What is the Measure of Your Success?

No matter what the occupation, there are procedures for the operation. Where there are procedures, there are always holes in the application of the job. No procedure can rightly legislate every possible scenario. Where there are holes in the application, there are interpretations on how best to complete the job. When there are interpretations, there is conflict and differences of opinion. When it comes to measuring axle spacings on trucks for enforcement purposes, the appropriate tools for measurement is one of these giant holes of interpretation.

A repetitive theme during the six years of this blog is investigating the difference between fact and fiction. Given the sheer volume of truck laws, the opportunity for procedural holes is great.

Recently, a police officer member of the ITEA posted a question in the members-only discussion forum about which devices are lawful for measuring the distance between axles. He had been told the law only allows the use of a steel tape. A fair question, one that has been asked of the ITEA many, many times.

Here is the lie: the law (both statutory and judicial case law) says a police officer can only use a steel tape to measure between axles.

Here is the truth: the law says nothing about what a police officer must use to measure between axles. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Here is the application: there are several devices available for truck officers to use, each with their own pros and cons.

Steel Tape Measure

The law does not require a police officer to use this.

Pro – steel tapes will not stretch out over time.

Con – they rust. Sometimes it is snowy and raining in Illinois, and using a steel tape will ruin the device. A second con is it requires another person to hold one end. Truck officers are notorious for being independent workers, and there usually is not a second police officer around to assist. Having the trucker hold one end of the tape isn’t necessarily advisable either.

Cloth Tape Measure

The law does not require a police officer to use this.

Pro – they are lightweight and roll up easy.

Con – they do not respond well to moisture and will stretch out over time. Also, they require a second person to help like their steel cousin.

Walking Wheel

The law does not require a police officer to use this.

Pro – allows a police officer to work independently. The device is more resistant to weather.

Con – they need to be checked regularly for accuracy. Also, police officers need to make sure they are walking straight, and the wheel is not adding inches by skipping over road debris.

Lasers

The law does not require a police officer to use this.

Pro – if a police officer can come up with an affordable and practical way to make this technology work for truck enforcement, he’s a Jedi.

Con – probably is going to cost a lot of money.

Because statutory law and case law are both silent to what devices are required for police officers to use when measuring, a police officer is not wrong for using any of them. The police officer is only wrong when he knows he is using a device improperly, or in such a way that would unfairly lend to the favor of enforcement.

This is an integrity issue. Any competent defense attorney can surely pick apart the unreasonable use of one device, but at the end of the day the officer needs to measure with something. The ethical truck officer knows the rights and wrongs and chooses the appropriate tool for the job.

It’s the job of the defense to defeat the credibility of a police officer. This is an extremely high standard, one which cannot be simply reached by throwing a random “improper measuring device” dart in the dark.

Whether the police officer is measuring between axles to enforce legal weights under the Federal Bridge Formula, or measuring axle spacings for compliance with an overweight permit, the fines can be extraordinary. Just like unequal scales are an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, trumped up measurements are too.

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