Across State Lines

America is a free market. A customer in one state can hire a company from another to complete a job, or deliver cargo. As a result, trucks must be allowed to operate between states with no interruption. So what happens when a company needs to enter Illinois with their trucks and equipment? How does Illinois handle vehicles with foreign registration?

As far back as 1968, the United States along with Canada have been utilizing the International Registration Plan for commercial motor vehicles to cross state lines and move goods freely. The plan allows a means for government to be paid their portion of registration fees for all commercial vehicles using their roads.

The system works well to ensure registration fees are paid and only have to use one license plate. This eliminated vehicles having to independently register in multiples states and the confusion it created. As an 18-wheeler moves from California to New York, they record the miles in each state and a portion of their registration fees is distributed back.

It’s easy for a large truck which regularly crosses state lines to know they need apportioned plates. But what about smaller trucks which may not cross state lines often? The rules to determine when a vehicle must pay registration fees to the state it is operating is as follows:

1)   The vehicle or combination of vehicles has an actual weight (on the scale) of 26,001 pounds or more, or

2)   The vehicle has three or more axles on the power unit, or

3)   The vehicle is making an intrastate movement

The first is easy. If the driver from a Wisconsin company goes across a scale and it reads more than twenty-six thousand pounds, fees must be paid to Illinois. This actual weight reflects the total combination of the truck and trailer.

If a driver is operating a semi-truck, with three axles on the power unit, he cannot enter another state without first obtaining the proper apportioned registration, or a permit to operate in that state. Illinois offers 72-hour trip permits for commercial vehicles from other states to enter Illinois, do their business and exit. When it comes to farmers from another state, the rules are a little different.

Farmers from other states may cross into Illinois and be treated just like they have plates from Illinois. But this only applies if they are hauling an agriculture commodity to a point of first processing and then leaving the state. In other words, the move must be interstate not intrastate.

The final rule is the intrastate move. This can be the most complicated of the three as it could apply to almost any foreign vehicle doing business in Illinois. For example, a pickup truck towing a trailer loaded with a motorcycle crosses into Illinois bearing Wisconsin registration. The pickup drives to a motorcycle dealer and delivers the motorcycle. At this point the vehicle has made an interstate move, did not weigh 26,001 pounds or more, and did not have three or more axles on the power unit. This driver has operated within the law.

The driver then picks up a different motorcycle from the dealer. If the vehicle leaves straight from Illinois directly into another state, there is still no violation. To change the scenario, imagine the driver has to get this motorcycle from one Illinois dealer to another Illinois dealer. The astute truck officer may notice a potential violation and decide to pull over the truck.

As the officer speaks to driver, he discovers the travels the truck has made. Because the driver picked up a load in Illinois and delivered the same load to another location in Illinois, the driver needs to pay registration tax to Illinois. In this scenario, neither the truck nor the trailer have apportioned plates or a single trip permit. Therefore, this vehicle is operating without registration.

There is one last exemption – the repair exemption. This exemption allows a truck entering Illinois from another state, which would normally be required to pay registration tax, to travel freely to the shop for repairs. The truck must display a dealer plate from the home state and have a work order from the shop.

For any company doing business in other states, these rules will help ensure you can keep on trucking.

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