Exemplary Police Work #7

Do you want a refund from the IRS this year? As you patiently wait for your W-2 form to get the process going, you have to ask yourself the annual question: do I save some money and try to do my taxes alone, or do I hire an accountant? The tax code is quagmire of laws, rules and regulations, and one wrong move, intentional or not, spells trouble. Truck laws are similar in the vehicle code. They’re complicated, and sometimes police officers make mistakes. The best truck officers, however, own their mistakes.

This week the article will look at a recent incident involving a mistake made by a certified member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. Next week, the article will show the stark contrast of a mistake made by a non-member, non-certified member of the ITEA. You choose which model of truck enforcement officer should be working the street.

There are three ways a truck enforcement officer can be certified by the ITEA:
1.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer course
2.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course
3.   Attend the ITEA 8-hour Certification Course, designed especially for those not originally trained by the ITEA.

An ITEA certified truck officer is not an “expert”. Where there are humans involved, there are mistakes. Police officers need not apologize for doing their jobs, but a humble spirit will take responsibility for an error…especially errors with pricetags in the thousands of dollars.

There is the law, and then there are exceptions to the law. With each exception comes more exceptions with limitations and qualifications. One such set of exceptions are those known as “Special Hauling Vehicles”, or “SHVs”. This blog has discussed SHVs many times before.

The trucking industry uses politics to lobby for exceptions to weight law. This article is not making a qualitative argument for or against SHVs, but as more exceptions are added to the law, the more complicated it gets. The more complicated it gets, the more mistakes will be made.

Currently there are five vehicle configurations of vehicles with SHV status, and there are several other configurations of vehicles with exceptions to the law which are not SHVs. Most of these configurations, SHV or not, do not receive their exemptions of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. These are the interstates and tollroads of Illinois.

However, there is one configuration that does receive the exemption on the defense highways: certain 5-axle combinations called “shorty dumps”, or “bombers” in days gone by. These vehicles are the exception to the exception.

Given all these rabbit trails, it is reasonable to believe a police officer may make a mistake? Absolutely. It happened just recently when a certified ITEA officer failed to honor the SHV exception for a 5-axle shorty dump which was operating on a defense highway.

After issuing an overweight citation with a fine north of $3,000, the trucking company contacted the ITEA. As it turns out, the trucking company was an ITEA member as well. Within a matter of hours, the issue was settled.

The officer acknowledged the error. He did not take offense to being asked what happened. He was open to correction. He immediately corrected the problem so there would be no prosecution. He even contacted the trucking company directly to explain himself. He humbly owned it. He protected the industry.

In a day when police officers are taking a beating in the media and social networks, it is encouraging to see professionals like this officer defeating the stereotype. He was not originally trained by the ITEA, but he joined and elected to be held to a higher standard. His exceptional authority (the ability to levy enormous fines) was voluntarily kept in check because he chose to have exceptional accountability (ITEA certification).

This system of checks and balances has worked every single time in the four years the ITEA has being certifying truck officers. Unfortunately, there are just as many times when police officers, who were not trained or certified by the ITEA, do the exact opposite. Read more about that next week.

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Bring on 2015!

It’s a new year and the ITEA is stoked to begin year number six as a professional organization designed to serve law enforcement, truckers and attorneys! Many times news reports and magazines like to issue lists of highlights from the previous year. The ITEA works hard to leave a footprint using this blog and social media, so it’s not hard to go back and see what all happened in 2014. Instead, the article this week look ahead into 2015 and see what is to come for the ITEA and truck enforcement in Illinois.

EVENTS
ITEA Annual Conference | 07 JAN 2015
It’s not too late to sign up for this event! New and diverse speakers from the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Secretary of State, Jason’s Law, World’s Largest Truck Convoy and Diamondback Specialized CMV Training will be presenting. The ITEA will also be presenting the first Glenn Strebel Award…our version of the truck officer of the year. Not to mention there will be multiple raffle prizes (including a pistol).

IDOT Customer Conferences | 06 JAN 2015 (Schaumburg), 08 JAN 2015 (Springfield)
If you are in the permit business for oversize/overweight loads in Illinois, you probably have had to pull permits from the Illinois Department of Transportation. The ITEA will be on-hand to answer questions of IDOT permit customers to help resolve questions and concerns about local permitting. Sign up now (it’s free!)

Industry Expos / Conferences
Mid-west Truck & Trailer Show, Peoria IL | 06-07 FEB 2015
iLandscape, Schaumburg IL | 25-27 FEB 2015
National Transportation Symposium, Atlanta GA | 03-06 MAR 2015

TRAINING
40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement |The dates are still tentative, but the ITEA plans to offer its basic 40-hour Truck Enforcement course two times in the spring…one week in the suburban area and one week in Springfield. This course is all about hands-on training. Half the time in the classroom, half the time with real trucks.

40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer | Much like the basic course, the ITEA plans to conduct this training twice in the fall, once in the suburbs and once downstate. Built to dig into the finer and most confusing parts of truck law, this course is for the truck officer who has been through a basic class and spent time on the road already doing truck enforcement.

8-hour Certification | The ITEA believes that police officers performing truck enforcement duties need to operate at an exceptional level of accountability given the exceptional authority  they possess. Police officers who have successfully completed an ITEA 40-hour or 8-hour course in the past can recertify each year via an online test. Those who have been through a basic school not conducted by the ITEA may elect to take this course to become certified by the ITEA. Coming this Spring!

SERVICES
Interactive Flowcharts | If you are a member of the ITEA, you have access to several paper flowcharts to explain when a driver needs a CDL, and IFTA sticker or vehicle safety test. In the modern world of portable electronic devices, these documents are easy to download. To take it up a notch, the ITEA will be releasing new interactive flowcharts throughout the year. You punch in the information you have and it will automatically tell you what the answer is! Plus, you will have the option to have the finding emailed to you in a report. The first flowchart regarding CDLs will be live mid-January.

Portable Scale Recertification Program | Yes, the truckers hate portable scales. However, they are a tool, which when used properly, greatly expedite the weighing of trucks. Each year the Illinois Department of Agriculture must certify the scales. In an effort to cut down on costs (passed along to the taxpayers), the ITEA transports trailer loads of portable scales free of charge to local government. In 2015, the IDOA is providing the ITEA with three weeks! Sign up now for one of the runs in January, May or September.

The ITEA is excited about another great year resourcing and advocating for both law enforcement and industry. As always, please let us know your ideas, suggestions and comments. We’re here to serve you!

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Cluck Cluck Turkey Truck

There’s two invariable truths to which a person must acquiesce when studying the trucking industry. First, the industry has an unprecedented obsession with fowl. Chicken trucks, chicken lights, chicken coops, rooster cruisers…it goes on and on. Secondly, around Thanksgiving, the trucking industry lights up social media with pictures of trucks hauling live turkeys, just to prove they make the holiday happen! The ITEA agrees. As the ITEA passes the5th anniversary milestone this holiday season, it is important to look back on reflect on the impetus for the ITEA. We are thankful for a lot of things.

To get a true appreciation of our gratefulness, dial the clock back to November 18th, 2009. Although the ITEA was officially launched to the public on January 1st, 2010, this date in November was the first official meeting of the original ten members. It was here the foundation was poured.

At that time, Illinois truck enforcement was in chaos. An 11th hour legislative change drastically changed truck weight laws in Illinois. While the intent was noble and long-deserved to bring Illinois into compliance with the other 47 lower states, the delivery was awful.

Local government was blindsided. An unfunded mandate of heavier trucks was thrust upon the roads they are responsible for maintaining, without compensation. The rewrite (later rewritten) was less than comprehensive as gaping holes and contradictions were legislated. So-called truck enforcement “trainers” were teaching local police officers incorrect application of the new law leading up to the effective date on New Year’s Day. The disparity among police officers in correct interpretation and enforcement methodology was at an all-time high.

Enough. Many other specialty areas of law enforcement had associations representing their craft, and the time was ripe to do this for truck enforcement world. We needed uniformity among our own. We needed to work together with industry and the legal community.

The group came up with the six foundational statements. First version by-laws were scratched out. Everyone threw in $25 (for a grand total of $250) to buy domain names, launch a very basic website and hire a local attorney to file organizational documents.

Would anyone join? Would industry welcome our efforts? Would the state regulatory agencies acknowledge our existence? Could we really walk the delicate fine line of representing enforcement, industry and the legal community at the same time? It was a gamble, but it’s worked.

We are thankful for the 400+ police officer members representing nearly 175 agencies across Illinois. It is not an easy thing to police the police. The humble and professional demeanor of our officers, especially the ITEA certified ones, is incredible.

We are thankful for the 100+ trucking company and carrier members who have joined our ranks. The further we walk with the industry the greater our knowledge and compassion grows. We have seen strong anti-enforcement truckers/owners become some of the biggest truck enforcement supporters.

We are thankful for the dozen attorneys and law firms who are ITEA members. Without informed legal counsel, bad enforcement prospers. Without proper education, uninformed attorneys make unnecessary trouble for enforcement.

We are thankful for the leadership of the State regulatory agencies who oversee their world of trucking authority. The Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Secretary of State and others have graciously welcomed the ITEA. They have resourced our every move. In a culture where the public casts a suspicious eye on all things Illinois state government, the ITEA has had the privilege to work with quality leaders. Leaders who do their duty to protect the public and infrastructure, yet have a heart to see the trucking industry proper as well.

We are thankful for our partner industry associations who have shown the ITEA unparalleled support. There is no doubt, and with great reason, for them to have looked at the ITEA with trepidation in the beginning. They now invite the ITEA to speak and participate at their events. They defer local enforcement issues to the ITEA. They have welcomed the ITEA into their ranks. Here’s a special shout-out to Mid-west Truckers, the Professional Towing & Recovery Operators of Illinois, Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, Illinois Trucking Association, Illinois Landscape Contractors Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau…thank you.

In January, the ITEA will begin distributing special 5-year challenge coins to those members who have crossed that milestone. We are thankful, and look forward to big things in 2015 and another five years serving you.

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4th Annual ITEA Conference – #ProtectTheIndustry

A ridiculous stereotype portrayed by the media is the rogue “Dirty Harry” policeman persona. After shooting a victim, police officers do not stand on a suspect’s throat to mete out revenge. Once a threat has ceased, the police officer must do everything he can to save the life of the person he just shot. His duty and responsibility has just done a 180. On January 7th, 2015, the ITEA is hosting its 4th Annual Conference to show how and why the police should use their enforcement authority to protect the trucking industry.

It’s only fair for the carriers and companies who play by the rules to know law enforcement is seeking out those who undercut legitimate business. Being a “good company” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for inerrant law breaking, but the expectation for truck enforcement officers to protect them is reasonable.

This means choosing not to use enforcement tactics which exceed the authority of a police officer, even if the carrier deserves it. It means professionally addressing erroneous methodologies and tactics. It means choosing to stand up and do the right thing no matter what. Every time.

The theme for the conference this year is #ProtectTheIndustry. It’s a hashtag the ITEA will be using on social media for the next two months (by the way, it’s also the promotional code discount for our CMV interdiction class December 15-17, 2014…be there!).

What better symbol of police protection is there than a pistol? It has been customary at our conferences in the past to have charity raffles for different electronics and other items…and it will continue! The grand prize this year will be a firearm. What kind? Guess you will need to come and see for yourself!

Also new this year will be the presentation of the first Glenn Strebel award. You can read more about the award by clicking HERE. This recipient is not the officer who wrote the biggest overweight fine. It is not the officer who wrote the most overweight citations. It is the officer who used his enforcement authority to protect the industry.

There will be donuts and coffee in the morning, and lunch provided later in the day. In between is a roster of speakers who set themselves apart in both law enforcement and trucking.

Sergeant Lance Bonney | Illinois State Police
Sgt. Bonney currently serves as the ISP Deputy Chief of Staff and is one of the lead CVSA instructors for Illinois. In 2015, there are several new and complex laws coming which will impact truck enforcement efforts. Sgt. Bonney will be going through these laws in detail and their appropriate application on the street.

Hope Rivenburg | Jason’s Law
In 2009, Hope’s husband Jason was murdered in his semi. Her amazing journey from grief to lobbying Congress for millions of dollars to provide safe truck parking. Money which is available to local government.

Geno Koehler | Illinois Department of Transportation
Geno has been employed by IDOT for nearly 30 years and has served in many different roles including emergency management and now as the Permit Chief. Geno has overseen the implementation of ITAP since its inception 2013. There are big updates in the works and Geno will be going over them.

Katie Herriott | World’s Largest Truck Convoy, Special Olympics Illinois
For the last ten years, Special Olympics has brought the World’s Largest Truck Convoy to Illinois to benefit Special Olympics. There is no other benevolent event in Illinois which brings both the trucking industry and law enforcement together for a great cause. Come hear the plans to make the convoy an even bigger event in 2015, and how the ITEA is helping.

Ray Herndon | Diamondback Specialized CMV Training
This past January, Ray was unable to speak at our conference due to a last minute federal subpeona, but he will be back this January! As a career interdiction officer, and a career owner of a trucking company, Ray brings a unique perspective to commercial vehicle interdiction. You do not want to miss his 3-day class this December in Carol Stream, and you do not want to miss this presentation.

It’s going to be a great day packed with a lot of food, fun and critical information. The conference is open to all law enforcement and trucking industry professionals at the full rate of $75. If you are a member of the ITEA or a select group of trucking associations, the conference is discounted to $50. Register now by contacting the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at 630-942-6277.

The Better Way to Interdict CMVs

A show of hands please: whose heart bleeds for the truck driver caught smuggling drugs? Does anyone really lose any sleep over the truck driver caught human trafficking? Anyone? That’s right. Even the biggest and most influential representatives of the carrier industry would love to eliminate the black eye trafficking gives their profession. Unfortunately, in the name of justice, law enforcement has developed systematic training to interdict these criminals, much of which has yielded a fishing expedition into the industry. There is a better way, and it is coming to Illinois in December.

The eradication of these evils is a noble goal for sure. Heck, even if the goal is to find loads of cash belonging to the drug trade, that in and of itself is not a terrible thing. No one is shedding a tear.

The problem is the methodology in which law enforcement employs to interdict commercial motor vehicles. If you leave an acorn out on the sidewalk, even a blind squirrel may find it. If you throw a baited hook in the water enough, eventually a fish will nibble on it.

For many years, law enforcement has been taught an unreliable CMV interdiction methodology. Does it work? Well yes, on occasion, but not without leaving a wake of innocent truck drivers behind it. This method is called “indicator training”. It teaches police officers to look for several different indicators, and if all the stars align, that truck is most likely smuggling drugs, cash or people.

If 100 truckers are stopped, detained and searched, and a police officer finds contraband on one of those trucks, is that really efficient police work? Great job finding that one truck, but what about the 99 other innocent truckers? Their liberty should not be sacrificed in the name of interdiction.

The root issue is those who have historically trained law enforcement have been police officers themselves. They have found intermittent success using the indicator method, but lack the more successful trade knowledge of the industry.

The reality is the best interdiction efforts come from those who work inside the trucking. Why does federal law enforcement hire ex-convict computer hackers to find criminals? Why do large trucking companies hire retired CMV enforcement officers to inspect and audit their fleets? Because those with insider knowledge are the best. They have a unique perspective and skill set.

On December 15-17, 2014, Ray Herndon from Diamondback Specialized CMV Training will be in Illinois teaching a 3-day course on a revolutionary new and effective method to interdict trucks.
A method that will yield a higher percentage of success that typical indicator training.
A method that does not waste the time of the officer or an innocent trucker.
A method which teaches police officers insider info into the trucking world to expose the true criminals.
A method which builds a proper sequence of events that will pass constitutionally muster.
A method which teaches police officers how not to exceed the scope of their authority.
A method which is taught, and demonstrated, using classroom instruction and real trucks.
A method which protects the industry.

This groundbreaking methodology is sound for two reasons:

First, he has been a successful drug interdiction officer for nearly twenty years with the case studies to prove his methods work.  Second, he has owned and operated his own fleet of trucks for and even longer period of time. He is fully police officer and fully trucker. Rarely will you find someone with such intricate knowledge of both professions with such a great respect for both.

A recent article in the Washington Post began to expose police tactics used in interdiction efforts, and the picture does not paint law enforcement in a positive light. The time to tear down and rebuild CMV interdiction efforts has come. Diamondback Specialized CMV stands alone from the any other training institutions. The ITEA has witnessed it firsthand.

Do not miss this class. Seating is limited, so sign up ASAP…you will not regret it.

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Exemplary Police Work #6

It’s unfortunate there are times erroneous police work must be exposed. One of the toughest parts of policing is the policing of the police. Like all professions, most people are good and it’s just the few rotten apples that spoil the bunch. The same is true in truck enforcement world, it’s just the stakes are incredibly high. Couple an immensely complicated law with unparalleled high fines and you have a recipe for disaster. The redeeming beauty is when a truck officer does the right thing, like the story to be told in this article.

Oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits are one of the most complicated parts of truck law. Every jurisdiction, state, county, township and municipal authorities have their own set of rules and regulations. This makes the issue complicated not only from the perspective of the carrier trying to obtain a permit, but also from the police officer trying to understand the enforcement methodology of permits.

When the carrier operating under the authority of OS/OW permits makes a mistake, the penalties can be devastating. Since 2010, when the State of Illinois passed a law doubling the fines of overweight vehicles, it is not uncommon for off-route permit loads to have fines exceeding $30,000. Not all permit load mistakes are that expensive, but many are. In the diverse world of trucking, none are as susceptible to these kind of fines like those in specialized transportation.

When vehicles are operating under the authority of an OS/OW permit issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there is a unique set of rules, or conditions, which must be followed. These are created in the Administrative Rules, which have the force of law. They are more commonly found in the IDOT Permit Manual and listed on the OPER 993 form.

One such IDOT regulation is more commonly known as the “1-mile rule”. Under this rule, IDOT provides grace for the driver who goes off his assigned permit route for one of four reasons. One acceptable reason is because the driver mistakenly got off-route in the first place. The caveat is the vehicle may only travel for 1-mile off-route, and the road travelled on must be a state highway contiguous to the assigned permit route.

Last month, a young truck officer (a rookie with less than one year on the job) who had recently been through the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement course, stopped an OS/OW permit load on a state highway. During this conversation, the officer asked to see the driver’s permit. The driver had page 1 of his IDOT permit, but did not have page 2 which included the routing. Had the driver actually had the routing page of the permit with him, this traffic stop would have been over in minutes.

The driver knowingly admitted he was off-route, and by his description of where he had travelled, he was more than seven miles off-route. On the surface of things, it appeared this officer had the driver dead to rights. Based on the weight of the vehicle, the fine would have exceeded $16,000.
The officer could have written the ticket, the company would have paid the fine and there probably would not have been any fight in court over.

The reality was everyone was in agreement the driver messed up, and messed up bad.

However, this officer knew the red flags he felt going up needed counsel. As an ITEA certified truck officer, he accepted a creed to make an informed decision before making a wrong one.

Truck officers in Illinois have privileged access to the IDOT permit system called ITAP. In this database, police officers can verify and download the actual permit issued by IDOT. Unfortunately, the officer had not yet received permission from his command staff to apply for ITAP access, so he contacted the ITEA who looked up the permit for him.

As it turns out, the driver was indeed off-route, but less than 1-mile from his permitted route and on a contiguous state highway. No overweight citation could be issued. If this officer was suffering from moneylust, he would have issued the citation and no one would have been any wiser.

Thankfully this young man was of noble character and did the right thing.
The ITEA is proud of this officer. He is a fine example of the role police officers are supposed to play in the world of highway transportation.

On October 28, 2014, the ITEA is hosting a free 8-hour certification for current truck officers who have been trained elsewhere. If you are in the carrier industry and desire to see more truck officers like this one, get on the phone and respectfully demand truck officers in Illinois who are not certified attend this class. You can find a list of non-ITEA certified officers and their agencies by clicking HERE. Your voice can make a difffernce.

Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer 2014

A well-rounded and effective truck enforcement officer is like fine wine. It takes time to season them to be proficient in their trade. The best truck enforcement officers in Illinois not only understand the detection and application of law, but they are keenly aware that it’s more than just writing tickets. It’s about compliance. It’s about education. It’s about advocacy. It’s about respect for the most vital industry to our economy…trucking. From September 29th to October 3rd, 2014, fifteen of the best truck officers in Illinois will rise to a new level of performance at the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course. Will you be there?

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association prides itself in not just being a puppy mill for truck officers. The practice of arming multitudes of police officers with nothing but basic training is dangerous to the industry. Even worse it hurts the perception of quality truck enforcement officers. Churning out scores of truck officers with limited knowledge and a ticket book pointed at revenue is nothing short of destructive.
Only the ITEA trains, certifies and holds accountable truck officers with updates, resources and advanced training. The only other advanced training available teaches local police officers to exceed their authority and impersonate the Illinois State Police. The ITEA offers something completely different.

The 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course offered by the ITEA reinforces the basic training and post-training field experience of truck officers. Instead of teaching new ways to try and teach officers to write more tickets, the course teaches truck enforcement disciplines from the perspective of the trucking industry and regulatory officials (whom all the curriculum was built in partnership with).

The lead CVSA instructor from Illinois spends a day teaching about how the international program works. The ISP trooper spends the day going over how they perform an inspection (with the appropriate authority), training and reporting techniques. Officers quickly learn that observance of critical safety violations is important, but enforcement based on unauthoritative instruction is dangerous.

A day is spent teaching the finer points of CDL rules and regulations. The officers then have an opportunity to learn what it takes to get a CDL…just like the industry. The class reports to a Secretary of State CDL facility to take the permit tests, perform a walk-around pre-trip inspection, and then actually drive a semi-tractor trailer combination on the skills course. Officers get to see the world from the trucker perspective, and soon learn the worst truck drivers are better drivers than they are.

Truck registration is a complicated mess. Much like CDLs, a day is spent teaching the details of registration from both an intrastate and interstate point of view. Instruction not only teaches the law, but how the operation of the Secretary of State Commercial & Farm Truck Division works. At the end of the day, the officers learn how to apply for and register an entire fleet of trucks…just like the industry.

The specialized transportation industry relies on oversize/overweight permitting to get the biggest and heaviest loads delivered. The OS/OW permit process is a nightmare of individual state, county and local regulations. A detailed comparison of state law vs. local law is explored and the effect it has on the industry. Students are then given the opportunity to sit in the seat of the permit coordinator and apply for basic permits…just like the industry.

Weight enforcement is an important part of a well-rounded program, but learning what is heavy and what is not takes a lot of trial and error. While this is expected with new truck officers, much time and money is wasted by officers on fishing expeditions. A full day is spent going over different configurations for different commodities and the explaining loading trends. Real life photos from ITEA officers are used to show how to stop and weigh the trucks that are actually overweight, proper weighing procedures and reasonable enforcement discretion.

If you want the best, be the best. Do not miss the opportunity to take this unique course. Please contact the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at 630-942-2295 to register.

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Illinois Rail Safety Week 2014

There’s a reason every red-blooded American boy wants to be a train conductor or a truck driver: big powerful machines made of iron and steel are cool. Many kids grow out of this stage, the rest either become truck cops, train conductors or truck drivers. It’s no secret the trucking and rail industry do not always see eye-to-eye, but there are times when both industries need to come together for the greater good. One such instance is Illinois Rail Safety Week 2014. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is proudly co-sponsoring this event because trucks play a vital role in rail safety. The article this week will explain why.

September 14th-20th, 2014 marks the inaugural year for Illinois Rail Safety Week. The driving force behind the event is the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee, on which several ITEA board members serve as well.

Rail safety may seem rather intuitive, but sadly the numbers prove different. Every year, lives are lost, including those of truckers, for failure to follow simple rules at rail crossings. 

Time is money. The boss wants it done yesterday. The phone is ringing. That train is moving slow. I got plenty of time. Bam. Tragedy…again.

State Law vs Federal Law
There are truck specific laws at both the state and federal level. Those truckers who operate with CDLs need to be concerned with both! While some laws are similar at both levels, others are specific to their own code. Some state law violations may not be in the federal law, but CDL status could be affected anyhow. 

Heavy Equipment
State law requires that any vehicle moving heavy equipment have proper clearance before crossing the railroad tracks. Because much heavy equipment is transported on lowboy trailers, a nine-inch minimum is required before crossing the rails. What is interesting is the definition of “heavy equipment”.

The statute gives several examples: crawler-type tractor, power shovel, derrick or roller. However, it also gives a catchall. If the equipment being operated or moved is designed to travel less than 10mph, the driver must stop the truck between 15 and 50 feet of the crossing to make sure it is clear. 

While most minds will immediately think this statute applies exclusively to oversize/overweight permit loads, it does not say that. What about legal weight skid steers, pavers or excavators? Many of these machines do not exceed 10mph and are moved over trucks.

Permit Loads
Speaking of permit loads, the Illinois Department of Transportation has something to say about this topic in the 2012 Permit Manual. If you are operating on a valid IDOT permit on an IDOT road, you assume all liability if a problem arises because you did not stop and inspect the rail crossing prior to crossing. The permit may very well route you over the tracks, but you are still responsible. A violation of permit citation could be issued.

Passenger Vehicles
Federal law requires all “buses” to stop and look prior to crossing. The Illinois state law is more restrictive. It not only requires all buses, but any second-division vehicle, carrying passengers for-hire, to stop. This includes vehicles designed to carry ten or more people like some stretch limousines, party buses and 15-passenger vans in ride-sharing agreements.

Hazardous Materials
in Part 392.10, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations delineate a host of hazardous materials which would require the driver to stop the vehicle at a rail crossing. The Illinois state law defers to this list as well. The key here is enforcement scope.

The truck actually has to being carrying the material, not just displaying placards. While a local police officer can just as easily look at a placard and compare it to the list, the proof of the violation rests with the presence of the material. Illinois State Police troopers can inspect a commercial vehicle without cause, but local Illinois officers are limited by procedural case law. Just crossing the tracks without stopping, while displaying placards, is not enough for a search.

Shifting Gears
Even with automatic transmissions rapidly gaining popularity in commercial vehicles, the standard transmission is still king. If a truck is of the type which is required to stop at railroad crossings, the driver may not shift gears once the approach to the tracks and has begun. He also cannot shift until the entire vehicle has cleared the tracks. This is for good reason. Even the best drivers sometimes miss gears when shifting. If the trucks stalls on the tracks, bad things could happen.

Illinois needs goods shipped by rail and highway transport, and we need it delivered in one piece by alert drivers. Illinois Rail Safety Week 
2014 is all about both industries and law enforcement working together for safety. 

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Recreational Vehicles

“It’s all about revenue.” “Money money money.” “You guys are only trying to pad the City coffers on the backs of the working man.” These are very common statements heard from the drivers, owners and managers in the trucking industry when police officers write overweight citations. Unfortunately, many times they are spot on. The article this week will discuss a practice in truck enforcement that serves to prove this point: recreational vehicles.

If have been following the Illinois Truce Enforcement Association for any length of time, you probably have quickly learned there is little tolerance for enforcement that strays or bends rules for the sake of revenue. Unlike a basic truck enforcement course offered by another training institution where the instructor opens with a shameful “welcome to revenue 101”, the ITEA is the exact opposite.

Any police department which facilitates a truck enforcement program fueled by moneylust is a disaster waiting to happen. Laws have a purpose, as do fines. The revenue generated by truck enforcement should only be the byproduct of quality police work, not the catalyst for it. 

When a police agency demands or expects officers to perform truck enforcement duties solely to create income, they are encouraging police officers to find creative interpretations of the law. There are dozens of examples of this, but this week recreational vehicles have the spotlight. 

The foundation is simple. Registration and commercial driver’s license are under the regulatory authority of the Illinois Secretary of State. The Illinois General Assembly, for right or wrong, creates statutes which the SOS must enforce. Where the statute is silent to procedure, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) fills in the gap.

Truck registration in Illinois is expensive. There’s no doubt about it. Given the high price, there is incentive for truck owners to try and cheat the system to purchase registration of a lower price. This is the case with RV plates.

Many second division vehicles are RVs. In those times when the trucks are indeed RVs, they may be appropriately plated as such for a substantially lower fee. In the times when the truck is not an RV, they must secure the exponentially higher base plate fee.

The problem police officers run into is when they try to ascertain who is cheating and who is not. The police officer who focuses on the purpose of the truck quickly finds he may very well be stepping on the authoritative toes of the SOS. 

The purpose for the truck being used as RV, whether lawfully or unlawfully, is incredibly complex and quite subjective. To say there are perfect, clean cut rules to this topic is faulty thinking. 

The reason police officers will attempt to use creative interpretation of statutes in regards to determining RV purpose harkens back to first few paragraphs of this article. Follow these breadcrumbs: 
•   If the truck officer believes there is cheating going on, then he can say the truck is improperly registered as an RV. 
•   If the truck is improperly registered as an RV, then it needs flat weight truck plates. 
•   If the truck needs flat weight truck plates and it does not have them, then an overweight on registration citation may be issued. 

Cha-ching.

The most common rationalization an officer uses to make this determination is that the RV is being operated for business purposes. This is correct in simplistic terms…a business may not use RV plates to circumvent regular truck registration or exercise a CDL exemption.

The creative, moneylusting police officer will attempt to find easy rationalizations to make the RV operation a business purpose. However there is no easy way to do this. It takes an extreme amount of investigation into tax filings and other regulatory paperwork to make a proper determination. The work required far exceeds what a patrol officer can accomplish on a traffic stop.

What’s worse is the police officer who detains a driver far beyond customary traffic stop time limits, set by the United States Supreme Court, to play Elliot Ness. What’s even more disconcerting is the police officer who employs his own low-standard rules and issues the citation, leaving the driver to prove his innocence in court.

This is bad police work. The burden of proof is on the officer. If the officer cannot rightly meet his lawful burden, he must send the vehicle on its way and continue his investigation. There are other administrative ways to bring the registration or CDL cheat to justice. 

To counter this problematic enforcement, the ITEA recently ratified a Standard of Practice (SOP 38) to provide guidance to our member police officers. 

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CDL Arrest Policy

On the road to maturity as a police officer, one quickly learns to quit taking things personally. Some take longer than others, but the sooner a police officer learns to judge the actions of a violator and not the actor himself, the easier life becomes. The reality is sometimes mistakes are made, but sometimes the consequences exceed the reasonableness of the offense. This can readily be seen in commercial driver’s license violations. The ITEA has a solution though…read on!

Earlier this year, under federal mandate, the Illinois Secretary of State began canceling CDLs for those who had not complied with the medical merge process. No fault can be attributed to SOS. Illinois went above and beyond the call of duty.

In the end, Illinois had one of the earliest and highest compliance rates in the nation because of this effort. Even still, just under 20,000 Illinois CDL holders still had their CDL cancelled for not certifying. Many of these CDL holders probably were not using their CDL anymore, but many probably just did not get it done.

There’s another wrinkle to this issue. Of the 400,000+ CDL holders in Illinois, 46% are certified as non-excepted interstate (NI). This means they had to submit a valid medical card at the time of certification. As interstate certified drivers, they are required to provide the SOS a new, and valid, medical card every two years before the date it expires. If not, the CDL will be cancelled.

Just to add some more regulation to the process, as of May 21st, 2014 all driver physicals have to go through a specific set of doctors called “the registry”. No more “doc-in-the-box” offices writing out bogus medical cards for obviously unfit drivers. While the number of qualified doctors has surprisingly met expectations, it will still slow down the ability for CDL holders to get their physicals done in time.

Once the CDL is cancelled for any of these reasons, the driver has thirty days and then the CDL will cease to exist. The driver will have to start from scratch to obtain a new CDL. Permit tests, pre-trip inspections, skills course and road course…just like he never had a CDL in the first place.

The medical merge regulation is just one way to be in violation of CDL laws. How about these situations?
•   With the new CDL criterion, the driver who did not need a CDL June 30th based on GVWR may need one simply because he weighed one pound more on the scale July 1st.
•   The driver who did not know about a new regulation which says the aggregate total of 119 gallon tanks exceeding 1000 gallons needs a tanker endorsement.
•   The driver who received bad CDL advice from a police officer who was trained in an unauthoritative truck enforcement class, is now stopped by a well-trained police officer.

All that to say this: there’s a lot of new ways to have your CDL yanked for nothing but paperwork issues. There’s also a lot of ways to be in violation of a CDL. Yes, the medical merge process is important to weed out medically unfit drivers. Yes, the responsibility to be compliant with all rules and regulations falls on the CDL holder themselves.

However, many good drivers may lose or have their CDL cancelled solely because relatively minor issues, not necessarily because they are unqualified drivers. If the CDL is their livelihood, they will continue to drive regardless. Others will continue to drive, ignorant to the complexities of CDL law. And yes, that is on them too.

The question is not whether or not the operator should be held accountable for the decision to drive without the CDL when required, the question is whether or not the penalties for all CDL violations fit the crime. As mentioned in previous blog posts, driving without the proper CDL when required is a Class-A misdemeanor. Outside the various state police agencies, the vast majority of local police departments require misdemeanor traffic arrests to be custodial.

Handcuffs. Towed trucks (exponentially more expensive than towed cars). Fingerprints. Mug shots. FBI and state ID numbers. Maximum one year in jail. Maximum fine $2500.

As an alternative, local police agencies could adopt a model policy brought forth by the ITEA last month which provides police officers discretion. A model policy which allows police officers to still do their job, but not make a custodial arrest of every CDL violator. A model policy which attempts to harmonize state and local methodologies. A model policy already adopted by many ITEA member police agencies.

Click HERE to download ITEA Resolution 2014-02. Police officers, start the conversation with your administration. Truckers, make the phone call to your local police agency and respectfully demand they adopt a policy which allows for non-custodial arrests of CDL violators.

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