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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The Glenn Strebel Award

When the ten original members of the ITEA began this Association in October 2009, no one expected to see all the progress that has been achieved. The goal was simple – make better truck enforcement officers. Six foundational statements were identified to accomplish the goal: safe roads, one voice, partnership, uniformity, resource and legislation. These ideals were set up to pave the highway leading police officers to a higher level of enforcement quality and to show the trucking industry there was a better way. It was not without purpose. A month earlier, Illinois lost a great truck officer named Glenn Strebel.

Glenn Strebel served on the Barrington Fire Department for many years and rose to the rank of Lieutenant.  As a single father, he began to look for ways to supplement his income. Glenn worked his way through the part-time police academy and received his police officer certification and began looking for a part-time career in law enforcement. Eventually, Glenn was hired on the East Dundee Police Department, a small agency in Kane County along the Fox River. It was during this brief tenure from 2006-2009 that Glenn developed an interest in truck enforcement.

For those who knew Glenn, he was the “great guy”. Great attitude. Great heart. Loved his job, his family and wanted to excel in all he did. After his retirement from the Barrington Fire Department, Glenn ran for public office in Barrington where he lived. He wanted to make a difference. Glenn had worked spent a career in public service and had seen it from street. It was time to move up to the front office.

Even though there was no formal association of truck officers at that point, Glenn worked hard to network with other truck officers from nearby communities. He setup roadblocks with the Illinois State Police and IDOT and invited others to come help. He offered to help other truck officers with their roadblocks. The goal was never to assist in the effort to write more tickets, but to learn. He always asked the right questions.

Glenn understood that exposure around commercial vehicles yields more knowledge. He was old enough and wise enough to realize the police, even truck enforcement officers, are paid to serve. No one is being served if he as a police officer is wasting the trucker’s time and the taxpayer’s dime with frivolous enforcement.

Glenn knew it was better to let a wrong truck go when he was unsure of complicated truck laws . He knew it was his job was to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. It was not his job to make a best guess, take a load of money from the trucker and leave them to defend themselves in court. It was better to release a driver and find his evidence, and maybe later write the ticket if need be. He was quality.

Unfortunately, Glenn suffered from a very rare form of cancer. At the young age of 42, his life was cut short. Had Glenn survived, the original ten members of the ITEA would have been eleven. The ITEA is exactly what Glenn would have wanted. He would have served selflessly to lead it. He had an exceptional authority, and he demanded exceptional accountability.

It’s for police officers like Glenn the ITEA was conceptualized. Because of his character, the leadership of the ITEA felt it necessary to seek out and award a police officer each year who models his traits.

The 2014 Glenn Strebel Award will be announced at the 4th Annual ITEA Conference on January 7th, 2015. This is not a “tickets for toasters” award. He who writes the most tickets does not win, nor does the police officer who writes the overweight with the highest fine. Glenn would want to see his name ascribed to an award for the police officer who puts service ahead of self.

The ITEA will accept nominations all year from any police officer, member of the trucking community, local government leader or private citizen. The ITEA Board of Directors (who are not eligible) will look not only at well-rounded enforcement activity, but education efforts and advocacy for their local trucking industry. A litany of prizes will await the winner.

The goal is to do right….right by the reputation of law enforcement. Right by the vital need for a profitable trucking industry in Illinois. Right by the protection of people and property. This is what Glenn would have called for.

To learn more about the Glenn Strebel Award and to nominate an officer, please click HERE

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2014 – A Year in Preview

It’s the end of the year as Illinois knows it, and you feel <insert emotion/illness/expletive>. Usually at this time every website, magazine, radio station and special interest group is listing their year in review. No doubt a lot has happened in 2013 with the ITEA…it’s been a banner year for sure. In the spirit of 2014 being the year of distracted driving reform, 2013 is in the rearview. The ITEA is eyes forward and hammer down, trucking hard into 2014. Here are some previews of what is to come in the new year for the ITEA.

3rd Annual Truck Officer Conference
Hard to believe this event is already less than two weeks away!  While there are still some seats available for January 8th, it looks to be a standing room only show.  Some new faces will be presenting from the Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Revenue and our keynote speaker from Diamondback Specialized CMV Training in North Carolina. There will be truckload of new material to learn. Stand and be counted among the best and most informed…it’s only $50 for ITEA member police officers and $75 for non-ITEA police officers. You can register with the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy by clicking HERE

More prizes in the charity raffle. More free raffle prizes. Chik-fil-A for lunch (we heard your complaints from last year).  And donuts from Spunky Dunkers in Palatine (again, we listened). Your brain and your belly will leave full.

Trade Shows
The ITEA is glad to partner with our friends in the trucking industry. There is no better way to get the message of the ITEA out to the industry than meeting them face-to-face on their turf.  In 2014, the ITEA will travel to two previously attended trade shows, and adding a new one. Free t-shirts and raffles for new electronics will be available at all the shows!

  • Mid-west Truck & Trailer Show – This annual event will be held January 31st-February 1st in Peoria. For more than 50 years the Mid-west Truckers Association has held this event.  The ITEA will even have a semi-truck in the Pinewood Derby!
  • iLandscape – This show has been rebranded and is moving from Navy Pier to the Schaumburg Convention Center February 5th-7th.  It’s been sold out for months now. There is no bigger event for landscapers in the tri-state area than this event.
  • Illinois Truck Association Expo – This will be the first time for the ITEA to attend this event in Oak Brook, IL from September 25th-27th. We are excited to continue and grow a relationship with the ITA and their membership.

40-Hour Basic Truck Enforcement
In keeping with our mission to provide the highest quality truck enforcement training to local law enforcement in Illinois, the ITEA will be offering two 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement classes this spring instead of just one. Both classes are eligible for 50% re-imbursement from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, bringing the grand total to under $200! There is no training of this caliber for that low of a price in Illinois.

  • April 14th-18th. The show is going on the road. Thanks to our members from the O’Fallon Police Department, we will be hosting this training for police officers in the metro-St. Louis region.
  • April 28th-May 2nd.  This week the class will be held at the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at the College of DuPage.

Awards
Glenn Strebel Award – The ITEA believes in recognition of truck officers who go beyond minimum performance to do an exceptional job. More about this award will be discussed at the Truck Officer Conference on January 8th, but in 2014 all eyes from the police and trucking communities will be looking for the officer who will receive this award at the Truck Officer Conference in January 2015.

Chapters
This fall, the ITEA launched its first two Chapters in McHenry and DuPage Counties. In the first quarter of 2014, the ITEA plans to launch Chapters in Cook County (north & south), DeKalb/Kane, Boone/Winnebago and Will County.  These Chapters serve as regional points of contact and resource for both the truck officers who work in those counties, and the truckers who service those areas.  The benefits of the first two Chapters are being plainly seen. Do not miss your opportunity to get involved.

This is list of things to come in 2014 barely scratches the surface. New Standards of Practice and Resource Documents are being produced. If the IRS ever gets back to work, the ITEA will become a 501(c)(3). There will be two 8-hour ITEA certification classes (spring & fall) and the annual online test in June. More online tests & quizzes. The 40-hour Advanced Truck Officer class will return in the fall.

Keep your eyes peeled…there are always something in the works at the ITEA. Hear it here first!

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Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer

You don’t have to like the President, but you would have to agree that he probably makes decisions based on volumes of information not privy to the common citizen. You don’t have to like your boss, but you would have to agree that he probably is answering to a lot of people and sees things from a totally different perspective than you. Ultimately both of these people may make poor decisions, but hopefully it is not because of a lack of knowledge. In truck enforcement, there is a whole lot of knowledge to be learned. What has become readily apparent is those who consciously seek out the best, authoritative information make the best decisions that protect the public and are fair to industry. The ITEA is going to elevate truck enforcement quality through increased knowledge at its new 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer class the week of October 21st. Here’s why…

Truck law in Illinois, and nationwide for that matter, is immensely complex. The sheer variety of trucks, trailers, commodities, materials and industries dependent upon surface transportation is gigantic. There was once a static law, but over time it has been modified and excepted time and time again to accommodate the nuances. This is all for good reason, but it does not mean knowledge is easy.

The Illinois Vehicle Code has nearly 80 pages of truck law. The printed edition of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations has over 600 pages. The Illinois Administrative Code is impossible to count as there is no official printed copy…it’s so big it’s online only. Then every municipality, township and county has unique ordinances regulating trucking. The reality is no one man can wrap his head around all of this.

Truck enforcement education has created three tiers of police officers. The first is those who receive basic training and do little or no enforcement afterwards. Armed with a little knowledge and a lot of authority, these are the ones who make the costliest mistakes. Unfortunately, this group represents the bulk of police officers who receive basic truck enforcement training.

The second group of officers receives basic training and participates in truck enforcement for a longer period of time, but they are unable to dedicate themselves to truck enforcement because of other responsibilities. This group makes up the bulk of the ITEA membership. Truck law is perishable knowledge and the ITEA seeks to resource and train this group in real time and on a continual basis.

The third group starts with basic training and becomes dedicated, full-time truck enforcement officers for many years. This group represents a smaller portion of the ITEA, but the ranks are growing. The purpose of the Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer class is to encourage police officers to maximize their talents and reach their full potential.

Does this mean officers who are attending this class are learning new and sophisticated ways to stick it to the trucking industry? The answer is a resounding no. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge a police officer has about trucking, the better he can enforce it. That knowledge produces quality police work. The more an officer understands the industry, the more he can appreciate the compliance hurdles the industry must jump over. That knowledge produces compassionate police work. The more diversified training the officer receives, the more uniform his enforcement becomes. That knowledge produces well-rounded police work.

The best, highest quality, most fair and uniform enforcement comes when police officers are invested in the knowledge of trucking. The model for local truck enforcement training the last 30 years has been to briefly train them on the basics of weight law and kick them out the door. Oh sure they can come back one day for a “refresher” class, but that provides nothing but review. Shouldn’t the goal be to move the ball down the field instead of looking in the rearview mirror?

Knowledge comes in layers. Basic training. Networking with other officers. Accountability. Elective certification. Authoritative resources. Open forum for discussion. Industry interaction and partnership. Annual conferences. Specialized training. And now this…advanced training.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board has approved this class. It’s available for 50% reimbursement ($200) and is limited to fifteen officers. A great prophet once said that his people “were destroyed for a lack of knowledge”. Let that not be said of these two great professions working together.

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Cook County Strikes Again

Cook County.  The second most populous county in the nation.  Home to the City of Chicago and 126 suburbs.  The population represents nearly 40% of the entire State of Illinois. The name itself wells up emotions of distrust, apathy, and inefficiency.  It is not uncommon for police officers to talk among themselves and hear the qualifier, “except in Cook County”.  The reputation is not undeserved.  For a unit of government with so much resource and potential, the cureless political disease it has always been is nothing short of tragic.  Effective June 1st, 2013, a new strain of infection has poisoned truck enforcement that should have both suburban government and the trucking industry crying foul.

In the last few weeks, several ITEA member truck enforcement officers from around Cook County have arrived in court only to be told their cases had been moved from their locally prosecuted courtroom into a state prosecuted courtroom.  Before explaining the ridiculousness of this, some clarification of different types of prosecution needs to occur.

When it comes to prosecution of traffic violations, there are three avenues:
State Prosecution in Court:  All violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) can be prosecuted by the State’s Attorney in court.
Local Prosecution in Court: Municipalities can elect to prosecute their concurrent powers, in court, with a local prosecutor.  This is typical for petty and business offenses like speeding, stops signs and overweight trucks.
Administrative Adjudication: Certain violations like parking, seat belts and red-light cameras can be prosecuted locally through administrative adjudication. Overweight violations cannot be prosecuted through administrative administration.  The 1st District Appellate Court ruled in Catom v Chicago that overweights are moving violations.  Prosecution of moving violations is reserved for the courtroom, whether through local or state prosecution.

When a municipality exercises its right to adopt the entire IVC by reference in their local ordinance, as authorized in 625 ILCS 5/20-204, the State law is not being prosecuted.  The law remains exactly the same, it’s just that it is now being prosecuted as a local ordinance.  So instead of the overweight charge reading “625 ILCS 5/15-111A” for an overweight, it now reads an ordinance number followed by the statute number, for example “(18-1) 15-111A”.

The law and the elements of the offenses are exactly the same.  A judge or jury still hears the case in court, but now the local town (which did all the work) can reap the higher percentage of the fine since it is prosecuted by local ordinance, not state law.

On June 1st, 2013, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez issued a letter to all suburban Cook County municipalities.  This document listed certain traffic violations of “625 ILCS” (state law) to which she claims the statutory right to exclusively prosecute.  This document is common practice and typically lists misdemeanor traffic offenses like driving with a suspended/revoked license or reckless driving…traffic crimes that can put people in jail.

New to the list this year were statutes covering operating an insured motor vehicles and overweight vehicles.  Why would the Cook County State’s Attorney wish to start exclusively prosecuting these violations?  Because these violations generate revenue.  If Cook County prosecutes the violations, they reap the bigger share of the fine money, not the locals.

What Cook County has done is tread upon the rights of local municipalities to prosecute traffic violations by a local prosecutor in court.  The problem is local prosecution is not under “625 ILCS” but under the IVC adoption ordinance number as stated above. Yet the letter restricts municipalities prosecuting with “concurrent authority” to only prosecute violations not listed in the letter.  It is a cleverly worded, sneaky and unlawful way to try and limit the constitutional right of local authority.

Even though the fines are the same regardless of who prosecutes the violations, this hurts the trucking industry in other ancillary ways.  Gone will be the days of coming into court and negotiating lower fines with the local cop who wrote the ticket and his prosecutor.  The Assistant State’s Attorneys are swamped in state court calls with all the “real” crimes.  Don’t forget the $194 in court fees Cook County piggybacks on the fine simply for exercising your right to due process by coming to court in the first place.

Just as it is wrong for Cook County to balance their budgets on the backs of the suburbs, it is wrong for suburbs to balance their budgets on the backs of the industry.  However, yanking authority from locals to prosecute this way will only serve one purpose – new and creative ways to circumvent the law to make up for lost revenue.

It’s out of balance.  State prosecution of everything is a hardship and swinging the pendulum that far left means an opposite and equally as bad reaction will occur.  Home rule towns will try their hand at administrative adjudication of regular overweight violations regardless of the Appellate Court ruling.  Some will create new ordinances with fines greater than allowed by statute for local weight restrictions.  Others will create ordinances to impound overweight trucks for collateral and administrative tow fees.  Every stride and effort towards fair, equitable and uniform enforcement slowly will be eradicated.

What’s next?  Is Cook County going to declare authority over home rule taxes at the gas pump and grocery store? You don’t have to like excessive taxing by any government unit, but a level of anger should well up inside you that monies are not going where they are supposed to go…to your local community.  Instead they are being squandered in the broken machine called Cook County.

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Bathroom Scales

Let’s be honest…there is probably no greater divide between law enforcement and the trucking industry than the use of portable scales. Police officers will argue till they are blue in the face about portable scale accuracy and necessity. Truckers will argue till they are blue in the face that portable scales are inaccurate and nothing but a revenue tool. This article is not going to explore either of those arguments, but a different problem with wheel load weigher scales will be discussed…a problem that should offend every red-blooded Illinois taxpayer.

Here’s some facts about WLW scales in Illinois:

1. They are expensive to buy. The most common scale is the PAT SAW-10 manufactured by International Road Dynamics. Since there is only one authorized retailer in Illinois, cost for one new scale floats around $4,000. The second most popular brand is Intercomp, and they cost in the $3500 range.

2. They are expensive to re-certify. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has regulatory authority governing weights and measures, and therefore they have sole statutory authority to re-certify scales every 12 months. If it passes, $200. If it fails, $200. If it passes the second time around, $200. If it does not have an $3.00 integrity seal, $200. No one can get around those charges.

3. Re-certification is limited. There are 3 ways for law enforcement to have their scales re-certified. Option #1 – drive them to the IDOA in Springfield at the state fairgrounds, and eat the cost of fuel, meals, miles, a day’s wages and lost productivity. Option #2 – have the ITEA do all that for free. Option #3, pay an extra $160 per scale to have a private scale company transport them to their shop and have IDOA come re-certify them at their shop (with a re-certification “guarantee”…see below).

With nearly 400 portable WLW scales in Illinois owned by local counties and municipalities, that is a lot of time and money spent on re-certification. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of local governments in Illinois have slashed their budgets, personnel and services. They are living lean and there is not a lot of discretionary cash.

Now go back to point #2 above. If a scale fails re-certification, the IDOA charges $200. Why do scales fail? The most common causes are lack or routine maintenance and abuse. The ITEA cannot police every officer and make sure they treat their scales with respect, but the ITEA can FOR SURE teach police officers how to maintain their scales.

Several members of the ITEA have been trained by International Road Dynamics on how to perform annual routine maintenance of PAT SAW-10 portable WLW scales. Armed with that knowledge, the ITEA is hosting training on June 12th to teach any owner of PAT SAW-10 scales how to maintain their scales. For too long, police officers have been told all they can really do is change the batteries. This is wholly incorrect.

Scales are sensitive instruments that need care. When they are not cared for, they fail, and repairs are expensive. If the parts and labor costs are not enough, the cost to have each scale transported ($160) to the only dealer in Illinois for repairs is. Add both of these to the mandatory cost of re-certification ($200) and possibly a new integrity seal ($200), and one scale needing to be fixed can easily eclipse $600. Almost all of these repairs (and associated costs) can be avoided by simple routine maintenance and a free trip from the ITEA to Springfield.

It’s the old “ounce of prevention or pound of cure” argument. The ITEA believes in an ounce of prevention, but to save a pound of taxpayer money. So if the argument is “pay the extra $160 because a private scale company guarantees certification”, realize you can pretty guarantee it yourself without paying the extra cost.

Over the last two years the ITEA has transported hundreds of scales to Springfield for certification, and guess how many have failed…two. Why? Because of problems that could have been corrected by easy routine maintenance. Maintenance training the ITEA is providing to save you money.

If you own PAT SAW-10 WLW scales, sign-up for our class online now. IF you own any brand of portable scales, sign-up to have us transport them to Springfield for no cost.

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Exemplary Police Work #3

When is it legal to do something illegal? When you have permission, of course. With every authority there are boundaries, and crossing them may have penalties. But, violating those rules does not necessarily mean all authority is nullified. For example, a driver’s license is a permission. You might lose your license for certain things, but not every traffic violation revokes a valid license. The article this week tells the story of just such an occasion involving an overweight permit load and the police officer who stopped it.

Once a permit is issued for an oversize or overweight (OS/OW) load, the truck can make its move. Inevitably, a police officer is going to stop it. Why? Because an OS/OW truck is breaking the law. The question the police officer needs answered is whether or not the vehicle has been issued a permit to cover the offense. In other words, it is now legal for the truck to be illegal?

When a police officer lawfully stops the vehicle and is presented a permit, the permit must be validated. There are three criterions to validate a permit. First, it must be operating between the effective and expiring dates/times. Second, it must be on the assigned route. Lastly, the permit must unequivocally belong to that truck, load, and owner. A piece a paper that just says “permit” on it doesn’t make it a valid permit!

Once the permit is validated, there are only two ways it can be voided, or in other words nullified…gone as if it never existed. One reason is if the load is divisible, and secondly if the permit is fraudulent. Each of these reason can (and will) be explored in much greater detail, but the point is there are only two ways to void a valid permit and knock the truck back to legal size and weight. That’s it…two.

There is an almost unending list of rules that go along with a valid permit. It’s not okay to break one of the rules, and there is a penalty for doing so, but it is not the same as voiding the permit. It’s a violation of the permit and enforceable under 625 ILCS 5/15-301(j).

Back in January of this year, there was a snowy day and an alert police officer (who just so happens to be a member of the ITEA) saw an OS/OW permit load rolling down the highway. The road was covered in snow so that the lane markings could not be seen. The police officer stopped the vehicle and obtained an IDOT permit from the driver. The officer quickly validated it…it was on route, between the effective/expiration dates, and it unequivocally belonged to the company, truck and load.

However, the OPER 993 provision sheet (rules for the permit) clearly stated that operation during inclement weather was a violation. The officer had the driver dead to rights. The enforcement mistake came when the officer voided the permit because of the inclement weather and knocked the truck back to legal weights. The ensuing bail for the overweight citation was nearly $4,000.00. He voided instead of violating the permit.

Here’s the point: the officer, and the driver both made a mistake. We’re all humans. The exemplary action by the officer that prompts the writing of this article can be summed up in one word – humility.

As it turns out, the trucking company is also a member of the ITEA. They called and asked about the citation. The ITEA in turn called the officer to see what happened. The officer realized his mistake and made it right. He could have amended the ticket to a violation of permit, but instead he chose to drop the whole thing in court.

In a win-at-all-costs profession like policework, it’s hard sometimes hard to find cases when a police officer readily admits an error and owns up to it. He could have had a big trial, subpoenaed expert witnesses from all over the midwest, and made a big to-do wasting everyone’s time and money. But instead he chose to humbly acknowledge his error and do the right thing.

That’s what being an ITEA truck officer is all about. That’s professionalism. We’re proud to call him one of our own.

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Update! Resolution to the Resolution

A few weeks ago, the ITEA posted a resolution to work on a solution to a problem regarding enforcement of oversize/overweight permit loads crossing Illinois Tollway Authority structures via a state highway. Earlier this month, a group of officials from several state agencies met to find common ground on two fronts.  First was to find a way to ease the permitting process over Tollway structures for the carrier industry. Second, they addressed a list of enforcement concerns present by the ITEA and the Illinois State Police.

In the next couple months, IDOT and the Tollway will execute a formal intergovernmental agreement and initiate a new permitting procedure for the carriers.

In regards to proper enforcement methods, the meeting has produced an authorization letter from the Tollway, which can be downloaded HERE. The most significant enforcement guidance is clarification regarding “superload” permits crossing the Tollway structures via an IDOT highway.

Per the Tollway, superloads are required to have Tollway permission to cross their structure  but this is NOT and overweight violation as found in 625 ILCS 15-111A. The Tollway has expressly stated in the authorization letter that any vehicle(s) violating the provisions of the letter is only enforceable as a Violation of Permit, 625 ILCS 15-301(j). Maximum fines range from $200 – $500 based on the number of convictions by the company or driver.

Included in the authorization letter is a list of what defines a superload. There is also a list of all the Tollway structures affected.

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