The Project – Part II

Last week, this blog began to tell the tale of a municipality struggling to accommodate a band of citizens armed with complaints regarding a new industrial development. Their concerns revolved around a potential, yet unseen, problem involving trucks using residential roads and neighborhoods to access the jobsite. This week’s article provides the conclusion as the ITEA trained police department investigates the legitimacy of the complaints.

The findings from the study were exactly what veteran law enforcement professionals had expected: there was no significant commercial vehicle traffic on these residential streets. All was not lost, however. One officer was able to ascertain helpful information in the future decision making about addressing commercial vehicle traffic on the road.

It was discovered a popular “trucker GPS” system had listed a residential street as a “truck route.” While those familiar with commercial vehicle enforcement know GPS devices often display inaccurate information (see the ITEA article G.P.(B)S.), it initiated conversations about the new industrial construction and other drivers following these erroneous GPS directions.

The study results were brought to the police and village administration. While the findings seemed conclusive, they knew these findings would not alleviate the concerns of the apprehensive residents. It was time to take a preemptive strike to appease the citizens, empower the officers patrolling the area, and most importantly, be fair to the trucking industry.

To complete this task, officers went to the drawing board developing a reasonable ordinance to restrict truck traffic on local roads, but allow commercial vehicles to pickup and deliver goods to residents and businesses located within this residential area.

To avoid the proverbial “reinvention of the wheel,” the officers again utilized resources from the ITEA to pinpoint an appropriate resolution. They knew from previous ITEA classes and blogs, the Illinois Vehicle Code allows local jurisdictions to restrict the weight of vehicles on roadways they own and maintain. This particular section of the law does not specifically require local government to exempt pickup and deliveries vehicles, but the officers had the interests of both the residents trucking industry in mind. They knew certain exemptions had to be included in the ordinance.

Those working on the project also wanted to give officers a simple, effective method of enforcement which was fair to the truck drivers. Again, their experience with the ITEA reminded them of horror stories of towns where officers issued citations to drivers who violated local weight restriction without developing probable cause to do so.

In these cases, the local weight restriction only restricted the actual gross weight of vehicles. The signs were often misinterpreted by officers to mean the standard was the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or registered weight. Similarly, truck drivers often misunderstood the meaning of these signs as well.

Using language written by other ITEA members as a template, the officers developed an ordinance which fit the needs of the village, the residents and the trucking industry. This particular ordinance clearly defined the restriction to be measured by either actual gross weight, GVWR, GCWR and registered weight of vehicles travelling on the restricted roads. It also provided an exemption for local pickup and delivery of goods or services.

The ordinance required signs be posted along the restricted roadways, with the weight restriction clearly displayed. This provided truck drivers fair warning of the restricted weight. With the collaborative effort of the residents, village administration and the police department, all seemed well in the village. But the story does not end there.

As can happen with projects of good intention, pondering minds can ruin a good thing. In this instance, certain members of the village administration began to question the authority to issue overweight permits on the restricted roads. This is a legitimate question for those who are unfamiliar with the finer points of commercial vehicle law.

Accompanying this epiphany was the thought of issuing overweight citations to those who exceed the newly constituted weight restrictions as opposed to the uniform weight laws mandated by the Illinois Vehicle Code. The village administration was not the first to believe the local weight restriction allows for overweight citations and permitting.

However, this administration was not like so many others in Illinois. They went back to their ITEA certified officers and asked about the authority to enforce these regulations with permits. The officers quickly informed the administrators that overweight violations could not be written, nor could overweight permits be issued for vehicles violating the local weight restrictions.

Further, the officers pointed out the very same statute which allowed the village to restrict commercial vehicles on local roads also provides a specific fine. Another potential disaster was averted thanks to the knowledge and training received from the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association.

These conversations happen daily in local Illinois government when officials have to deal with a new problem involving trucks. However, the ending is vastly different from those who do not act as this village did.

Communication, education and accountability all came into play during this project. These are things the ITEA preaches and expects of its member agencies. Remember, this exact situation could happen in any Illinois municipality at any given time. Who do you want behind the wheel of a project like this?

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The Project – Part I

Recently, in a village not so far away, potential trouble was brewing for commercial vehicle operators who traveled through this jurisdiction as the people of the village were in an uproar about a perceived problem.  A recent decision to construct an industrial building with access from a road in a large residential area resulted in unhappy people. In fact, the people were so upset they formed a small committee to discuss the impact of commercial vehicle traffic on their residential streets. What happened next serves as an example of how local government should work to address the needs of its people while still considering all other stakeholders.

While gathered, the people recalled another “hot spot” for trucks had recently been built in close proximity to their homes. While the previous location was constructed along a state highway opposed to a residential road, the group complained of increased truck traffic since the construction. It wasn’t long before the group made their fears known to those of power within the village.

Instead of making a hasty and uninformed decision, the village administration utilized its resources to create a resolution satisfactory to all. Members of administration opened a dialogue with the local police department and learned there were officers within the agency well versed in commercial vehicle law. These individuals so happened to be members of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association.

The officers met with village officials and reviewed the complaints of the concerned citizens. The officers determined the roadways of concern were non-designated local highways which had an overall length limit of 55 feet for combinations of vehicles soon to be increased to 65 feet on January 1st, 2018. It was also discovered that “No Trucks” signs on these local roads were not enforceable due to the absence of a local ordinance authorizing the restriction.

At this point, two important things had taken place. First, the village administration did not do as many other towns have done. They did not aggressively approach the police department and demand the issue be resolved through relentless enforcement.

Second, the police administration consulted with their subject matter experts about the problem. These are two extremely important steps which should, but are rarely, taken when dealing with complicated issues such as commercial vehicle enforcement and regulation.

Failure to do these could have resulted in a blitz on commercial vehicle traffic. Officers could have been ordered to conduct strict enforcement on a series of unauthorized regulation. The potential outcome could have been expensive for unsuspecting truck drivers and resulted in severe civil litigation for the village.

With these issues exposed, the focus was placed on how to address the concerns of the citizens. The village needed to find out if there was even a legitimate concern about truck traffic or if it was simply a misconceived, emotional response to the planned construction.

The police department assigned officers to conduct extra watches and to document any commercial vehicle traffic on those roadways. This assignment was given with direction as to what type of enforcement, if any, should be taken if officers saw commercial vehicles traveling on these roadways.

Using the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association’s “Maximum Dimensions” resource document, officers were educated on length violations and proper citations. Further, officers were informed any driver issued a citation would require the vehicle to be properly measured. No citations would be based on an assumption of length. While this may seem like common sense, the ITEA officers knew these mistakes are often made by those not familiar with commercial vehicle enforcement. Most importantly, all officers were instructed to exercise extreme discretion.

With newly acquired knowledge, the officers took to the streets to address the concerns of the citizens they were sworn to serve. For two weeks, officers vigorously patrolled the streets in question and documented their findings.

Stay tuned for Part II next week!

 

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Defense Highways

Regardless of personal politics, the United States of America boasts a government which serves its people like none other. One such service provided is an incredibly complex, expensive and comprehensive interstate highway system. What the people of this great nation forget is that this road network is on loan. It’s open for public use for a limited time, which has an incredible impact on the carrier industry. This week’s article will look at the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (NSIDH) and the peculiarities it bestows upon Illinois truck law.

There are many road networks going by even more names out there. There are honorary highways and historic highways. Texas has Farm Road and Ranch Roads. Illinois has Class I, II and III highways along with the sub-varieties of designated and non-designated highways. The federal government manages the National Network, which is not to be confused with the NSIDH.

The NSIDH was not built primarily for civilian use, but for the military. Long before World War II, Nazi Germany established a system of highways to move their military across the nation in the event war came to their soil. It did, they lost, but General Eisenhower learned a valuable lesson from the enemy. The biggest public works project in the history of this nation came under his leadership after being elected President post-war.

The truth is the federal government can shut down or severely restrict the amount of civilian traffic on the interstate system if a conflict came to the homeland. The purpose of the highways are to move our military machine across the nation efficiently.

Because the NSIDH is operated and regulated by the federal government, a uniform system of rules applies nationwide. States are given autonomy to govern the interstate highways within their borders, but there are guidelines and limitations to this authority.

As regulatory agencies like the United States Department of Transportation debate and create rules and federal statutes for the NSIDH, the final product is applied to the road system. However, the rules do not apply to road systems not under federal oversight.

In recent years, there has been spirited debate on increasing the length of semi-trailers, double-bottoms and the weight of certain combinations. If these new maximums were to become federal law, they would apply only to interstates in Illinois. Illinois would be free to adopt identical regulations for the rest of the highways in the state, but would not be required to do so.

Changes such as these were seen in the MAP-21 bill, more recently the FAST Act and certainly there will be more to come. The issue which arises is an inversion philosophy. What happens when states want to create laws for trucks operating on their interstates, but the federal statutes do not allow it?

For instance, Illinois has a “Special Hauling Vehicle” (SHV) status for certain 5-axle semi-tractor trailer combinations (625 ILCS 5/15-111-A-10). This law provides higher than normal weights than allowed by the mandated federal bridge formula for the NSIDH. When Illinois created this law in the mid-1980’s, the federal government allowed Illinois to do this, but it could not be a permanent exception on their road.

Hence, the provision allowing “shorty dumps”, or “bombers”, to be 72,000 pounds gross on all highways in Illinois, expires every 10 years. It expired in 1994, 2004, 2014 and now 2024. Each decade legislation is introduced and passed to keep this temporary exception, well, permanent.

The same benefit is not extended to other SHV vehicles though. Hogstaubers (sewer cleaning and jetting vacuum trucks, 15-111-A-8), 3-axle cement mixers (15-111-A-7.5) and 4-axle concrete mixers with split axles (15-111-A-9) do not get the same treatment on the NSIDH as their 5-axle semi cousins.

In fact, these vehicles lose their SHV status when operating on the NSIDH. Instead of exercising protections for extra weight while operating on all other Illinois roads, they only receive legal weights when on the NSIDH!

There are also configurations which have weight exceptions in Illinois that are not required to be registered as SHVs. However, they do not receive the higher weights on the NSIDH either. These include rendering trucks (15-111-A-6) and 3-axle garbage compactors/roll-off trucks (15-111-A-7).

General Eisenhower probably didn’t conceptualize the intricacies of future Illinois weights law when the NSIDH was born, but it is what it is until Uncle Sam shuts it down, of course.

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I Saw the Sign

They come in all different colors, shapes and sizes. Some are old, some are new, but the one thing they all have in common is each has a unique message which is meant to assist the motoring public in being compliant with the law. Once again, this article is talking about a type of traffic control device seen daily. Traffic signs. In the world of commercial vehicles, there is often confusion about these seemingly harmless, reflective, works of art. Their placement, content and ramifications if violated are always topics brought to the ITEA by its members.

Over the years, there have been many hard fought court battles regarding the meaning and legitimacy of signs limiting the weight and size of trucks. Often times these battles are initiated by an incident where one party simply doesn’t understand its responsibility to post, enforce or obey a traffic control sign.

The most common sign a trucker will see on their route is a local weight limit sign. What do these signs look like? Well, the truth is, it depends on the jurisdiction traveled through and what the local has decided to put on their signs.

Local jurisdictions have the authority to restrict commercial vehicles on roads they own and maintain. This means a city, village, township or county may pass an ordinance or resolution restricting the weights or size of vehicles.

The caveat is if a vehicle violates the sign and travels on the restricted roadway, they cannot be enforced as overweight or oversize as it pertains to what the state law says a vehicle can be. For example, a truck weighing 10,000 pounds travels on a local road with a posted 5,000 pound weight limit. The driver cannot be cited for an overweight violation. Instead, the vehicle may be cited two different ways.

First, it could be issued a $50 citation for violating a local restricted road. Second it could be cited for disobeying a traffic control sign. This option will likely cost $120 before any court costs. This is a moving violation which must be reported to the Illinois Secretary of State.

Now place a weight restriction sign over an elevated structure which has been assigned a specific gross weight by the Illinois Department of Transportation. If a truck violates this sign, the driver faces fines likely in the thousands of dollars. The only distinguishable difference between the two signs is their location, yet the consequences are vastly different.

So how can a driver know which sign is which? The easiest way is to be aware of surroundings and look at where the sign is posted. Many jurisdictions have taken extra steps to ensure commercial vehicle traffic is made aware of weight restrictions well before they would have the opportunity to travel on them.

For readers more technologically advanced, weight restricted elevated structures are listed on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s website. When planning a trip, this is the best resource to make an informed routing decision.

Some may think these signs only impact drivers of larger commercial vehicles. This is not the case as smaller commercial, or even personal vehicles, can be impacted by weight restricted roads. An example would be a smaller delivery or refuse collection truck traveling on a local road. If there is a posted sign with a weight limitation and the vehicle weighs more than the sign, the vehicle is in violation. Local deliveries and pick-ups are not exempt from the limitations unless otherwise specified.

Local units of government need to be cognizant of what is posted on signs and written in ordinances. It would be unreasonable to prohibit local deliveries or garbage pick-up on residential streets without there being a major safety concern behind the reasoning for weight limit signs.

Further, jurisdictions need to make sure signs clearly state what vehicles they intend to prohibit or restrict. Simply putting “10 Ton Weight Limit” could mean many different things. Does this weight limit apply to the manufacturers Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), the actual gross weight on the scale or the registered weight?  These are all questions which should be asked and answered before signs are posted and enforcement is taken.

As is the theme in so many of the ITEA’s blog articles, the concept is to work together to make things right. Each entity has an important role to play in commercial vehicle safety. Local government needs to do their best to post clear, concise traffic control signs to assist in the prevention of violations.

Commercial vehicle operators need to exercise good judgment and be aware of their surroundings when traveling on unfamiliar routes. Finally, both need to live by the motto, “if you see something, say something.” Don’t be afraid to make suggestions or offer input to local government. After all, there is only one way to fix a problem: to make the problem known in the first place.

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Wait for it… Wait for it…

The world is bent on instant gratification. The internet has become such an effective medium of communication it causes anxiety when people cannot receive information immediately. Shame on impatient people? Probably a fair assumption, but yesterday is the standard for today’s notification. There are some things, however, which everyone must wait on. For those readers hailing from Illinois, it is legislation. While you wait for the new cat video on YouTube to load, read on about new bills affecting the trucking industry sitting on Governor Rauner’s desk, waiting for a signature.

HB0683

A few weeks ago, this blog discussed the new length bill which passed through both houses of the General Assembly. HB0683 would increase the maximum overall length of semi-tractor trailer combinations on local roads from 55’ to 65’. You can read more about it HERE. This bill has now been sent to the Governor and is awaiting his signature or veto.

HB2492

Last year, the ITEA reported on a bill limiting the maximum weights of fire trucks on all highways in Illinois. To say the scathing article remained quiet would be a massive understatement. The ITEA received an astonishing number of phone calls from disbelieving firefighters, fire associations and municipal officials. The disbelief of how the Federal FAST Act mandates were improperly codified in Illinois law left everyone catching flies while their mouths were left gaping open.

In response, HB2492 was drafted to repair the damage. Originally the replacement bill struck the new weight limits altogether from all Illinois roads. This too was incorrect. An amendment to the bill was added to correctly abide by the FAST Act mandate and impose the weight restriction on federal highways only. The reader may believe this is a bad idea too, but it is what the feds have regulated. Call your congressional representative!

HB2543

Everyone sees all the numbers on the side of semi-truck when it passes by. Every large truck operating commercially needs an authority. For those carriers who never leave the State of Illinois, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) regulates. For those operating interstate, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulates.

For many years, the ICC has required interstate carriers to display their intrastate ICC number on the side of the truck in addition to their USDOT number. While local police in Illinois have no authority over the enforcement of this law, the ICC police do. This bill, if signed by the governor, would allow interstate carriers to only display their USDOT number.

HB2580

People from the northeast portion of Illinois seem to forget the bulk of Illinois is rural with an economy based heavily on agriculture. From time to time, the Governor will declare an emergency harvest. This is a big deal to farmers.

HB2580, if signed, would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation and local authorities to issue overweight permits for divisible loads, up to a certain percentage of weight, for combinations of vehicles hauling particular agriculture commodities during the declaration. This bill would also exempt them from the overweight on registration language in Chapter 3 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

HB3172

Most, but not all trucks are required to display safety inspection stickers. The ITEA maintains a flow chart to help make this difficult law easier to understand, but it may very well become a little more complicated if the Governor signs HB3172. But it will be big win for the trucking industry!
In a continuing trend to sync State and Federal laws, this bill harmonizes the frequency of intrastate and interstate semi-tractors and semi-trailers to obtain safety inspections. Currently, semi-tractors and trailers operating intrastate-only are required to be inspected by an IDOT safety lane facility twice per year. Identical trucks and trailers with interstate authority are only required to have an annual periodic inspection.
Under HB3172, intrastate carriers operating semi-tractors and trailers will only have to visit IDOT once per year.

While none of these laws are signed and sealed yet, there is no reason to believe Governor Rauner will veto. Then again, this is Illinois, a state of the verge of financial collapse.

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Traffic Assessments

There are lots of analogies to throw at the topic of this week’s blog. It’s the snowball effect. The horse got out of the barn. Herding cats. These idioms reference situations which have spun out of control and it’s time to reign them in. This could not be more evident than the spaghetti bowl of fines, fees and surcharges placed on criminal and traffic offenses in Illinois. A game-changing bill working its way through the legislative process in Springfield attempts to accomplish this task.

For the record, the ITEA is not taking a position of support or opposition to HB2591. However, it is clear the system is a mess and there is a lack of accountability for the disbursement of the funds. The conflicting and confusing language between the legislature and judiciary places circuit clerks in the dangerous position of interpretation.

Something needs to change.

As it pertains to overweight violations, HB2591 is a home run for the carrier industry. Check that, a grand slam. Better yet, it’s like 162 game ending grand slams in one season, plus the playoffs and World Series. To review, here is the basic breakdown of how overweight fines work.

First, there is a statutory fine. This fine is set by statute and calculates $150.00 for every 500 pounds overweight on axle, gross, bridge formula and elevated structures. There is a different fine chart for certain overweight on registration offenses.

Second, there is a statutory surcharge added to all overweight violations, except overweight on registration. This surcharge is exponential and calculated at $15.00 for every $40.00 of the statutory fine.

Lastly, there are court fees. These vary by county and are constantly on the rise.

HB2591 leaves the statutory fines intact, but eliminates the surcharge and court fees. The bill accomplishes this by striking the surcharge section (found in the Corrections Code, 730 ILCS) and the Clerk of Courts Act (found in the Courts Code, 705 ILCS). There are also amendments to the distribution of fines in Chapter 16 of the Vehicle Code, and other statutes.

Within the surcharge and court fee sections, the legislature divvies the money up into dozens of funds for various projects which may or may not have anything to do with trucks. That’s politics at its finest (or worst).

The truck driver who pays the overweight fine is more concerned about the bottom line than who all is receiving his money. Make no mistake, overweight violations will still be costly under this new legislation, but the bottom line gets much more attractive for truckers.

Because there are so many political pet projects funded by surcharges and court fees, the bill cannot simply do away with them. Instead, HB2591 creates a schedule of “assessments” to be added to each fine.

Each category of crime has a different assessment, whether it is a felony, misdemeanor, sex offense, DUI or traffic offense, the category has a fixed dollar figured added. Within each assessment is a breakdown of the monies, most of which continue to fund the same pet project, but at a flat rate.

For instance, a truck driver receives an overweight violation in Cook County for being 10,000 pounds overweight on gross. Under the law today, the statutory fine would be $3,000.00. The surcharge would add $1,125.00 and the court fee of $179.00 would be added. Total out the door? $4,304.00.

Under HB2591, the statutory fine remains at $3,000.00, but there is only a $145.00 assessment added. Total? $3,145.00. This represents a 27% decrease to the bottom line.

Will there be opposition to this bill? Absolutely. Those with pet projects funded by the exponential surcharge would see their revenues shrink enormously as the truckers would no longer be financing them with the $15.00 multiplier.

At first glance, it appears local law enforcement agencies would see a direct impact as well, but this is not the case. The local government who issues overweight citations does not receive any money from the current surcharge or court fees schedule. Under HB2591, the locals would receive the same percentages of the statutory fines as they have always received.

This is a simplistic look at a 301-page bill, and there are a lot of nuances within it not discussed here. Of course, even if passed, future legislation could seek to amend the traffic assessment figures and increase fees. Time will tell.

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Avoid the Fine with Stickers on Time

Taxes are a way of life in the great United States. We pay taxes on our income, taxes on our food, and soon taxes on the bags we put the food in. The trucking industry is used to taxes as their way of doing business. One tax that interstate truckers are used to is the International Fuel Tax Agreement, or IFTA.  What is IFTA and what purpose does this agreement serve in the world of taxes for the trucker industry? This week will help understand IFTA and how it is enforced in Illinois…

The International Fuel Tax Agreement started in the 1980’s to evenly distribute fuel taxes across the lower 48 states and Canada. Originally each state required a commercial vehicle to purchase a fuel sticker as it entered the state. This was time consuming and cumbersome.  The United States and Canada agreed to utilize a non-profit organization to oversee fuel taxes.

Although it simplifies the process, anyone who is involved in paying IFTA fees would agree it is still confusing. The goal is to ensure that a state with higher fuel taxes gets its fair share when a truck operates on its roadways.

For example, if a truck fills up in Wisconsin and then drives straight south through Illinois, the company would have to pay the difference in tax to Illinois. And if the reverse occurred, then money would be owed back to the company as the rates in Wisconsin are less than Illinois. The drivers are required to document how many miles are travelled in each state with the fuel purchased in a different state in order to correctly reimburse the states for their share of fuel taxes.

Lost? Well don’t forget about Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. Those states keep some of the fuel tax as a surcharge no matter where its used. And Oregon doesn’t participate in IFTA at all. These are some of the confusing ways states work to even the taxing playing field in the world of interstate commerce.

Without IFTA, companies near the border of a state with lower fuel taxes would fill up in that state regardless of where they operate. This means that a state would receive no fuel tax revenue even though a company operated within their state.

For law enforcement, they are out there looking for that sticker on the sides of the cab. The one that shows the vehicle is current in the IFTA program when it operates in more than one state. Officers can check the status of an IFTA license to ensure compliance.

If the IFTA sticker is suspended or not valid, the officer will issue traffic citations and notify the Department of Revenue which means more fines. An astute truck officer looks at the side of the cab for that current sticker every time an apportioned semi drives by him.

Of course, IFTA allows for a delay in displaying the stickers. Because trucks that run across the country can’t always get to the mailbox on January 1 to get the stickers and display them, IFTA allows until March 1 to display them.

Police will be out there in March looking at those cabs, so truckers make sure you are proudly displaying that IFTA sticker with your home state outlined on it. Avoid the fine, stick it on in time!

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A Reason to Believe

For those readers looking for spiritual or emotional guidance based on title of this article, sorry to disappoint. This blog will not offer motivational sentiments to change lives or the way one views the world. Instead, it will discuss an officer’s burden of proof for initiating a traffic stop to investigate a possible overweight vehicle violation.

In a courtroom, the term “burden of proof” can have very different meanings depending on the type of case which is being prosecuted. Most people are familiar with the phrase “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Usually only heard on television or in movies, people usually do not understand the true meaning or when it’s applicable in a court setting.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of which can be achieved in criminal court. This means exactly what it sounds like – the evidence presented has removed any reasonable doubt of a person’s innocence in the minds of the judge or jurors.

The next highest burden of proof is called “preponderance of the evidence.” This threshold is used in civil cases such as ordinance violations or TV shows like “Judge Judy.” Because there is no chance of incarceration, the burden is significantly lower than that of a criminal case. Many would describe preponderance of the evidence as 51%, or more likely than not that the person committed the violation.

Both phrases are used in court to decide the outcome of a case, but these are not what is required of an officer taking enforcement action on the street. While most officers attempt to build the strongest case possible, they are under no obligation to meet the aforementioned burdens of proof.

Before issuing a citation or making an arrest, an officer must meet a burden of proof called “probable cause.” This means an offense has been committed based on the circumstances, physical evidence and the officer’s observations, training and experience also know as the totality of the circumstances.

Many times, officers will wait until they have met this burden of proof before initiating a traffic stop. For example, an officer may witness a vehicle making a lane change without signaling. Through his training and experience, the officer knows this is a violation of the law.

Based on his observation, there is probable cause a violation has been committed. The officer has the authority to make a traffic stop and issue a citation. Probable cause, however, is a much higher burden than what is needed to stop a person (or vehicle).

To make a stop, an officer only needs what is called “reasonable suspicion.” The officer only needs to prove a reasonable person would believe a crime has been, is currently being or is about to be committed.

An officer must have reasonable and articulable suspicion of the above circumstances to temporarily detain any person. This applies to traffic stops and pedestrian stops. It is a very low burden, however, it is all which is needed to initiate an investigation. Every case is unique and the amount of evidence needed always depends on the totality of the circumstances.

Finally, at the very bottom of the burden of proof totem pole is what an officer needs to stop a vehicle he believes to be overweight. This is called “reason to believe.”

It sounds like “reasonable suspicion”, but is far from it! Reason to believe is spelled out in 625 ILCS 5/15-112 and is only applicable to an officer investigating an overweight violation. The officer must be able to explain why he believed the vehicle was overweight.

This articulation can be based on a variety of things. The longer an officer is active in overweight vehicle enforcement and the more experience he obtains, the more reasons the officer will be able to explain as to why he thought the vehicle was overweight.
While “reason to believe” is enough to stop a truck to initiative a weight investigation, more evidence will be needed to rise to the level of probable cause to issue a citation.

With such a low burden of proof being needed, there is a potential for statutory abuse. ITEA certified officers understand this high responsibility. The criminal justice system and the trucking industry rely on officers using their police powers in lawful ways to protect those traveling on the roads.

The court system is a confusing labyrinth of rules, statutes and overzealous individuals who are quick to point a finger of fault. Officers do their absolute best to navigate through that labyrinth with honor and integrity while protecting those who they have been sworn to serve.

If stopped by an officer for an overweight investigation, please realize the officer has already evaluated the circumstances several times in the few moments prior to initiating the traffic stop. He has decided there is reason to believe that the vehicle is overweight. It’s okay to disagree, but the roadside or scalehouse is not the venue to argue the case. There will be an opportunity to enter the labyrinth and argue appropriate levels of burdens.

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Tax On Tax On Tax

Those who live, work or own a business in Illinois are well aware of the astronomical amount of taxes paid out on a yearly basis. While some of these taxes are absolutely necessary to provide security, education and infrastructure, others can leave the Illinois tax payer scratching their head as to the actual benefit to society. The bottom line is taxes are necessary to keep this state and country running and providing those essential services often take for granted. The one obligation of the State of Illinois which is a hot topic is infrastructure, specifically how to maintain it and fund said maintenance. This is where the controversial SB3267 has recently come into play.

It should be noted earlier this week, the Senate President who introduced SB3267 said he will not move it forward. However, if you understand Illinois politics at all, you understand no bill is ever truly dead. This particular bill would create the Illinois Road Improvement and Driver Enhancement Act. It will require all owners or lessees of vehicles required to be registered in Illinois to pay a tax for each mile traveled on Illinois roads. This tax would not be imposed on commercial vehicles in Illinois (this will be revisited in a moment). The cost of this tax would be $0.015 per mile traveled.

The bill provides a timeline of when this fee can be raised, stating the legislature will adjust the fee on June 1st of every fifth year beginning June 1st, 2022. Illinois drivers would have three options as to how the mileage fee is monitored and calculated. The first is the option would be what is called the I-RIDE Smart Plan. This plan would report the miles traveled on public, non-tolled Illinois roads using personally identifiable information and location data to calculate the miles traveled monthly. The best guess is this would require a device to be placed in vehicles which would monitor every road traveled and how many miles you traveled on each roadway.

The second option would be called The I-RIDE Convenient Plan. This would include the reporting of miles traveled monthly using the vehicle’s odometer reading. This plan doesn’t involve the use of personally identifiable information but would still likely include a monitoring device in the vehicle.

The third option is the I-RIDE Flat Rate Plan. This would be a flat monthly rate based on 30,000 driving miles a year for passenger cars and single unit (non-commercial) trucks. This fee ends up being approximately $450.00.  There is also a provision in the bill which allows an undetermined convenience fee to be collected under this option.

The fees paid would be directed to roadway improvement. The bill was introduced due to less taxes being collected at the fuel pumps as more fuel efficient vehicles are being purchased and driven on roadways. The fuel taxes collected are supposed to be used to fund infrastructure improvement and maintenance, however with more cars consuming less fuel the revenue stream has dissipated. The “silver lining” to this bill is that drivers would receive a break on some fuel taxes paid throughout the year.

The most important part of this bill, and why it’s being covered in this article, is that it would repeal the Commercial Distribution Fee (CDF). This is a fee paid by all vehicles registered in Illinois for over 8,000 lbs. The fee is currently a 14.35% increase to registration fees paid annually. This fee was also supposed to be used “for the use of the public highways, State infrastructure, and State services”. However, the money collected for the CDF is currently dumped into the General Revenue Fund for the state. Who’s to say the same wouldn’t happen with the new mileage tax?

At this point, those in the trucking industry may be torn. On its face, the bill seems to fully benefit the trucking industry while providing a minor financial strain on the rest of the motoring public. While one may not disagree with this fact, skeptical skeptic may believe this bill will come back to haunt the industry in the future.

As has been done with attempts at pension reform, it would not be the first time the State of Illinois has gone back on its word. Tough
economic times may result in desperate measures which may require re-establishment of the CDF. For those who were in the industry just a decade ago, the CDF was an astronomical 36% increase of registration fees! A number which took a great deal of blood, sweat and tears from industry lobbyists to get lowered to the more reasonable number it is today.

The last thing that anyone in the industry would want is a new battle to develop when the economy is in the state of distress it is currently in. Illinois is only one public windstorm away from the “silver lining” to become a funnel cloud which could tear through the pockets of those in the trucking industry.

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