Exemplary Police Work #11

If a person is riding a bicycle built for two, he is upon a tandem bicycle. If a trucker has a pair of axles which are a minimum 40” and a maximum 96” on center, he has a tandem axle. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Whereas a tandem almost always equals two of something, sometimes it does not. The tale to be told in this article is about a tandem of officers who misunderstood the word “tandem”, the mistake they made and the exemplary job they did fixing it.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a tandem axle is pretty self-explanatory. However many people who are in the carrier industry and law enforcement do not understand the legal definition. If a vehicle has two axles which are apart by 97” on center, it is not a tandem but two single axles. If a vehicle has two physical axles which are so close together the measurement is less than 40” on center, then it’s not a tandem either.  Instead, it’s a single axle. Clear as mud?

Well guess what? It will only get a little more confusing from here out! When the Illinois Department of Transportation issues overweight permits, their permits have their own definition of a tandem. A tandem on a routine or superload IDOT permit does not always mean two axles. It could mean two axles, or it could also mean a group of axles.

For instance, a 3-axle semi-tractor is towing a 3-axle lowboy trailer. The first axle is the steer axle. The second group of axles is usually a true 2-axle tandem. At the end of the lowboy trailer is a group of three axles. On IDOT’s routine and superload permits, a weight will be listed for the steer axle, a weight for the first tandem and a weight for the second tandem.

Wait! The last “tandem” is not really a tandem at all, because it has three axles! Correct. It is not a tandem per the legal definition as described twice above, but it is a “tandem” as it applies to the language of IDOT permits.

So all of that to say this: recently an ITEA certified police officer encountered this situation, became confused and took incorrect enforcement action. How he handled it is what defines a certified ITEA member from non-ITEA truck officers. It’s okay to make mistakes, even the best truck officers do. What stands a certified ITEA apart from the others is his ability to own the mistake and fix it without being defensive or argumentative.

In this instance, the officer stopped a superload permit move after he saw the first axle in a group of three axles up in the air. It was a heavy load, and his experience told him all axles would be needed on the ground. Because the permit only listed a total weight for the “tandem” (a group of three-axles in this case) but not for the true tandem (the two-axles actually on the road), how much weight should the two-axle tandem receive?

The officer was not sure, so he contacted another ITEA officer. Unfortunately this officer was just as confused, so the two of them decided the tandem should only receive 34,000 pounds, or legal weight for a 2-axle tandem per the Illinois Vehicle Code. This was incorrect, as was the massive fine accompanying the ticket which was issued. After the truck was weighed, the citation issued and the bail collected, a third ITEA officer was consulted who explained the mistake.

There was no fight. There were no rationalizations. There was no arrogance.

Quite to the contrary, the officer took a position of humility, acknowledged his mistake and set out to correct it. The officer immediately contacted the trucking company, explained his error, returned the bail and disposed of the case so no one would have to go to court.

That’s what professional policing is supposed to look like.

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Friendly Competition

Ask any law enforcement officer, and if they’re willing to be honest, they will admit there’s an endless competition between police officers and fire fighters.  Sometimes this competition is as simple as poking fun at the differences between assignments. Other times it manifests itself through seething disdain for society’s view of each profession.  There is no doubt the public needs law enforcement officers as well as fire fighters.  Each fills their necessary role at the public’s expense, but could the Illinois legislature be favoring fire fighters?

In 1986 the Federal Government passed the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act (UCDLA) which standardized the administration of the Commercial Driver’s License throughout all 50 states.  These regulations laid out who was required and who was exempt from having to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Modern day regulations allow for emergency vehicle drivers to be exempt from CDL requirements while operating an emergency vehicle in the preservation of life or property.  This includes both fire fighters and police personnel when responding to emergency situations.

Cops in commercial motor vehicles?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster though there is a need for officers to respond to emergency scenes in mobile command posts or armored vehicles.

Police are not entirely exempt from the law however. When operating an “emergency vehicle” when there is not an actual emergency, both police and fire personnel are required to hold the proper license class for the vehicle they’re operating, as is the case with all driver’s exempt from the CDL regulations. This most commonly is the Class B, non-CDL license which allows the operation of a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 26,000 lbs.

Farming personnel, recreational vehicle drivers and drivers using a large vehicle for non-commercial purposes fall into the same exemption.  They’re not required to obtain a CDL, but are still required to obtain the proper license class.

The difference is how the license is obtained.  The non-Commercial Driver’s License is much simpler to obtain than the CDL.  The Illinois Secretary of State allows the issuance of a Class B non-CDL license after passing only a written test.  All those seeking to obtain a Class B non-CDL must pass the written test at a Secretary of State facility – everyone except for fire fighters.

Fire departments are allowed to send one of their own to the Secretary of State to become certified instructors. Once certified, these instructors may conduct on-the-job training and issue a certificate which firemen can then take to a SOS facility and obtain the license without taking the written test.

It might be reasonable to say that this is not favoritism toward fire fighters; however, wouldn’t farmers benefit from a similar program? So, why aren’t they?

It’s understandable why police are not able to earn their license in this way simply because fire personnel are much more likely to operate a fire truck in a day than a police officer is to operate an armored vehicle.  Or maybe the police can use this program but have simply not inquired.

In the end, it is not all that difficult to obtain your non-CDL license, but it is a good excuse for the competition between fire fighters and police officers to continue.

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Dumb Laws: Fire Truck Weight Limits

There comes a time in the life of a reader when he must ask “who’s the author of this?” Maybe he is reading an opinion piece in the local newspaper. Maybe he is reading comments to a post on social media. Maybe he is reading a blog about trucks. The point to questioning the authority of the author is because something dumb was probably written, something which defies common sense. Unfortunately, this article begs for the author of a new Illinois statute which has limited the weights of certain trucks. In this case, fire trucks. Congratulations Illinois, you have proven your incompetence once again.

Let’s start at the beginning. Each session of Congress in Washington DC typically produces a transportation bill slanted to the political aspirations of the President. In 2015, Congress passed such a bill, better known as the “FAST Act”.

The FAST Act isn’t a bad thing. In a perfect world, new legislation should be an improvement on current legislation. For the most part, the FAST Act is providing good things to the nation. The problem inspiring this article isn’t the FAST Act, it’s the interpretation of it by whoever authored Illinois Public Act 99-0717. This bill was signed into law by Governor Rauner on August 5th, 2016 and immediately became effective.

There’s a lot of changes within the bill, but the biggest failure of common sense is the creation of weight limits on fire trucks. This debacle was broken up into two different parts of the bill.

First, prior to the new law, fire trucks were exempt from all size, weight and load restrictions of the Illinois Vehicle Code. This was found in 625 ILCS 5.0/15-101(b). The new bill struck the language exempting fire apparatus from weight law, but maintained the size and load exemption.

Second, in 15-111(a)(15), the author added fire truck weight limits based on numbers in the FAST Act. In truth, he said fire apparatus can be overweight compared to other vehicles, but they cannot have unlimited weight like before.

Now step back and put on a thinking cap. Try brainstorming reasons why the People of the State of Illinois should be okay with fire trucks being overweight, and why they should not care how heavy the fire trucks are. If you haven’t thought of any reasons yet, you may very well be the author of this law.

Here’s the rub. The FAST Act never required States to put a weight restriction on fire trucks. The FAST Act only said States could not enforce weight limits on fire trucks, unless they exceeded the weight limits listed in FAST Act. Also the FAST Act weight limits only apply to Interstate highways. The point of the FAST Act was to prevent States from implementing weight limits on fire trucks, on Interstates. The Illinois version embraced weight limits on fire trucks, and applied them statewide on ALL roads.

Illinois was already complaint with the FAST Act! There was no weight limit on fire trucks for the State to enforce. Therefore, there was no reason for the State to take any action at all. The author of the Illinois law read the FAST Act completely backwards and erroneously established weight limits for fire apparatus. Now Illinois is stuck with it.

Put the thinking cap back on and ponder some reasons why weight limits on fire trucks are bad. Having a hard time? Here is some Q & A which may clarify things:

Q: Are modern fire trucks really that heavy?
A: Yes. Experienced truck officers know fire trucks are the heaviest trucks in town.

Q: Are fire trucks manufactured prior to this law grandfathered in?
A: Nope. So now all old fire trucks exceeding the new weight limits are illegal. Congratulations taxpayers, you may now have to buy new, lighter fire trucks to replace those which are non-compliant.

Q: Are fire trucks, which exceed the weight limits set forth in this new law, exempt while crossing posted weight structures?
A: No, but under the old law they were exempt. Sorry to the people trapped in the burning building or escapees who are watching their homes burn to ashes before their eyes. The fire truck now has to go the long way around to protect some aging box culvert.

Q: If a fire truck exceeds the new weight limits, could the local unit of government be held civilly liable if it is involved in a crash which results in serious injuries, death or property destruction?
A: Maybe? Probably? Police officers and their employers are held civilly liable when they break traffic laws. Why wouldn’t a fireman and the town he works for be held to the same standard? Read this correctly taxpayer – you pay the bill when the lawsuits come.

Listen, no one is worried about Illinois police officers running loose with ticket books, stopping fire trucks and weighing them. The police officer who makes this stupid decision will probably have stopped his last truck. This is about protecting the taxpayers of Illinois from liability of fire trucks exceeding ridiculous weight limits written by an author who didn’t critically read federal legislation.

Not to fear though, trucks used in snow and ice removal are still exempt from all weight laws. Maybe keep a load of salt handy to extinguish your fire because the first responders may be delayed.

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Wives’ Tales & Rumors

In a world where speed and convenience supersedes a person’s desire to ascertain facts through proper outlets, misinformation runs rampant. What is often forgotten is even before Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, information was still very often misrepresented and sometimes flat out incorrect. One of the oldest forms of spreading incorrect information is through “wives’ tales.” When it comes to the world of commercial vehicle enforcement, the topic of truck registration requirements is packed with wives’ tales. The source of the rumors regarding truck registration may never be found, but the record will be set straight in this article.

Remember when mom said making a funny face may get stuck that way? This little lie was her way of scaring kids to not making funny faces for fear of looking incredibly strange for the rest of their life. Children know that probably wasn’t the case, but who were they to question what their own mother stated as fact? More importantly, it wasn’t worth the risk if mom was right.

Kids grow into adults, but still must deal with forms of wives’ tales in their professions.

Registration of commercial vehicles is spelled out in chapter three of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Essentially, registration is a tax which is paid to operate a vehicle on the roadways of this state. Simply put, when it comes to commercial vehicles, the more one pays, the more he can weigh.

Flat weight plates in Illinois start at 8,000 pounds and can cover up to 80,000 pounds, with the respective fees ranging from $101 up to $3191 per year. Those in the carrier industry are familiar with these fees and pay them annually as the cost of doing business.

While this concept seems easy enough, there have been numerous instances when improper enforcement actions have been taken due to incorrect information being disseminated. Below are a few of the truck registration wives’ tales which circulate through both the trucking industry and law enforcement:

Registered weight cannot exceed the GVWR of a vehicle
This is the most common misconception heard around the commercial vehicle enforcement community. The fact is a vehicle can be registered for any weight the owner wishes. For example, the owner of a ½ ton Chevy Silverado could register his truck for 80,000 pounds if he desired to do so. The Illinois Secretary of State will gladly accept the payment for “over-plating” the truck. There is no law on the books which prevents someone from “over-plating.”

It is, however, important to understand that a two axle pickup truck plated with 80,000 pounds registration will not actually be able to carry that much weight. Remember that the gross weight of a vehicle is determined by the Federal Bridge Formula, and is completely independent from registration weights. Again, registration is just a tax to carry weight on the road, not a permit to exceed legal weights.

Not displaying a steel plate makes a vehicle overweight
While operating a commercial vehicle without displaying a proper license plate is a sure-fire way to gain the attention of any truck enforcement officer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle is overweight. If a truck is found to be operating without a plate affixed to it, but registration can be confirmed through the Secretary of State, it is not overweight on its registration. While citations may be issued for improper display of registration, if the proper fees have been paid, the display of the plate is irrelevant to determining an overweight violation.

Not displaying IFTA/safety test/registration sticker makes the vehicle overweight
Again, none of these violations have anything to do with the weight (registration/gross/axle) of a commercial vehicle. While citations will most likely be issued for any of the above offenses, registered weight is determined only by the fees paid to the Secretary of State. If the vehicle is displaying an expired registration sticker, but the plates are returning as valid in the Secretary of State’s database, there is no registration overweight violation.

Having an improper license classification makes the vehicle overweight
Proper licensing of commercial vehicle operators is essential to the overall safety of all motorists on our roadways. Operating a vehicle which requires a Commercial Driver’s License while not properly licensed is a Class-A misdemeanor in the State of Illinois. This means the driver can be arrested and the vehicle towed from the scene. A Class-A misdemeanor carries fines up to $2,500.00 and one-year in jail. These violations are very serious and will not be taken lightly by the courts. With that being said, driver’s license class/status and vehicle registration are mutually exclusive and have no bearing on one another.

The list of these tales is almost endless. About when the ITEA believes all rumors have been quashed, another ridiculous story comes along. The best way to combat these nonsensical anecdotes is to keep educated.

Police officers: attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class and continue your education every year by attending the certification courses.

Truckers: you may contact the ITEA and ask for a certified ITEA instructor to speak with your drivers. Remember  some rumors and wives’ tales may seem logical, but it’s best to seek the advice of experts if ever in question. After all, who still waits an hour after eating to swim?

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The Fatal Five

The commercial transportation industry has been struggling for over a decade to backfill the exodus of qualified drivers from its ranks.  A study commissioned by The American Truck Association reported in 2005 a driver shortage of around 20,000.  A great-recession and 11 years later, the number has nearly doubled to 38,000.  Many factors compound to create a complex national problem.  Could you be at risk of joining those numbers and not even know it?

Throughout the great-recession there was no doubt owner-operators felt the squeeze and may have exited the industry all together, never to return.  Once gainful employment was found in another industry, it was hard to break back into what seemed like a financially treacherous trucking industry.

Baby boomers are also exiting the industry to the detriment of the profession.  An entire generation of skilled workers who spent decades with their noses to the grindstone is passing the torch to a generation who expects shorter hours, higher pay and employers who cater to an their needs.

Regardless of the generational divide, long hours and time away from home, trucking wears on driver’s ability to maintain longevity.  Commercial driving is still thankfully one of the remaining industries which can provide a decent wage to a dedicated and skilled driver.

The climate within the commercial transportation industry has undoubtedly changed as well.  Companies must be able to sufficiently navigate the regulation and red-tape associated with local, state and federal regulations in order to ensure compliance.

The quickest way for drivers to get bounced from the industry is failure to comply with the most critical regulations effecting a commercial driver: safe driving.

Commercial motor vehicle drivers are held to a higher standard when it comes to the “Fatal 5 Violations”.  One or multiple of these violations have been found to be present in nearly every serious injury and fatal traffic crash.  The troubling fact is that every one of these violations are completely preventable.

Driving Under the Influence
This is a no-brainer.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200… in fact, pay a few thousand dollars, then find yourself disqualified.
Since the advent of the ‘hardship license’ which gives a DUI suspended driver a license to operate for work related purposes, there’s a common misunderstanding how the licenses can be used.  Simply put, the ‘hardship license’ cannot be issued to operate a commercial motor vehicle which requires a CDL to operate.

Improper lane use
Improper lane usage by commercial vehicles is often a complaint of the motoring public.  Most officers understand keeping an 8-foot 6-inch wide truck within a 10-12 foot wide lane can be difficult at times, but meandering too far from your lane or unsafely passing is inexcusable unless in an emergency situation.

Following too closely
This is risky business.  Undoubtedly, those pesky four-wheelers will pull out in front of a commercial vehicle. If given even the smallest gap, and factoring in brake lag on air braking systems and reduced stopping ability, following too closely is asking for trouble.

Speed
Speed kills. Enough said.  Seen those billboards lately?  Commercial motor vehicle drivers convicted of two speeding violations within a three-year period have their CDL disqualified and justifiably so.  Speeding increases stopping distance and potential damage in a crash, because the faster one drives the further he is going to travel during the same time.

Cell phone use
Mobile phones have been unlawful at both the state and federal level for years.  Unless being used hands free, drivers are committing a serious traffic violation when they choose to text or talk on a hand-held phone while driving.  Some debate the merits of these laws, but study after study shows distracted drivers are more prone to traffic crashes.

The trucking industry suffers enough from the exodus of skilled retiring drivers, regulation compliance and retention of Gen-Y drivers. Don’t allow your commercial driver’s license to be the next preventable factor in the growing shortage of experienced drivers.

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1+1=Combination of Vehicles

Its simple math: 1+1=2. Or isn’t it? When a person has a locker which needs to be secured, he employs a lock which is opened with a key, or a combination. Why is it called a combination lock? Because there is more than one number needed to open the device. When multiple objects are together, the singular is lost and the plural is found. This is no different in truck world, but for some reason the difference between a single vehicle and a combination of vehicles eludes both police officers and truckers alike.

First, for purposes of this conversation, the word “vehicle” is very generic. A vehicle is not defined as to whether or not the vehicle is used for commercial purposes. It’s not defined by the requirement for registration. It’s not defined by needing a certain class or endorsement of a driver’s license. It’s defined by whether or not it moves on its own power.

Now stretch and free your mind. Take a single vehicle (represented by the integer “1”) and add it to another single vehicle (also represented by the integer “1”). The sum total of 1+1=2. When this equation is deployed in the vehicle world, there is no longer a single vehicle, but a combination of vehicles. It could be a truck and a trailer, or conversely a trailer and a truck. Either way it is two vehicles.

Interestingly, folk superstars Peter, Paul & Mary had something to say about this in their blockbuster 1969 single, There is Love: “A truck will leave its mother, and a trailer leave its home, and they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.”

Since the confusion is now clear, here are some practical truck/trailer configuration examples, from easy to hard:

A pickup truck towing a tag trailer
PUTTThis is a combination of vehicles. The pickup truck (1) is towing a trailer (1). Therefore, sum total of vehicles = 2.

 

A semi-tractor towing a semi-trailer

semi-truckThis situation is very similar to #1 above, but there is a twist. What confuses some people is the fact a portion of the load of the semi-trailer (1) is being carried upon the semi-tractor (1). Regardless of the weight distribution, the sum total of 1+1 in this configuration equals 2. This is a combination of vehicles.

 

An all-terrain crane towing a dolly

craneNow things are starting to get interesting. Imagine a massive all-terrain crane with a total of nine axles. Due to bridge load ratings on the crumbling infrastructure of Illinois, these 175,000 pound (or more) behemoths cannot safely operate on the six axles native to the power unit portion of the crane.

To compensate, the carrier will spin the boom backwards and put a three-axle dolly under the boom to spread the weight of load. So there is a power unit (1) and a dolly (1), bringing the sum total of vehicles to 2. This is a combination of vehicles.

“Whoa” says the naysayer. Since the boom is connected to the power unit and now the dolly, this is a single vehicle. Incorrect. These are two separate vehicles. Isn’t this just the reverse of a semi-tractor, semi-trailer combination? In the case of the semi’s, a portion of the weight of the trailer is being carried on the tractor. In the case of the crane, a portion of the weight of the power unit is being carried on the dolly. Combination.


An articulated bus

ctaThese are the accordion buses commonly operated in big cities. The trailer portion of the bus is coupled by a stinger under the rear of the power unit. Then they add this funky accordion curtain to allow passengers to move freely between both vehicles. Do the math: bus (1) + trailer (1) = 2. Very good!

For the legalists though, it must be made clear an articulated bus, while undeniably a combination of vehicles, is considered a single vehicle in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for the purpose of driver’s licensing. This means an operator only has to have a Class-B CDL with a passenger endorsement.

Never let your schooling interfere with your education.

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#squadhaul

There are moments in life when things combine which restore a person’s faith in humanity. Peanut butter and chocolate. Michael Jordan and a basketball.  The internet and Pokemon (sorry).  Police departments and trucking companies…and there it is. Right to heart of the matter. Coming on August 27th, 2016, the greatest opportunity in recent years for law enforcement and the carrier industry to hook up for a great cause will happen in Hoffman Estates, IL. It’s called #squadhaul, and there is big prize money on the line for those who participate.

For several years, the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has partnered with the Illinois Special Olympics as part of the World’s Largest Truck Convoy. Special Olympics is a massive organization nationwide designed to provide athletic opportunities to kids and adults with special needs. There are many aspects of Special Olympics, and one department of the charity is the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Within the Law Enforcement Torch Run there are many fundraising event such as the Polar Plunge, the Dunkin’ Donuts Cop on Rooftop, the Illinois Plane Pull, and the World’s Largest Truck Convoy. Each of these events encourages police departments statewide to participate in some of the most fun benevolent activities around.

The original Convoy continues to be held in Tinley Park, IL as it has for many years. Due to geographic constraints, the ITEA convinced the Illinois Special Olympics to host a second Convoy in the north and northwest suburbs of the Chicago area. In response, the first Hoffman Estates Convoy was conducted in 2015 with great success and over 80 trucks participating! It was such a success a third Convoy was added this year in downstate Troy, IL!

But only, only, only at the Hoffman Estates Convoy on Saturday, August 27th will you find #squadhaul.

What is #squadhaul, you ask? #squadhaul is a new initiative designed to bring local police departments and their local trucking companies together for the Convoy. While the police historically have participated in the Convoy for logistical support and traffic control, it was evident they could play a bigger role.

To enter the #squadhaul competition, a police department needs to partner with a local trucking company to carry a marked squad car atop a flatbed, lowboy, drop deck or any other appropriately sized trailer, or a roll-back carrier tow truck. The goal here is to have within the convoy a line of commercial vehicles hauling marked squad cars all lit-up bright and blue.

What’s the incentive? If participating in a fun, unique event for a good cause is not enough, there is a $1000 cash prize for the winner, courtesy of Oxcart Permit Systems, LLC.  Each truck driver and police officer participating in the event will be entered to win the drawing. Not a $1000 television. Not $1000 in gift certificates to your favorite nail salon. $1000 cold hard cash.

To sign up for #squadhaul, visit the Illinois Special Olympics website by clicking HERE. The cost is $100 for the trucker and $50 for the police officer’s squad car. Being part of the Convoy is great time of fun and camaraderie between two of the most honorable and noble professions in Illinois. Sign up today and help be a part of something bigger for those who need it.

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We’re Not So Different

In light of recent tragic events which have unfolded in our country, it seems appropriate to take a step back from normal topics covered in this blog. In the spirit of the ITEA, parallels can be drawn between the two main groups likely to read this blog, police officers and truckers. While at first it may seem the two professions have very little in common, nothing could be further from the truth. The slogan of the ITEA is “Exceptional Authority Demands Exceptional Accountability”. Were you aware this tag line is not exclusive to law enforcement, but also calls for the accountability of those in the trucking industry? The fact is, both professions carry a great burden when it comes to the prosperity of this great country.

While both jobs couldn’t be more different on their faces, they do share some very distinct commonalities.

1) Both professions are regularly demonized by both news media and those on social media.

Both the police and those in the trucking industry are deprived of the luxury of complete, thorough and accurate details of specific incidents being reported to the general public. The media is quick to get their cameras on the scene of a tragic event and immediately spew tainted, one sided stories of what unfolded. They do so with a complete lack of accountability or responsibility for what happens to those involved in the incident. In the law enforcement profession, this comes in the form of officer involved shootings and other incidents in which there is any application of force. In the trucking industry this is evident whenever a crash occurs where a commercial vehicle is involved and another party is seriously injured or killed as a result.

The problem is headlines which immediately fault the truck driver or the police officer will always outsell the headline which blames the driver of the other vehicle or the suspect who was hurt or killed by the police. The truth is generally not important to those reporting the incident.

What takes precedence is reporting the possibility some sort of injustice took place. This type of story is what will pay the bills, meanwhile the true reality often becomes an inessential burden which might be covered on the last page of a newspaper six months after the event took place.

These types of news stories undoubtedly invoke emotional responses from a wide variety of individuals. While some people in the general public will immediately jump on the anger bandwagon and blame the truck driver or the police officer, others will attempt to defend those in either profession. The will say things like “every profession has its bad apples.”

2) The bad apple argument is sometimes as destructive as reckless media reports.

Saying that every profession has bad apples is doing nothing more than justifying the portrait the media has painted of that individual. This bad apple they are referring to, may actually be the farthest thing from a negative example of the profession.

In recent news reports, officers have been accused of being unreasonable, murderous thugs by those in the media. These same officers were later found to be completely lawful and justified in their actions by authorities who conducted a complete and thorough investigation of the incident. The problem is that once that stigma has been placed on the officers, they may never recover from the initial accusations.

This is very similar to incidents when commercial vehicles are involved in serious traffic crashes. The first thing running through the minds of the public, and what is often eluded to by the media, is the truck driver was most likely at fault. Assumptions are made that the driver of the truck must have been violating some state or federal statue, or driving negligently.

News broadcasts will plaster the worst Facebook photo they can dig up of the driver, while they simultaneously display a picture of the “victim” from the other vehicle, wearing their Sunday best. When the facts later come out proving the truck driver was not at fault (and the supposed “victim” was actually under the influence or driving recklessly) the media will be nowhere to be found. Why is this you ask? Because unlike the police and trucking professions, media accountability not only lacks, but is relatively non-existent.

This author would not be fulfilling his responsibility if he didn’t discuss the incidents where people in each profession step outside of their authority and act in a negligent, reckless or unlawful manner and actually cause injury, death or injustice to an innocent party.

These particular individuals not only disgust those outside of the profession, but anger and disgrace those who proudly perform their jobs honorably on a day to day basis. Nobody wants the true bad apples to be eliminated more than those who take pride in their profession and regularly perform their duties flawlessly.

3) True bad apples, as in those who enter the profession or perform their duties with malice, are hard to come by.

While these true bad apples are few and far between in both professions, the mainstream media would have you believe they are the majority and not the extreme minority. While having even one bad police officer or truck driver is unacceptable, it is simply unreasonable to weed out every single problem child before they put their black mark on the profession. As hard as employers may try, it is an impossibility.

Unfortunately, humans are imperfect beings and always will be. This is why accountability is important in both professions. True accountability can only be enforced by those who do each respective job well. These subject matter experts are the only ones who best know how to perform their duties. They can recognize the signs of those who are not conducting themselves in accordance with the law and professional standards. It falls solely on their shoulders, not the shoulders of those who have never strapped on a badge, gun and vest or sat behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.

The only thing to do is stay the course, take care of each other and constantly strive to be better.

For those of you in the trucking industry, keep doing your thing. Know that a vast majority of the population appreciates and respects what you do. This includes those in law enforcement. You provide a valuable service to this country which is often overlooked and thankless, another commonality between police officers and truckers.

For those in law enforcement, it is important for to remain strong and have faith. Recent tragedies will haunt every one for years to come. We cannot allow those who try to dishearten, demoralize or even kill police officers to succeed. They cannot break your will, and you must continue to hold the line. The very line which protects the good from evil. Continue to hold your head high and provide your communities with the very best possible service, but watch your back for those who would do you ill.

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No License Required

Illinois, at its core, is an agrarian state. A great portion of its commerce is driven by agriculture. Generations of agricultural families are rooted deep in communities and share their name with some of the most traveled local roads. Local agricultural communities stick together in ways unmatched by the trucking industry. The trucking industry may share a common lobby or trade organization, but when the life of someone from the agricultural community is cut short, all other local members step up to help the family, the farm and the community.

The agricultural community benefits by having commercial trucking laws tailored to its local, farm specific operation. These laws cut some of the red tape inherent with operating a small business which essentially only operates season to season and is often times operated at the family level. The issue surfaces because the local community often doesn’t understand these statutes or the conditions/limitations associated with them. So, what are some of these red tape laws?

• Farm tractors and their outfits are exempt from operating in compliance with elevated structure weight laws.

• Often times to the frustration of the motoring public, farm tractors are permitted to slowly travel our busiest local roads in order to access fields.

• Farm tractors and implements may operate beyond standard dimension restrictions while driven on the operated on the roadway.

• Farm tractors and implements transported on a trailer are not required to obtain state permits when operated in compliance with other typical over-dimension requirements such as flags, escorts, maximum speeds, and during daylight hours.

• While operating on the roadway in connection with farming operations, surprisingly, no license is required to even operate the largest of farm tractors. This doesn’t excuse the need for the driver to use due care.
With all of these exceptions for the farming community, drivers are often frustrated by on-road tractors.

Motorists stuck behind slow moving tractors regularly take chances which endanger other motorists or even result in crashes that injure or kill the tractor operator. While farm tractor drivers are still required to use due care, nearly all will tell you it is a rare occasion when the tractor operator causes the hazard.

The ITEA recently had a conversation with a farm sprayer driver who told of motorcycles passing right under their sprayers while the sprayer is moving at full speed.

A southern Illinois farmer was killed after his farm tractor and homemade trailer was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer.

A farmer was killed in a rural suburb of Chicago after a motorist attempted to overtake his tractor in an intersection while he was beginning a left turn.

Another tractor operator died near Springfield after his tractor was rear ended by a passenger car.

Motorists must recognize farm tractor operators have reduced visibility and limited ability to hear horns or other vehicles around them. These crashes are completely preventable.

With harvest season approaching, don’t be the reason a farming community has to rally around one of its own farm families. Instead, use your understanding of farming operators to educate others in being patient and cautious around farm tractors and implements this season.