The late American journalist Shana Alexander once said “trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell“. It does not matter if the rumor is heard in a locker room, the shop, a bar, a truck stop, or passed around on the internet…it is next to impossible to stifle something that is viral.
Over the last year, particularly in the last few weeks, the ITEA has received several phone calls and emails regarding a rumor about the legality of trailer hitches on vehicles not towing a trailer. The controversy stems from a bill introduced by Representative Elaine Nekritz in the 96th Illinois General Assembly. In summary, HB3669 sought to make it illegal for trailer hitches extending more than 4″ from the bumper to be left on the back of a vehicle without a trailer in tow. In the event a hitch was permanently mounted, the hitch must be covered red.
The goal of this article is not to make a statement on the merits of the legislation, but to try and put an end to the rumors. The bill is dead. One month after its first reading the bill was sent back to committee. After nearly two years in moth balls, HB3669 was taken off life support and officially pronounced dead (in Latin) when the 96th adjourned for the last time.
There is no statute in the Illinois Vehicle Code that can even be closely compared to this. It is not a projecting load, as that must be a minimum 4 feet beyond the rear of the vehicle (625 ILCS 5/12-204). One could argue that a hitch obstructing the visibility of the registration plate could be cited under 625 ILCS 5/3-413(b), but the element of the offense is the obstructed visibility, not the mere presence of a hitch. There is no equivalent in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations either…so if you are one of the mistaken who believes the FMCSR can somehow be twisted & manipulated “by reference” to fit into a citation for 625 ILCS 5/12-101, think again (members see SOP-05).
Bad information flowing through the streets has never done anyone any good. Ironically, we have had an equal amount of correspondence from truckers and law enforcement alike about this. We have heard citations have been written, but have not actually seen one. Once again, rumors.