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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Harmonization

The majesty of music is hearing multiple layers of sound working together. Each person in a choir is an individual singing something unique. Their voice is not the exactly the same as the other vocalists, their line of music is not the same, but it all comes together to make something beautiful. Lest you think the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is getting soft, harmonization between units of government is a national issue for the specialized transportation, and this article will explain how the ITEA is supporting the effort.

Imagine this: you are a heavy hauler domiciled on the east coast. An energy company in California hires you to transport a massive generator from the Port of Baltimore in Maryland to Los Angeles. Months are spent planning. Route surveys, permit procurement, escort vehicles, utility relocation, police protection…the list goes on and on. It’s a massive process, and expensive too.

Just when you think you got it all figured out, one the states you are going to pass through (let’s just say Illinois) reports there is problem with the route crossing an overpass. You are informed the move will have to be diverted onto local roads involving one county and four municipalities.

Your transportation world just imploded. Other than the hassle of obtaining the local permits, each individual locale has their own specific rules and provisions about lighting, signs, escorts, and times of day. What may be customary and industry standard at the state level does not jive at the local level.

There is no harmony. All the voices are working against each other. The only tune being sung is utter discontent for bureaucracy.

Make no mistake, harmonization is not just about local government, it’s about state government as well. Rules for oversize/overweight (OSOW) moves vary between each state, each county, each township and each municipality. 

In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation is the permit authority for all state highways, sans the tollways. Their rules and regulations have been most replicated by local government in Illinois, but this not a universal trait. Many locals have created their own set of rules which do not harmonize with IDOT. 

Several years ago, the American Association for State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) began studying this issue in depth. AASHTO represents the state departments of transportation for all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington DC. 

In 2012, the subcommittee on highway transport, and all 52 members, passed a resolution committing to harmonization based on five permit categories: escort requirements, warning flags, warning lights, warning signs and, days/hours of operation. This was called Phase I. In March 2014, the subcommittee released the results of their Phase II study.

Phase II explored all the different rules and regulations between the states, and identified the minimum requirements. For instance, let’s say 10 states required escort vehicles over 12,000 pounds GVWR, 38 states required escort vehicles over 10,000 pounds, and 4 states required escort vehicles over 8,000 pounds. The 10,000 pound escort vehicle would become the minimum standard, meaning four states would need to come into harmony by passing rules or legislations to do so.

This is no easy task though. Legislation and administrative rulemaking is an intensely political issue. Change has to begin somewhere, and AASHTO is taking the lead role creating model policy for the states to follow.

The problem is the final mile. Even if all 52 member AASHTO jurisdictions come into perfect harmony, there is no mandate for local government to do so. Even in a day where consolidation of local government is becoming a buzzword, Illinois is decades away from ever seeing real change. Until then, it will be a battle to harmonize over 3,000 units of local government with highway jurisdiction. 

Like AASHTO at the national level, the ITEA has agreed to champion this cause for local government in Illinois. Last month, the ITEA Board of Directors voted to pass Resolution 2014-01 encouraging local government to adopt the minimum Phase II standards for their local permits.

For our police members whose towns or counties offer OS/OW permits, step up and begin the conversation to meet these standards in your local town. For our industry members, pick up the phone and start respectfully demanding them to do so. 

It’s no secret Illinois is one of the most unfriendly states to good business. Permit harmonization is a small measure all those involved in Illinois transportation can take to start improving that reputation. On July 14-17, the SCOHT is meeting for their annual conference in Philadelphia. Let’s give them a shock that Illinois is doing something right.

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A Tale of Two Phone Calls: Part 2

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?

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A Tale of Two Phone Calls: Part 1

Everyone loves a coincidence! When two independent events mimic each other completely in their own universe, it brings a smile to people’s faces. That is unless the circumstances are not positive. The article this week will discuss two very similar situations which happened recently in Illinois truck enforcement.  Coincidental in scope, yet with very different outcomes.

The ITEA works hard to bring balance between professional truck enforcement and profitable industry. The people demand protective enforcement. The industry demands fair and quality enforcement. Regardless of political and social views, police work is here to stay. Qualify polcing, if you must, as necessary or unnecessary, evil or good, but the police are not going away anytime soon. The goal is to make sure all enforcement, favorable or unfavorable, is done with excellence.

Phone Call #1 – October 2013
The ITEA receives a call regarding an overweight citation that has been received by a heavy hauler. In this incident, the truck was on a county road and did not have a county permit. Weighing in excess of 190,000 pounds gross weight, the police officer had the driver dead to rights. All that needed to happen was to weigh the vehicle pursuant to the law, sometimes easier said than done with large and heavy vehicles like this one.

The Illinois Vehicle Code mandates if a police officer has reason to believe a vehicle is overweight, he “shall” weigh it on a scale(s). This did not happen. There’s no doubt an 11-axle, 190,000 pound load simply cannot be driven over any scale. It takes either a high capacity fixed scale or many portable wheel load weigher scales in order to lawfully weigh this combination.

The ITEA has these resources at its disposal, but the officer (who is not a member of the ITEA) did not utilize them. It was mid-morning in the middle of the week. There were a lot of options available.

Instead, the officer took the shortcut. He chose to not weigh the vehicle and based his evidence from a private scale weigh ticket the driver handed him from the day before. Total fine? $41,000.

The weigh ticket reflected a scale reading which was not witnessed by the officer, also known as hearsay evidence. Unfortunately, there has been (ill-advised) instruction by a leader in law enforcement that in situations like these, it’s ok to not follow the plain language of the law and use whatever means are available. 

To think law enforcement leadership would advocate such a blatant abrogation of constitutional rights to issue an overweight citation should consternate us all. So wrong in fact the very first Standard of Practice (SOP-01) written by the ITEA nearly four years ago spoke to this very topic. The end does not justify the means, no matter how wrong this truck driver was by operating overweight without the correct permit.

The carrier cited contacted a local trucking association, who in turn referred the case to an attorney. A nearly five-month court process ensued with the officer losing the citation in court during a stipulated bench trial. Why? Because the officer did not follow the law.

What good came of this? Well, if you are the carrier, you just successfully beat a $41,000 citation! How much did the attorney cost? How much lost time and wages were spent fighting the ticket in court? The reality is the highest fine was avoided, but poor enforcement methods still cost the carrier a lot of money.

Some police officers may say that is just desserts. Hey – they did wrong and they had to pay something, so be it. It is attitudes like this which have led to decades of scrutiny of the police. It is never appropriate for the police to take improper enforcement action (under the color of law), based on the perceived rights and wrongs of the actor. Never. If the case can be proven with the best, legitimate evidence, prosecute it. If the case cannot be made, let it go.

Had this officer been a member of the ITEA, things could have gone a lot better. Want to hear how? Check back in next week to hear about phone call #2.

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Exemplary Police Work #4

There are vicious rumors floating around about Illinois. Once such rumor is that truck registration in the Land of Lincoln is super expensive…way more expensive than surrounding states. Is this true? Well, unfortunately, yes. The purpose of this article is not to argue the rights and wrongs of registration pricing, but to show why solid enforcement of registration laws by solid police officers makes a world difference on how the trucking industry perceives the police.

Registration is a tax plain and simple. Make no bones about. When it comes to trucks and trailers (aka “second division vehicles”), the tax is proportionate to the amount of weight to be carried on the vehicle.

Because Illinois sells expensive registration for trucks and trailers, sometimes trucking companies domiciled in other states (aka “foreign states”) choose to operate within Illinois without paying a tax to Illinois. Do trucking companies do this on purpose? Most likely some do. Do some screw up and work within Illinois on foreign plates by accident? Probably. If a truck is making an intrastate move, meaning the load (not the truck itself) has a point of origin and a destination within Illinois, a tax must be paid. As always, there are some exceptions to this requirement.

Many blog posts could be spent discussing the finer point of intrastate registration requirements, but the ITEA has several resource documents and Standards of Practice available for our members to review. Even if the law is the law, police officers always have the right to use discretion, which brings us to the story being told today.

On a cold night this past January, an ITEA certified police officer was out patrolling when he noticed a truck bearing foreign registration. After making a lawful traffic stop based on probable cause (not solely because the truck had foreign plates), the officer spoke with the driver and determined the vehicle was making an intrastate move.

Based on this evidence, the officer had him dead to rights. He had all authority to weigh the truck and issue an overweight on registration citation. The fine for the ticket would have been cost of the license plate necessary to cover the gross weight of the truck. It would have been quite expensive.

Even though this officer had been certified after attending the ITEA Advanced Truck Officer class, he had never dealt with this issue before. He was trained in it, but because truck law is so voluminous and complicated, he did not know if he was on sure footing.

A lesser officer would have weighed the truck, written the ticket and hoped for the best in court…but not this officer. What he had learned through his instruction with the ITEA that is it better to take no enforcement action at all than to take bad enforcement action. It is better to make an informed decision than to make a wrong one.

So that is what he did. He cut the driver loose and gave up a legitimate overweight. The decision to let the driver go and then do his homework was a mature decision. Afterwards, he looked up the ITEA Standards of Practice that speak to this issue. He went on the ITEA member discussion forum and found some similar incidents in other towns. He emailed the ITEA and was connected with the resident expert on all things registration.

The ITEA is proud of this officer. So proud a letter was sent to his Chief explaining he had a quality truck officer in his ranks! He let a big fish go, but there are more fish in the sea. It is not the job of the police to write questionable tickets and then let the courts and a judge sort them out.

On April 10th, 2014, the ITEA is hosting it’s 8-hour Certification class for truck officers. The goal is to raise up more industry conscientious officers like this one.

If you are truck officer not yet certified by the ITEA, this is your chance to show your quality. It’s free for members. Membership is $25.

If you are trucker or trucking company official, make the phone calls and respectfully demand your local truck officers attend this class. Put your mouth where your money is.

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