Digital Paper

Everything on the internet is true…everything! Don’t believe that statement? Well good, because it is obviously false. As technology has increased, society’s dependence on physical reference has decreased. As the functionality and portability of electronic devices has increased, dependence on paper documentation has decreased. Make no mistake truckers, the law requires you to carry certain documents in your vehicle. How to carry these docs is another story…

Two terms need to be discussed here: compulsory and discretionary. Compulsory is a mandate. This is the “shall” of the law. No wiggle room. The legislature has spoken and all will follow lest they suffer the consequences.

Discretionary means there is more than one avenue to get to the same point. Sometimes the law provides this. Sometimes the law is left vague (which usually serves to only create more confusion). Discretion is a choice for the police officer to make, even though many times the motorists feel entitled to it.

There is already an article each on this blog about compulsion and discretion. When it comes to regulatory paperwork to be carried in a truck, the law is clear. What the law is not clear about is what medium the documentation must be presented.

Three items of documentation will be discussed below. These are insurance, registration and oversize/overweight permits.

Insurance is compulsory and must be carried in the vehicle. However, this was the first law regulating discretion for electronic display of required documentation. Police officers must honor the electronic display of insurance on either a phone or portable electronic device.

Thanks to law enforcement leaders, the legislature also indemnified police officers from liability if the electronic device is dropped and broken. The choice belongs to the motorist, as does the cost of replacing the gadget.

Every set of license plates comes with a paper card. What is goofy in Illinois is what to do with the card. Carrying the card is compulsory in second division vehicles (trucks) but not in first division vehicles (cars). This law is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-411.

Regardless, it is highly recommended to file away one copy of the card at home and another carry the other copy in the vehicle. Many states require cars to carry the registration card. There is no percentage in arguing roadside with an out-of-state police officer about compact states and reciprocity rules, just carry the card.

Do Illinois police officers have discretion to honor an electronic version of the registration card as valid? Absolutely. Is it compulsory? No.

Truck drivers should not feel entitled to electronic display of registration cards. The law does not mandate it nor does it indemnify the police officer for damages to an electronic device.

Oversize/Overweight (OSOW) Permits
There are two regulatory authorities in Illinois when it comes to OSOW permits – the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and everyone else. But first, IDOT.

Several years ago, the trucking industry pleaded with IDOT to allow electronic display of their permits, and IDOT agreed. This regulation is included in the permit manual (which is the Administrative Code and has the force of law) and is in the OPER 993 form required to accompany every permit. The electronic copy of the permit must be open to inspection by any law enforcement.

Carrying an OSOW permit is compulsory under the law when operating under its authority. IDOT used their rule-making authority to regulate discretion in the display of the permit. However, they did not include indemnification to police officers like the legislature did with insurance.

Everyone else? These are local permits from the 102 counties, 1400 municipalities and 1400 townships in Illinois. There is no compulsion for electronic display of local permits. The ITEA would greatly encourage local communities to allow for this practice, but it is totally discretionary.

Police officers – be reasonable and use good discretion with how truckers display their documentation to you. The medium does not equal legitimacy. What’s more important is using privileged resources to determine the authenticity of documents. Both paper and electronic copies can be forged.

Truckers – don’t act entitled or get upset when police officers, in their discretion, refuse to accept electronic display of documents without compulsion. They’re doing their job and agency policies and ordinances may prohibit them from doing so.


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