A Pair of Plates

Since the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association became an information repository to its member police and trucking communities, many questions have been fielded about the confusing laws of this state. Some of the questions require complicated answers, others simple answers and some require a lot of research. In recent weeks, a unique rumor has made its way to the ITEA and the article this week will hopefully clear up the confusion because bad information spreads like wildfire.

While the ITEA does its best to answer questions where law enforcement and the trucking industry intersect, the association does it’s part to try and clear up nonsensical rumors. One of the most famous rumors began circulation in 2009 and can be read HERE.

This rumor had truckers and police officers believing that a trailer hitch, when not towing a trailer, must be removed or painted red. While this may have been a proposed bill in days gone by, it was never the law. The proposal lasted about as long as it will take to finish reading this article.

The rumor dealt with today has to do with vehicle registration. It’s not surprising this rumor is about registration since this is such a dynamic and ever changing category of law.
The situation arose when a police officer stopped a semi-tractor bobtailing. Bobtailing is when a semi-tractor is operating without pulling a semi-trailer. The officer, who was not trained by the ITEA, took note the tractor was operating on a public highway without a rear registration plate. See the ITEA article “One Plate, Two Plate” which can be read HERE.

Through his basic training, he knew that vehicles in the state of Illinois are issued a pair of license plates. This truck had an Illinois (Z) base plate good for 80,000 pounds. Are Illinois Z plates issued in pairs? Sometimes. Here’s what the law says:

(625 ILCS 5/3-413) Display of registration plates, registration stickers, and drive-away permits;

(a) Registration plates issued for a motor vehicle other than a motorcycle, auto cycle, trailer, semitrailer, truck-tractor, apportioned bus, or apportioned truck shall be attached thereto, one in the front and one in the rear. The registration plate issued for a motorcycle, auto cycle, trailer or semitrailer required to be registered hereunder and any apportionment plate issued to a bus under the provisions of this Code shall be attached to the rear thereof. The registration plate issued for a truck-tractor or an apportioned truck required to be registered hereunder shall be attached to the front thereof.

While Z-trucks plates can be issued in pairs, it was not in this circumstance. The truck the officer stopped was a truck-tractor and registered as such, which means only a single plate was issued. It was correctly affixed to the front of the vehicle as mentioned in the statute above.

Luckily for the truck driver, the officer did not issue him a citation. Although the citation would have been dismissed in court, it still would have cost the driver or the company time and money.

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