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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



Driver’s Ed

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase: “It’s better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6.”  This refers to the hope the decisions you make may save your life, but could put you in legal jeopardy.  The vast majority would agree with the idea.  But what about those CDL drivers whose poor safety record reflects their poor driving ability?  Or those survivors that have been impacted by inexperienced CDL drivers?  Newly proposed FMCSA regulations are attempting to rein in the inexperienced.

In March the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a proposed rule that would require mandatory training for new CDL drivers or those CDL drivers seeking an upgrade in license class.

The rule would require Class A applicants to have taken 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training while Class B applicants would need 15 hours.  All training must be through a FMCSA approved vendor listed on the Training Provider Registry.  The estimated implementation cost: $5.55 billion. So what’s the big deal?

Whether it was your father sitting next to you teaching you how to shift, or the “Behind the Wheel” component of your high school’s driver’s education classes, driver’s education has been around for decades.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until 1973 that driver’s education was implemented for the sole purpose of roadway safety.

Many studies have followed evaluating the effectiveness of formal driver’s education.  A few will tout the outlier study which suggests those having attended formal driver’s education were more prone to crashes, but the vast majority of data suggests exactly the opposite: Educated and practiced drivers are safer drivers.

This isn’t an unreasonable conclusion to draw.  Look back to the second or third day following your first operation of the most complicated vehicle you currently operate; whether it be car, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle.  You were likely able to operate that vehicle just well enough to pass the Secretary of State’s tests.  You’re then handed a license to drive and off you go.

Many of you are saying, “but I’ve been perfectly fine since that time.”  The problem is: many are not.

An 80,000 lb commercial motor vehicle traveling on the roadway carries 20 times more the propensity for damage than a 4,000 lb car traveling the same speed.  Simply put, an unsafe Commercial Motor Vehicle driver is putting everyone else at risk, not just themselves.

In a day in age where billions and trillions are thrown around like dollars and cents, 5.55 billion dollars is still a tough pill to swallow.

That comes out to $17 for every man, woman and child throughout these United States.  Instead, consider the enormity of the cost society bears due to inexperienced drivers: vehicle damage, personal injuries, medical care, rehabilitation, policing and fire resources. Even litigation.

It may be undetermined how much of a difference a 15 or 30-hour course will make and whether taxpayers and consumers are willing to bear the cost.  Given the research, it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.  Is your jury still out?



2016: Open Your Wallet

Ahhhh…the excitement of a new year is here. Resolutions for personal change. Madly scribbling out the old calendar year each time you write the wrong date. The feeling summer is ages away. Most importantly new laws by the dozens take effect in Illinois. If you are trucker in Illinois, particularly if you are operating in Cook County, you have two new financial pinches to celebrate. Happy New Year! Sort of…

Time for an honest confession to satisfy the perfectionists: the new Cook County fee which will tax truckers and motorists alike technically is not a “new year” item. It actually went into effect in mid-November 2015.

What is this new Cook County fee, you ask? Court fees for cases disposed of with a “straight conviction” have now increased from $159 to $179. True, this will affect any motorist who receives a traffic citation and opts to take the conviction instead of supervision to keep it off their record. However, CDL holders are not eligible for supervision in Illinois. Oh, and by the way, the supervision fee only went up $10, so apparently it costs less to keep it off your record. Go figure.

It does not matter if a CDL holder is cited for speeding in his personal car or cited for an overweight in his semi, he is held to a higher standard.
All citations in Illinois, issued to CDL holders and regardless of disposition, are sent to the Secretary of State as convictions. This does not mean every conviction has a punitive action on the CDL status, it only means CDL holders can only receive convictions. You can read more about that HERE.

Per Illinois Supreme Court Rules, police officers have the discretion to require a trucker cited for an overweight violation to post the full fines and fees as a cash bail at roadside. That means the cost of the overweight ticket just went up $20 in Cook County, and the trucker never has to go to court. Apparently the cost of labor to deposit a copy of a ticket in a file cabinet is escalating.

The truth is the entire Cook County system of government is a financial mess, much like the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. The court system has felt the pinch, partially due to the no “ticket quota” law which came into play in 2015. Courts and police departments statewide have seen a massive drop in tickets (and associated revenues). Why? Because police administrations can no longer require officers to write tickets.

Be careful what you wish for. You are going to pay for it on one end or the other.

Instead of fees being collected from the masses to make ends meet, they now have to be spread out among the few. As lousy as this fee may sound, it’s only the insult to the statewide injury being inflicted among the truckers heading into January 2016.

Hey – no one is saying it’s okay for truckers to break the law and not be cited. The question has always been “why are punishments for truckers so disproportional compared to citations for car drivers?” Yes, overweights cause more damage to roads and that argument is answered in the fine structure established by the General Assembly.

The problem is the blatant lie told to all people of Illinois regarding how the new police bodycam legislation is funded. Who’s funding it? Truckers.

Contrary to what the press and media outlets report, it’s not an easy $5 increase on all traffic tickets. It’s a $5 increase to the multiplier used to figure the statutory surcharge for all traffic violations. If you receive a $120 speeding ticket today, baked into that number is a surcharge computed at $10 for every $40 of statutory fine. This multiplier escalates to $15 effective 1/1/16.

Does this mean the $120 speeding ticket will rise? Nope. That number is set by the Illinois Supreme Court as bail (with a conviction) for speeding. What it does mean is the surcharge increase will take a bigger bite out of the balance divided between what the courts and the enforcement agency. It has already been seen how Cook County plans to recoup that loss.

When fines are calculated in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars for overweight violations, do the surcharge math. It’s an incredible exponential leap for truckers. The industry wasn’t clamoring for police bodycams, but now they are eating the biggest piece of the pie. Check that – the consumers whom the cost will be passed onto will be eating it.

Be careful what you wish for. Rumor has it very few local police departments will even ask for the state bodycam funding due to the ridiculous rules.



Overweight Bodycams

Since August 2014, a re-energized conversation has swept the United States regarding the relationship between law enforcement and racial minority populations. It’s loud, it’s heated and it’s not going away any time soon. One of many dialogues revolves around the use of body cameras by police officers. As Illinois wrestles with the advent of this technology, the trucking industry has unwillingly found themselves squarely in the middle of the debate. The article this week explains why.

To be perfectly clear, the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is not taking a position of support or opposition to police body cameras. There are some interesting things to consider though.

First, the trucking industry has many complaints about law enforcement, some justified, some not. The ITEA has heard them all, but the ITEA has yet to field a complaint from truckers about police officers using excessive force.

Second, as has been proven by dashcam videos with officers wearing body microphones, noisy trucks and recorded audio don’t mix well. What the viewer hears is the police officer closing the car door, the roar of traffic passing by at breakneck speeds, then the garble of diesel engines silencing all conversation.

The intelligent reader quickly concludes the bodycam movement is not predicated on trucking, so why even mention these two points? Because in Illinois, the carrier industry is going to be the one funding the lion’s share of bodycam legislation – but it’s not their problem.

At the time of publishing, SB 1304 has passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly and is on its way to Governor Bruce Rauner. If he signs the legislation into law, it will become effective January 1st, 2016.

This bill sat dormant from February 28th to May 26th, 2015. On May 27th two amendments were introduced, which completely changed the original purpose for the bill. Within 72 hours it had cleared both the House and Senate. It happened so quickly lobbyists and special interests groups from both trucking and law enforcement did not have time to fully understand the text. This is typical Illinois politics.

In fairness to the two sponsors of the bill, they understandably had no idea how the funding mechanism would interact with the complexities of truck law. To their credit, after the trucking industry informed them of the unfair and disproportional tax being placed on their industry, Senator Kwame Raoul and Representative Elgie Sims agreed to introduce a trailer bill to remedy the original bill.

The trailer bill is not really a fix until it is signed by the Governor. Getting the bill to his desk may prove tougher than originally thought. Why? Because of surcharges, and the state agency who wants the surcharge revenue does not want to give it up. Again, this is Illinois politics.

On June 7th, 2014, the ITEA published an article called Surcharging. This post explained the how a statutory surcharge is collected by law enforcement when they write overweight tickets and how none of the revenue comes back to them. This topic was also discussed in a May 23rd article titled Calculated Fines.

To fund bodycams, SB 1304 mandates a $5 increase from $10 to $15, for every $40 of traffic fines. Say a person pleads guilty to speeding and is fined $120. The surcharge for the motorist increases $15 from $30 to $45. It stings, but it’s not the end of the world. Hey – it’s the general public who wants the police bodycams anyhow, so let them fund it.

The trucking industry is not clamoring for bodycams, but they are the ones who are going to fund an estimated 40% of the revenue through surcharges on overweights!

The trucker who gets a 5,000 pound overweight will see the surcharge rise from $420 to $630 ($210). A 10,000 pound overweight goes from $750 to $1125 ($375). A 120,000 permit load which accidentally goes off route (40,000 pounds overweight) will see a $1500 increase from $3000 to $4500!

If the pre-SB 1304 surcharge fees were not disproportional enough, tacking on a 33% increase to an industry trying to help this fledgling state economy survive is ridiculous.

To add further insult to injury, SB 1304 does not mandate law enforcement to use bodycams. It only helps provide funding if they elect too.

There is a reality many police agencies will not take advantage of the projected $6 million in funding provided by the surcharge increase. If so, how will those leftover funds benefit truckers?

It won’t and there is no legislation to make it so. Those dollars will go into another coffer for the State of Illinois to mismanage, similar to the 14.35% surcharge on truck & trailer registration, aka the Commercial Distribution Fee.

The irony is bodycams are all about accountability. Who is holding accountable those in control of the bodycam purse strings?