A Word is Worth $1,000 (or more)

About a year ago the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association wrote an article on this blog regarding misconceptions of what constitutes a combination of vehicles versus a single vehicle. While sometimes the language of truck law appears straightforward, it becomes distorted when mixed with street vocabulary. The consequence of not knowing what the legal definition of a word means, compared to the common definition, is felt in the wallet when fines are levied. The article this week will discuss the erroneous descriptions of vehicles and loads when applying for oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits.

Many local (municipal/township/county) jurisdictions require permits for vehicles exceeding legal weights and dimensions mandated in the Illinois Vehicle Code. A permit to travel OS/OW is obtained upon application, and the application is methodology for gathering information.

Many locals, similar to the OS/OW permit application used by the Illinois Department of Transportation, want to know the how and why of the load itself. One such question, or field of information, asks a carrier to declare one of three things:

Is the OS/OW load actually “loaded” on another vehicle?
Is the OS/OW load being “towed” behind another vehicle?
Or is the OS/OW load moved on its “own power”?

These terms may sound simple enough, but the reality is many carriers make the wrong choice. This delays the time it takes to receive an approved permit or the carrier may flat out get denied. In an effort to help understand the differences between these three choices, and to help expedite the permit process, here’s a closer look at what each term truly means.

Loaded
This is probably the most straight forward of the three. The word “loaded” could very well be interchanged with the term “carried”. A carrier should only select this choice when they are transporting an object on top of the highway vehicles. Think of movements of construction equipment, pre-cast concrete or roof trusses.

Towed
This is where things start to get sideways. Imagine a lowboy trailer is hauling a piece of construction equipment. Is the load being towed? Well, yes, but it’s also be carried. In the case of the lowboy or flatbed, the correct option is “loaded”. The trailer alone is most likely not OS/OW.

A towed OS/OW load is when a trailer is being pulled behind the power unit, and the trailer itself is OS/OW. Examples of this would be manufactured housing or tub grinders.

Own Power
Do semi-tractors move under their own power? Yes. Do straight trucks move under their own power? Yes. Does this mean when the OS/OW permit is applied for, and the vehicle is a power unit, the applicant should select “own power”? No. All permits loads require power to travel.

However, “own power” means the OS/OW load is the vehicle itself. The most common “own power” permit loads are mobile cranes. Other representations sometimes include concrete conveyors, well-drilling rigs and heavy wreckers.

When it comes to truck law, words matter. While it’s cool to talk truck slang with boys at the shop, there’s nothing fun about the tickets which may result in a lack of understanding.

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