Is the goal of truck enforcement to protect the public and infrastructure from unsafe vehicles, or is it simply a revenue generator for local government? This is a never ending debate, but there is one truth which no one can argue: high fines are (or at least should be) a deterrent to carriers to operate illegally. Conversely, high fines should also motivate police officers to make sure their enforcement is above board at all times. When police officers take shortcuts in order to rake in a massive overweight ticket fine, it justifies the argument that enforcement is only about revenue. Read on to learn how one ITEA police officer did the exact opposite.
Last week, the blog article told the story of a phone call which came to the ITEA about a police officer who made a critical enforcement error. A $41,000 error which could easily have been avoided had the officer been a member of the ITEA and utilized the resources available to him. This week the story of a second phone call will be told. The two phone calls were very similar in content, but with very different outcomes.
Phone Call #2 – March 2014
On a cold Friday afternoon at about 4:30pm, the phone rang. On the other end was a certified ITEA member police officer who had stopped an off-route, overweight permit load. Much like the previous story, this officer had the carrier dead to rights.
The driver had been operating on his assigned state permit route when he turned left instead of right. He continued on a state highway for nearly seven miles off-route before he was stopped by the ITEA officer.
Similar to the officer in Phone Call #1, weighing the truck was going to be a challenge, but this officer knew there were only two choices. Either find a method to weigh it lawfully, or let it go. Because this officer was a certified member of the ITEA, he had learned what not to do in these situations.
To further complicate the situation, this eleven-axle vehicle was permitted for 196,000 pounds. There was no place to turn the vehicle around to get to a nearby scale. The IDOT permit office was nearly closed for the weekend, and the officer knew better than to risk moving the vehicle without authoritative route review. The Friday afternoon rush hour had begun. Snow was on the way. The officer did not have access to his portable scales because like many other ITEA officers, his portable scales were in a trailer bound for annual recertification in Springfield.
The officer called the ITEA looking for help. After some quick planning, the IDOT permit office was contacted at the last minute and superload routing was approved to a state scale twenty miles away.
An off-duty ITEA member police officer with access to the scale, was called to help. He responded from home to assist his fellow ITEA member. After the truck was weighed, it was determined the fine would total $37,000.
If you are in trucking, you may very well be thinking this is still a hose-job. However, the real question is which kind of enforcement would you rather have? Enforcement that is well-trained, resourced and lawful, or enforcement that is violates the simplest tenants of the law in order to make a quick buck?
If in your mind enforcement is only about the fine money, then there is no reason to finish reading the story. The officer, in this case, gave the driver a recognizance bond (signature, not cash) for the full amount. He had the full authority of the law to make the driver or carrier post the $37,000 cash bail, but he chose not to.
After weighing, the officer was able to park the vehicle in a safe place off the road to wait out the oncoming inclement weather. Even if the officer had chosen to not weigh the truck at all, the approaching darkness would have prevented the vehicle from reaching its destination that night.
On behalf of the member police officer, the ITEA contacted the carrier to let them know what was going on. The circumstances of the stop, weighing and disposition were explained in detail. This gave the carrier the opportunity to start working on new permits to get the truck to its final destination the next business day.
No one was happy about the circumstances or the high fine, but the carrier was appreciative of the professional way things were handled. They thanked the officer for his discretion and wise decision making choices. There will still be a price tag for the error, but the officer pledged to work with the carrier on a fine reduction.
In the end, the law was upheld, the job got done, the carrier was treated well, and professionalism abounded on both sides. This is a better way to do police work.
Which phone call do you want to answer?