The Goose and the Gander

Illinois, we’re sorry. No one is happy about the recent income and business tax increase in the Land of Lincoln. Even more irritating is paying state income tax and federal income tax. The same occurs in truck world when it comes to oversize and overweight (OSOW) permits. The State of Illinois issues OSOW permits for roadways under their jurisdictions and so do many locals. Similar? Yes. Different. You betcha. The article this week will discuss a scenario which occurs during enforcement of state permits, but not necessarily local permits.

In 2006, the Illinois Department of Transportation began issuing “blanket” or “LCO” (limited continuous operation) permits for overweight vehicles carrying interchangeable loads. One of the conditions of these permits was the minimum axles spacings listed must be met. In the event the minimum axle spacings were not met, the permit is considered void. A voided permit results in the truck only receiving legal weights, which is usually accompanied by a large fine.

When IDOT released its automated permitting system (ITAP) in 2013, the new permit format began listing individual axle spacings on overweight permits. Per Administrative Rule 554.212, an overweight permit which does not meet minimum axle spacings, is fraudulent. A fraudulent permit, per the Illinois Vehicle Code, is void.

The question truck officers are routinely asked by carriers is “why is a permit deemed fraudulent if the minimum axle spacings are not met?” The reason is engineering. When an applicant inputs axle spacings and axle weights into the ITAP system, there are countless algorithms evaluating roadway and elevated structure integrity for the entire route.

While the math is complicated, the theory is not. The more weight spread over a short footprint will do more damage to the infrastructure than less weight spread over a greater footprint.

If the route selected by the applicant passes, the permit will most likely be approved on the contingency the axles weights and spacings are truly representative of the vehicle in real life. Unfortunately, unscrupulous carriers will enter axle weights and spacings which in reality are shorter than what was entered into ITAP.

The goal of this deception is to get the system to approve higher weight limits using routes calculated on a longer wheelbase. The goal of law enforcement is to detect carriers who do not meet the minimum axle spacings as listed on overweight IDOT issued permits.

The question the ITEA is routinely asked is if trucks officers can enforce this same minimum axle spacing scenario on local roads covered by local permits.

The answer is both yes and no. The Illinois Vehicle Code, which is enforceable by all police officers throughout the state, is silent to the issue of minimum axle spacings. As mentioned earlier, IDOT has an Administrative Rule, or policy, to define the term “fraudulent” which in turn has a statutory penalty. If a local police officer wishes to enforce the axle spacing issue on their local permits on their local roads, they first need to create a similar policy defining “fraudulent”.

Second, the local permit must also collect axle spacings and axle weights similar to what IDOT collects. It would be a defensible argument to show a police officer enforced minimum axle spacings on a local permit which did not actually list minimum axle spacings.

What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

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