The Project – Part II

Last week, this blog began to tell the tale of a municipality struggling to accommodate a band of citizens armed with complaints regarding a new industrial development. Their concerns revolved around a potential, yet unseen, problem involving trucks using residential roads and neighborhoods to access the jobsite. This week’s article provides the conclusion as the ITEA trained police department investigates the legitimacy of the complaints.

The findings from the study were exactly what veteran law enforcement professionals had expected: there was no significant commercial vehicle traffic on these residential streets. All was not lost, however. One officer was able to ascertain helpful information in the future decision making about addressing commercial vehicle traffic on the road.

It was discovered a popular “trucker GPS” system had listed a residential street as a “truck route.” While those familiar with commercial vehicle enforcement know GPS devices often display inaccurate information (see the ITEA article G.P.(B)S.), it initiated conversations about the new industrial construction and other drivers following these erroneous GPS directions.

The study results were brought to the police and village administration. While the findings seemed conclusive, they knew these findings would not alleviate the concerns of the apprehensive residents. It was time to take a preemptive strike to appease the citizens, empower the officers patrolling the area, and most importantly, be fair to the trucking industry.

To complete this task, officers went to the drawing board developing a reasonable ordinance to restrict truck traffic on local roads, but allow commercial vehicles to pickup and deliver goods to residents and businesses located within this residential area.

To avoid the proverbial “reinvention of the wheel,” the officers again utilized resources from the ITEA to pinpoint an appropriate resolution. They knew from previous ITEA classes and blogs, the Illinois Vehicle Code allows local jurisdictions to restrict the weight of vehicles on roadways they own and maintain. This particular section of the law does not specifically require local government to exempt pickup and deliveries vehicles, but the officers had the interests of both the residents trucking industry in mind. They knew certain exemptions had to be included in the ordinance.

Those working on the project also wanted to give officers a simple, effective method of enforcement which was fair to the truck drivers. Again, their experience with the ITEA reminded them of horror stories of towns where officers issued citations to drivers who violated local weight restriction without developing probable cause to do so.

In these cases, the local weight restriction only restricted the actual gross weight of vehicles. The signs were often misinterpreted by officers to mean the standard was the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or registered weight. Similarly, truck drivers often misunderstood the meaning of these signs as well.

Using language written by other ITEA members as a template, the officers developed an ordinance which fit the needs of the village, the residents and the trucking industry. This particular ordinance clearly defined the restriction to be measured by either actual gross weight, GVWR, GCWR and registered weight of vehicles travelling on the restricted roads. It also provided an exemption for local pickup and delivery of goods or services.

The ordinance required signs be posted along the restricted roadways, with the weight restriction clearly displayed. This provided truck drivers fair warning of the restricted weight. With the collaborative effort of the residents, village administration and the police department, all seemed well in the village. But the story does not end there.

As can happen with projects of good intention, pondering minds can ruin a good thing. In this instance, certain members of the village administration began to question the authority to issue overweight permits on the restricted roads. This is a legitimate question for those who are unfamiliar with the finer points of commercial vehicle law.

Accompanying this epiphany was the thought of issuing overweight citations to those who exceed the newly constituted weight restrictions as opposed to the uniform weight laws mandated by the Illinois Vehicle Code. The village administration was not the first to believe the local weight restriction allows for overweight citations and permitting.

However, this administration was not like so many others in Illinois. They went back to their ITEA certified officers and asked about the authority to enforce these regulations with permits. The officers quickly informed the administrators that overweight violations could not be written, nor could overweight permits be issued for vehicles violating the local weight restrictions.

Further, the officers pointed out the very same statute which allowed the village to restrict commercial vehicles on local roads also provides a specific fine. Another potential disaster was averted thanks to the knowledge and training received from the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association.

These conversations happen daily in local Illinois government when officials have to deal with a new problem involving trucks. However, the ending is vastly different from those who do not act as this village did.

Communication, education and accountability all came into play during this project. These are things the ITEA preaches and expects of its member agencies. Remember, this exact situation could happen in any Illinois municipality at any given time. Who do you want behind the wheel of a project like this?

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