wearing his magical mask in moderation would have positively impacted his life without causing harm to others. Rampant abuse of the mask, however, is a recipe for disaster.

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When is a CDL Required?

The world of truck enforcement is a world of never ending questions. Most people will agree the second heaviest regulated industry in the United States needs rules and regulations. Most people will also agree there is a great deal of discontinuity in the dissemination of these laws, how they are to be interpreted and how they are to be enforced. This level of discontinuity gives birth to such organizations as the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. The article this week will cover one of these laws – the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act.

Over-the-road truck drivers can attest from experience how laws seem to change from state to state. Most local drivers will also affirm laws seem to change from town to town, even within the same state. There are some laws, however, which the federal government institutes and decrees all fifty states must abide by uniformly.

There are 3.8 million square miles in this great nation. Whether the road takes you to Lubec, Maine in the east or Cape Wrangell, Alaska in the west, the requirements for needing a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are the same.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

The manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) provides the definitive answer as to whether a CDL is required or not. If a single vehicle has a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, a CDL class B is required. In combinations, if the vehicle being towed (trailer) has a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more, and the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) exceeds 26,001 pounds or more, a CDL class A is required.

Are there exceptions? Of course, but this is the basic premise of CDL law. This information can be found on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website HERE. In the event the manufacturer’s GVWR is not available, there is only one other option to determine if a CDL is required, which is discussed in this next section.

Actual Vehicle Weight

Regardless of the manufacturer’s GVWR of the vehicle, the actual physical weight of the vehicle on the scale may require the driver to have a CDL. For instance, a dump truck with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less would not require a CDL to operate. It would require a CDL class B if the actual weight on the scale is 26,001 pounds or more. This is a true comparison, and the higher of the two (manufacturer’s GVWR vs actual weight on the scale) determines the necessity for a CDL.

In older trucks, it is common for the manufacturer’s stickers to fade and wear off. In these situations, police officers must use the vehicle’s actual weight. Police officers may also combine actual weight with one vehicle in a combination and the GVWR of the other. When combined, police officers will always use whichever number is greater.

Vehicles Requiring Endorsements

A Ford F-150 with a manufacturer’s GVWR of 8,000 pounds does not require a CDL to operate. Its GVWR and actual weight on the scale are both well below the 26,000 pound threshold. However, if the same Ford F-150 is used to haul demolition explosives, and if by federal definition the explosives are a hazardous material requiring placards, a CDL is required. This is because a CDL is required to add the haz mat endorsement. The Illinois Secretary of State does not have the authority to endorse a non-CDL with hazmat, passengers, double-triples, tankers, etc.

These line items requiring a driver to have a CDL seem relatively simple but many truck drivers have found themselves in trouble because they did not have a CDL when required. This is not a good place to be in Illinois because not having a CDL when required is a class-A misdemeanor. A class-A misdemeanor can carry a jail sentence and heavy fines.

Unfortunately, police officers have also made costly mistakes when enforcing CDL laws. This can be attributed to poor training or lack thereof. One erroneous method of instruction is to use the registered weight (license plate) of the vehicle(s) when the manufacturer’s GVWR is not available. This is 100% wrong. It’s also incorrect to use weight specifications listed in owner’s manuals or online VIN decoders.

As mentioned before, it’s the manufacturer’s GVWR or actual weight on the scale. That’s it.

 

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Risky Business

Few words carry as much weight to a Commercial Motor Vehicle driver as hearing a Trooper say their vehicle is “out of service”, or OOS. Downtime, repairs, lost profit, adverse Compliance Safety Accountability scores and insurance rates are all things which begin to flash through the driver’s mind as they begin to consider the gravity of the OOS order. Throughout the history of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association, the legal reach of local police authority has been a constant discussion. It has been well established that only members of the Illinois State Police can place a commercial motor vehicle OOS. Not many are aware, however, that local police have authority to issue an OOS order for a completely preventable offense.

Brake systems, steering systems, coupling devices, lighting, load securement, tires…the list or potential OOS criteria goes on and on. There are many violations which could park a truck following an inspection. Realistically, a poor maintenance schedule could go undetected by a CVSA inspector for much longer than many would expect.

In 2014, 11.7 million commercial vehicles traveled an estimated 295 billion miles throughout the United States. Compare this to 2.3 million roadside vehicle inspections performed by 14,000 inspectors. One could understand how a junk heap of a truck continues to operate undetected by CVSA inspectors.

There are, however, many more local police encountering Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers on traffic stops or minor crash incidents.

One aspect all local law enforcement officers are trained on during their basic academy is the detection of drunk drivers. But it doesn’t take the 40-hour truck enforcement class to recognize the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath.

Suppose a commercial vehicle made a short turn and sideswiped the front fender of a car stopped at an intersection. Both drivers would converse, exchange information and likely call the police. If the car driver detected the slightest suspicion that the truck driver was intoxicated or had alcohol on his breath, what would be the first thing they told to the officer arriving on scene?

Despite the stigma associated with a DUI arrest, the cost involved and the risk to the motoring public, DUIs are on the rise.

Commercial drivers have an added challenge. Zero tolerance.

When an officer has probable cause to believe ANY amount of alcohol or drugs are in a CMV driver’s system, the officer can require the driver provide a blood, urine, and/or breath sample.

Refusal to provide those samples results in CDL disqualification for 12 months and an automatic 24-hour OOS order.

If a sample is provided, any amount of alcohol detected results in a 24-hour OOS order.

If the driver is found to be over 0.04, half the legal limit for DUI in Illinois, the CDL is disqualified for 12 months and an automatic 24-hour OOS order.

Serious consequences for serious offenses.

There are two main misunderstandings to alcohol and CMVs:

1.   Zero tolerance is not a DUI.

If a driver is operating a CMV (and by CMV the law is referring to a vehicle which requires a CDL) the zero tolerance is at play. This not a DUI, rather an administrative sanction. The sanction for having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04 or greater is a more severe administrative sanction. A driver is not violating the criminal “per se” DUI level until the BAC reaches .08.

2.   Zero tolerance is not CDL specific.

Merely being a CDL holder does not reduce the legal BAC while operating any vehicle to the zero tolerance and .04 thresholds. If a CDL holder is driving a car which does not require a CDL (and the driver is age 21), then zero tolerance and .04 have no relevance.

It may be easy to skirt the system when running with wobbly steering or un-serviced brakes, but the odds are stacked against a CMV drive engaged in risky drinking behavior. Remember, any of the 41,000 police officers in Illinois can put a driver OOS for drinking and driving.

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Friendly Competition

Ask any law enforcement officer, and if they’re willing to be honest, they will admit there’s an endless competition between police officers and fire fighters.  Sometimes this competition is as simple as poking fun at the differences between assignments. Other times it manifests itself through seething disdain for society’s view of each profession.  There is no doubt the public needs law enforcement officers as well as fire fighters.  Each fills their necessary role at the public’s expense, but could the Illinois legislature be favoring fire fighters?

In 1986 the Federal Government passed the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act (UCDLA) which standardized the administration of the Commercial Driver’s License throughout all 50 states.  These regulations laid out who was required and who was exempt from having to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Modern day regulations allow for emergency vehicle drivers to be exempt from CDL requirements while operating an emergency vehicle in the preservation of life or property.  This includes both fire fighters and police personnel when responding to emergency situations.

Cops in commercial motor vehicles?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster though there is a need for officers to respond to emergency scenes in mobile command posts or armored vehicles.

Police are not entirely exempt from the law however. When operating an “emergency vehicle” when there is not an actual emergency, both police and fire personnel are required to hold the proper license class for the vehicle they’re operating, as is the case with all driver’s exempt from the CDL regulations. This most commonly is the Class B, non-CDL license which allows the operation of a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 26,000 lbs.

Farming personnel, recreational vehicle drivers and drivers using a large vehicle for non-commercial purposes fall into the same exemption.  They’re not required to obtain a CDL, but are still required to obtain the proper license class.

The difference is how the license is obtained.  The non-Commercial Driver’s License is much simpler to obtain than the CDL.  The Illinois Secretary of State allows the issuance of a Class B non-CDL license after passing only a written test.  All those seeking to obtain a Class B non-CDL must pass the written test at a Secretary of State facility – everyone except for fire fighters.

Fire departments are allowed to send one of their own to the Secretary of State to become certified instructors. Once certified, these instructors may conduct on-the-job training and issue a certificate which firemen can then take to a SOS facility and obtain the license without taking the written test.

It might be reasonable to say that this is not favoritism toward fire fighters; however, wouldn’t farmers benefit from a similar program? So, why aren’t they?

It’s understandable why police are not able to earn their license in this way simply because fire personnel are much more likely to operate a fire truck in a day than a police officer is to operate an armored vehicle.  Or maybe the police can use this program but have simply not inquired.

In the end, it is not all that difficult to obtain your non-CDL license, but it is a good excuse for the competition between fire fighters and police officers to continue.

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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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Misunderstood

No one can discount the fact truck drivers and company owners have a tough job.  Balancing local, state and federal regulations with the media’s understanding of those same regulations can make one’s head spin.  Often times these regulations are at odds, but what’s more difficult is conflicting sources of information.  Unless authors specialize in the trucking industry, cutting through the noise and understanding the true intent of legislation is a challenge. The consequence of the misunderstanding for the owner or operator are citations, fines and court dates, but could it result in arrest and jail time?  It has.

Federal regulations guide all Commercial Driver’s License statutes within Illinois and nationwide, though it can be years before state legislation catches up and aligns with the regulations. This results in confusion on not only within trucking but also enforcement.

Articles written by even well-known trucking journals who target wide audiences often write to align with their nationwide readership. This results in oversimplification and confusion on local issues.

Owners, operators and some law enforcement depend on state-run websites and state agency customer service for clarification but their writings and knowledge are often watered down versions of true vehicle code, criminal code and administrative code. These shortcuts result in mistakes by everyone.

The final straw where all conflicts can be broken is the truck stop or local breakfast diner. All walks of the industry reflect on the latest new regulations or applications of statute they swear were true or were completely false. This reliance results in shortsightedness.
Where does this lead us?

Years ago a local truck enforcement officer and member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association stopped a vehicle for a minor violation. Had the officer not discovered the driver was not licensed to operate the Class-A non-CDL combination, the driver likely would have been on his way with a warning for the initial minor infraction.

The driver was perfectly cooperative and listened as the officer explained why the driver was not required to possess a CDL, but was still required to obtain the proper license class. It was not until the company owner arrived with a properly licensed driver when the problems began.

The company owner had regularly disagreed with the enforcement practices of the local police authority and saw the officer’s supposed missteps as an opportunity to voice his displeasure. With reference material in hand, the owner screamed back at the officer the regulations as he saw them which would have permitted the driver to operate on the license he already had. To the officer’s credit, he never raised his voice and calmly explained his thorough understanding of the licensing statutes.

Finally, after the owner refused to leave and then made an obscene suggestive recommendation to the officer, the owner was arrested for obstructing that officer’s investigation. The owner was so stuck on his misinformed understanding of the statutes that he was willing to go to jail over them.

The clearest understanding can fail without an abundance of council.

The greatest benefit owners and operators have over law enforcement is the need for a mastery of only the vehicles they operate. Police officers on the other hand have to understand how the law applies to all vehicles through all operations.

Seek out the counsel of local and statewide law enforcement. Educate yourselves through trade journals and state websites. Read vehicle and administrative code. Become a member of a local trucking association.

Most of all, be willing to learn and question inconsistencies from any one source.

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Driver’s Ed

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase: “It’s better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6.”  This refers to the hope the decisions you make may save your life, but could put you in legal jeopardy.  The vast majority would agree with the idea.  But what about those CDL drivers whose poor safety record reflects their poor driving ability?  Or those survivors that have been impacted by inexperienced CDL drivers?  Newly proposed FMCSA regulations are attempting to rein in the inexperienced.

In March the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a proposed rule that would require mandatory training for new CDL drivers or those CDL drivers seeking an upgrade in license class.

The rule would require Class A applicants to have taken 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training while Class B applicants would need 15 hours.  All training must be through a FMCSA approved vendor listed on the Training Provider Registry.  The estimated implementation cost: $5.55 billion. So what’s the big deal?

Whether it was your father sitting next to you teaching you how to shift, or the “Behind the Wheel” component of your high school’s driver’s education classes, driver’s education has been around for decades.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until 1973 that driver’s education was implemented for the sole purpose of roadway safety.

Many studies have followed evaluating the effectiveness of formal driver’s education.  A few will tout the outlier study which suggests those having attended formal driver’s education were more prone to crashes, but the vast majority of data suggests exactly the opposite: Educated and practiced drivers are safer drivers.

This isn’t an unreasonable conclusion to draw.  Look back to the second or third day following your first operation of the most complicated vehicle you currently operate; whether it be car, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle.  You were likely able to operate that vehicle just well enough to pass the Secretary of State’s tests.  You’re then handed a license to drive and off you go.

Many of you are saying, “but I’ve been perfectly fine since that time.”  The problem is: many are not.

An 80,000 lb commercial motor vehicle traveling on the roadway carries 20 times more the propensity for damage than a 4,000 lb car traveling the same speed.  Simply put, an unsafe Commercial Motor Vehicle driver is putting everyone else at risk, not just themselves.

In a day in age where billions and trillions are thrown around like dollars and cents, 5.55 billion dollars is still a tough pill to swallow.

That comes out to $17 for every man, woman and child throughout these United States.  Instead, consider the enormity of the cost society bears due to inexperienced drivers: vehicle damage, personal injuries, medical care, rehabilitation, policing and fire resources. Even litigation.

It may be undetermined how much of a difference a 15 or 30-hour course will make and whether taxpayers and consumers are willing to bear the cost.  Given the research, it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.  Is your jury still out?

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Don’t Be A Punchline

It’s that time of year again: another Super Bowl has come and gone.  Who doesn’t love a good commercial?  Whether your team was in the big game or not, we all seemed to enjoy the game breaks featuring new zany ad campaigns.  But what about the flops who fail to make an impression within the first few seconds and cause you to turn away for another hotwing?  Most commercial trucks are similar.  Big carriers, big trucks, and big cargo, equate to an obvious big commercial enterprise, but what about the grey areas of less obvious “commerce”?  As we explored which vehicles fit commercial operations a few weeks ago, this week the article will explore which operations constitute commercial purposes.

In order to be considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle, the vehicle must have been used in commerce.  This begs the question – what is commerce?  The Illinois vehicle code doesn’t shed much light on the subject as it defines commerce as “trade, commerce, or transportation”… perhaps they forgot not to define a word as the very word they’re trying to define.  Merriam-Webster would suggest “activities that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services.”

If commerce is limited to the above definitions, why would there be an exemption on both the state and federal level for police and fire vehicles only when responding to emergency calls?  Wouldn’t they also be exempt when operating their emergency vehicles to and from a touch-a-truck event or while using their rig to pickup meals for the firehouse?  Simply, NO!

The key term is: COMPENSATION.
If the driver is being compensated: commerce.
If the driver has the potential to be compensated: commerce.
If the driver is bartering goods or services in exchange for his use or operation of the vehicle: commerce.
Everyone understands: company truck + compensated driver = commerce.

What about the driver operating his company’s tree trimming truck on the weekend so he can trim his personal trees around his residence? not commerce.
What if that driver was operating his company’s tree trimming truck on the weekend so he can trim trees at his rented house, in exchange for a free months’ rent? commerce.
What about the driver operating his RV from campsite to campsite with his family on weekends? not commerce.

Perhaps that driver was operating his RV, pulling his racecar from track to track where he had the potential of winnings: commerce.  The FMCSA has provided some guidance on this suggesting driver’s would be exempt depending how they file their taxes, what expenses they deduct, and whether corporate sponsorship was involved.  All in all, confusing.

I know what you’re thinking… “Whoa! I know a guy that’s been doing that for ____ years, and never had a problem.”  This may be true, but at what cost?

When a minivan blows a stop sign and pulls out in front of a sizable truck which kills all occupants of the minivan, police may determine the minivan was at fault.  But what happens when the civil case swirls around in the court system for a couple years and they determine the Commercial Motor Vehicle driver was not licensed properly and shouldn’t have been on the road?  Perhaps a driver should err on the side of the caution and obtain their proper Commercial Driver’s License.

There are some police officers reading this licking their chops: “I know plenty of drivers who are operating in those grey areas and this is all I needed to confirm my suspicions.”  Try again!  The burden of proof for criminal prosecutions is still proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Is the investigation complete enough to stand up in front of a judge and swear under oath the driver was being compensated?  If not, officers better also err on the side of caution.

Commercial licensing laws are in place for a reason.  Their broadness shouldn’t be used as an excuse for drivers to say, “But I didn’t understand.”  If you’re operating in the grey, get licensed.  That way your financial well-being doesn’t become the punch line to a bad TV commercial.

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Who’s Got Your Ear?

Let’s get back to the basics. It seems among the general trucking population, including the unschooled law enforcement officers, there’s a disconnect between those who truly need a CDL and those who do not. Despite the many resources available, everyone the ITEA encounters who has an incorrect stance on the subject has shoehorned their trucking practices into some version of the exceptions.

The difficulty becomes, when you rely on others advice you’ve chatted with at the local breakfast diner, or at the grain elevator, or from the “experienced” employee that came from a larger company, it could end up costing your pocket book big!

It is easy to understand the large tractor-trailers on the road, hauling commodities from one side of these United States to the other, need CDL licenses. But what of the much smaller flatbed, ball-hitched trailers, over-state line grain haulers or RV driving weekenders?

There are two main violations to address: Operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) with no CDL and operating without the correct license class when no CDL is required.  Though each is a violation of law, there’s a big deference between them, mainly: jail time

When a non-CDL driver operates a vehicle which requires a CDL, whether the cause is ignorance, misinformation or blatant intent, the penalty is the same: a misdemeanor violation likely resulting in a custodial arrest, towing of the CMV for no less than $300 an hour to the towing company, fingerprints, mug shots and a long-lasting criminal history.

The second violation, when a non-CDL driver operates a non-CMV without the proper license class is much different. Very simply, the violation is a petty offense which alone, cannot result in jail time though can still impact the pocket book.

Some officers have discretion afforded to them by their respective departments who allow non-custodial enforcement of misdemeanor violations where a conviction could result in jail time. Others do not.

All officers however have been well educated in the art of liability mitigation, otherwise known as “C.Y.O.A.”  When an officer chooses to allow a driver to continue down the road when that driver doesn’t possess the proper license class or CDL and that same truck crashes into a family, the penalty is the same: liability for their department, their family, and themselves. It is irrelevant whether the cause was ignorance, misinformation, or blatant intent.

This aversion to liability means one thing to truck drivers found in violation: your truck likely isn’t moving!

Now, who is exempt in Illinois from having to have the proper license classification? Most likely you are not! The only people who are exempt from license classification are those who are exempt from possessing a license in the first place!

If you are required to have a license, you must have the proper license class for the vehicle you drive, regardless of whether a CDL is required.

Now, who needs a CDL? Time to get technical… drivers who operate:

  1. vehicles with a total weight or combined rated weight of 26,001 lbs or more *and* a trailer over 10,000 lbs actual or rated weight,
  2. a vehicle with a total weight or rated weight of 26,001 lbs or more,
  3. a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more people, including the driver, or
  4. a vehicle hauling hazardous materials.

If you’re using your vehicle commercially and it fits one is those above categories, you very likely need a CDL to drive that vehicle. Are there exceptions?  As with any law, ABSOLUTELY. Check back in a few weeks to learn whether you fit one of the exceptions.

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Prove Your Legal Presence

Who are you? Your identity is everything to you. It could be your career, your faith, your last name, your facial hair (it is Movember by the way) by which you place the most importance identifier. In business world, the cool buzzword is “branding”. Call it what you want, but if you are a CDL holder, your identity as an American is first and foremost. The article this week will tell you why.

Let’s take a walk memory lane. Go back to September 11th, 2001. Terrorists attacked our country, on our soil, in a big way. Fourteen years later we are still implementing new rules and regulations to help prevent another tragedy like that day. CDLs are no exception.

The earliest post 9/11 regulation for CDL holders was mandatory fingerprinting for those with the hazmat endorsement. Inconvenient? Yes. Costly? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Truck drivers are good people, but the risk of a driver living a double life as terrorist with a job hauling hazardous materials is probably worth the preventative efforts.

Now, effective July 1st 2015, if you are an American CDL holder, you have to prove your legal presence in the United States. The federal government has mandated it. You have no choice but to comply, or risk losing your CDL. It may seem counter-intuitive, because didn’t you already do this to obtain your driver’s license in the first place?

The answer is yes. Most law abiding Americans secured their driver’s licenses legally using legitimate documents. However, some did not. Remember the Illinois CDL scandal which landed former Governor George Ryan in prison? Who is to say there are not still some CDL holders out there who obtained their CDL feloniously? What if there are other “pay-to-play” schemes still in the works in other states which have yet to be detected?

This new proof of legal presence requirement for CDL holders is another attempt to weed out those CDL holders who are not supposed to have them. Realize not all people with legitimate licenses have had to prove this in the past. Go back 50 years, and the documentation burden was far less than what it was pre-9/11 or even now. Those drivers may or may not have had to prove the lawfully could be in the United States, but yet they are driving trucks with CDLs.

Another similar situation is Illinois (like many other states) allowing for temporary visitors to obtain limited scope driver’s licenses. Politically, it seems these standards will probably loosen before they are tightened up. While the vast majority of visitors with these licenses are decent, hard-working people, the opportunities for the devilish ones to slip through the cracks are increasing. This new proof will help limit the criminals from that population from graduating to CDLs from regular Class-D licenses.

A great misconception is this new proof is about citizenship status. Incorrect. The basis of this new program is only to show you are living in the United States legally. Your status as a citizen is irrelevant.

Here’s what the Illinois CDL holder needs to know before stepping foot into a CDL facility: bring your proof of legal presence.
Going to renew your CDL? Bring it. Adding an endorsement? Bring it. Changing addresses? Bring it. Re-certifying from intrastate to interstate? Bring it. Tendering your medical card? Bring it. Upgrading from a permit to a full CDL? Bring it.

It’s that simple – bring your proof with you the next time you visit an Illinois CDL facility for whatever reason. You will be asked to prove it, and if you don’t, you will be turned away. The Illinois Secretary of State CDL services has done an outstanding job of notifying CDL holders, yet time and time again people are walking into the facilities without the documentation and sent packing.

Good news! You only have to do this one time. For US citizens, a passport or raised seal birth certificate (no copies) is all your need. To learn more, click HERE.

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