Trucks & TVDLs

Remember 2010? The immigration debate was a top story nationwide. The topic held news headlines longer than most political arguments, but eventually it cycled out. It’s alive and kicking again in Congress today, but Illinois threw its hat in the ring in 2013 with the new Temporary Visitors Driver’s License (TVDL) program. Does the TVDL apply to trucks? It sure does, the article this week will explain why.

First things first. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is not taking a political stance on the issue of immigration. Our members are more than welcome to hold to whatever ideology they want. The purpose of the ITEA is to make sure proper enforcement occurs based on the laws our elected leaders require regardless of an individual opinion. That’s it.

When it comes to TVDLs, in late 2013 the Illinois General Assembly provided a way for people who do not have a social security number to obtain a temporary driver’s license. This does not mean anyone residing in Illinois illegally can obtain a TVDL.

The applicant may not be eligible for a social security number, but he is required to have federal authority from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to lawfully be in the United States. It may be a lesser standard than card carrying citizens, but it debunks the myth that any illegal immigrant can obtain a driver’s license in Illinois.

TVDLs are pretty much are only good for driving. They can’t be used as identification to cash checks at a bank. They cannot be used for identification to board an airplane. They can’t be used as identification to vote in an election.

There are limitations on driving however, and this is where understanding driver’s license classification is important. There is no statute that says a TVDL may only be used in a personal vehicle, and not in a work vehicle. The size of the work vehicle is the qualification.

A TVDL is only valid in vehicles which require a Class-D driver’s license in Illinois. Class-D licenses may only be used to operate vehicles with a manufacturer’s GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less. Generally speaking, this means cars and smaller trucks.

Here’s some common questions being asked about trucks and TVDLs:

Question: Is the TVDL invalid if the power unit has a GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less, but weighs more than 16,001 pounds or more on the scale?

Answer: No. Actual weight only applies to classification when it comes to determining if the driver needs a CDL or not. A vehicle in Illinois which weighs 25,999 pounds on the scale does not require a CDL, therefore the manufacturer’s GVWR takes precedent. In this case, the TVDL would be okay.

Question: Can the TVDL holder operate a power unit with a GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less and tow a trailer if the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) is 16,001 pounds or more?

Answer: To answer this question, more questions must be asked:

  1. Does the trailer have a manufacturer’s GVWR, or an actual weight on the scale, of 10,001 pounds or more? If no, the TVDL is okay. If yes, then…
  2. Is the manufacturer’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR) or actual gross combined weight on the scale 26,001 pounds or more?
    If the answer to both questions 1 and 2 (not one or the other…BOTH) are “yes”, then not only is the TVDL being improperly used, the driver is required to have a Class-A CDL!

Question: If the TVDL holder is operating a power unit with a GVWR of 16,001 or more, but 26,000 pounds or less, should he be charged with the misdemeanor No Valid Driver’s License statute under 625 ILCS 5/6-101?

Answer: No. It is a violation of classification only and should be charged under 625 ILCS 5/6-104(a) for not possessing a Class-C non-CDL when required. This violation carries a mandatory court date and is eligible for sign and drive as bail.

Question: If the driver cannot provide proof of mandatory vehicle liability insurance as required in Illinois, can he be charged with the misdemeanor No Valid Driver’s License statute under 625 ILCS 5/6-101?

Answer: Yes. This is clearly spelled out in 625 ILCS 5/6-105.1(d-5).

Police officers should always keep in mind the political hotbed immigration is when taking enforcement action on a TVDL holder. It would be wise to make sure all the ducks are in a row.

Whose Fine Is It Anyway?

If improvisation exposes the true talent of a comedian, then the short-lived Whose Line is it Anyway? should have been the king of all TV comedies. In truck world, it is not uncommon to find improvisational interpretation of law. One of the worst make-it-up-as-you-go-along legal interpretations (by enforcement and industry alike) is who is responsible for fines when truckers get overweight tickets. The article this week will help dispel some common myths about who foots the bill.

This article can be made real short if you can live with one answer to one question:
Q: Who is responsible for paying truck overweight fines…the company or the driver?
A: It depends.

If you are not satisfied with this, read on. But the question above is the truth. There is no absolute.

So what does the law actually say about who pays the fine? Two times in the Illinois Vehicle Code the legislature provides guidance:

625 ILCS 5/15-101(a):
“It is unlawful for any person to drive or move on, upon or across or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved on, upon or across any highway any vehicle or vehicles of a size and weight exceeding the limitations stated in this Chapter…”

625 ILCS 5/15-113(a):
“Whenever any vehicle is operated in violation of the provisions of Section 15-111 or subsection (d) of Section 3-401, the owner or driver of such vehicle shall be deemed guilty of such violation and either the owner or the driver of such vehicle may be prosecuted for such violation.”

The key word here is “or”. Both excerpts from the statutes say either driver or the owner shall be cited by the police officer. Not driver “and” owner. This is left to the discretion of the officer and refers to who is prosecuted, not who is responsible for the fine.

Who has to pay the fine is an internal issue within the trucking company itself. Multiple factors must be considered: Who loaded the truck? Who routed the truck? Did the driver know he was heavy? Did the dispatcher obtain the appropriate permits? Did the fleet manager register the truck for enough weight?

These are a few of the policy decisions trucking professionals must make, but it is not the job of the police officer to sort through them. His job is to stop, weigh and cite the truck. Does the police officer have discretion? Absolutely, and the ITEA will gladly encourage police officers to use good judgment when deciding who to cite and what form of bail to collect.

However, truckers, you are wrong to assume that police officer must cite the owner or your boss based on your interpretation of the law. It’s the officer’s call.

One of the difficulties a police officer has in citing an owner is figuring out who the owner actually is. An owner is not the immediate supervisor, manager, dispatcher or the grown child who is now running the shop for his retiring father.

When trucks are owned, titled and financed in the name of a company, obtaining owner information is difficult. Depending on how a company is organized, it may prove impossible to locate the actual “owner” as there may be several partners in the corporation.

Is it possible to cite a corporation for an overweight? Probably, but it not something which occurs at roadside or should be documented on a uniform traffic citation. This is an intense investigative effort which will need coordination with the State’s Attorney, and reserved for the most serious of overweight offenses.

At the end of the day, the police officer must write a name, address, driver’s license number, birthdate and other personal information on the face of the traffic complaint. It’s a lot easier to cite the driver in this case when his license, with all the pertinent information, is in front of him.

Drivers, make sure you know have solid assurances from your employers about who is going to pay for overweight bails and fines. You are the one who will most likely receiving the citation, which means you could very well be on the hook for the rest as well.

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Axle Folly

In 1984, the blockbuster comedy Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy was released. Murphy played the character Axel Foley, a Detroit cop investigating crimes in Beverly Hills. In truck world, we have axles (not axels) and follies (not Foley’s) when it comes to understanding the maximum number of axles certain trucks can have in Illinois. The article this week will dispel a common myth heard by truckers and cops alike…and it has nothing to do with bananas in a tailpipe.

To understand the maximum number of axles allowed on trucks and trailers in Illinois, one must first understand the Federal Bridge Formula (FBF). The FBF is a tiered system of increasing gross weights based on an increasing number of axles.

Pretend there is a bog of quicksand up ahead. Step in it with your boot, and you will sink. That is because all your weight is concentrated in a small area. The way to defeat the quicksand is to throw a sheet of plywood over it. Then when you step on it, your weight is distributed over a greater distance, reducing the opportunity for a slow, painful death.

A loose analogy? Yes, but the principle is sound. When it comes to truck weight law, the axles serve as the plywood distributing the weight over the road, or quicksand. The greater the number of axles spread over the greater distance, the less stress is placed upon the road surface causing less damage.

Illinois adopted the FBF in 1986 on a host of highways, primarily the Tollway and interstates. Other larger state highways which received federal funding were also included. Over time, more and more roads were considered “designated” by both the Illinois Department of Transportation and local units of government.

In 2010, all highways in Illinois became “designated” in regards to weight, meaning the FBF applied everywhere. Not surprising, Illinois was the last state in the Union to allow these weights.

No matter how many axles a truck has, gross weight can never exceed 80,000 pounds. That is the limit in Illinois. The FBF is technically a never-ending formula, and some states allow truck weights to exceed the Illinois limits of the FBF.

Here’s where truckers get confused, and unfortunately sometimes this line of thinking is fed by misinformed enforcement agents.

There is no law limiting the number of physical axles a truck may have in Illinois. None. This is a free country, and you are welcome in Illinois with as many axles as you want. There is no crime, no statute or citation that says after a certain number of axles, you are forbidden from crossing the border into the sovereign State of Illinois.

For instance, in the sovereign State of Wisconsin, it is not uncommon to see 5-axle straight trucks. These vehicles usually have a configuration consisting of a steer axle, two tag axles in the middle, then two fixed drive axles. The same trucks are seen in Illinois, but are missing the two tag axles in the middle. It’s also not uncommon to see 5-axle cement mixers in Wisconsin, but only 4-axle mixers in Illinois.

Does this mean those 5-axle straight trucks in Wisconsin are illegal in Illinois? Absolutely not! As long as they pay their fair share in fuel tax and registration, they are more than welcome to travel across the Land of Lincoln.
However, those trucks which may receive credit for five axles under the FBF in Wisconsin are only given credit for four axles in Illinois. In other words, the same truck will receive less weight in Illinois as oppose to it’s northerly neighbor.

Let’s say a 5-axle straight truck comes into Illinois from Wisconsin and has a wheelbase of 21’. Under the FBF, the maximum gross weight is 61,000 pounds. In Illinois though, the law says to use the same 21’ measurement, but only gives credit for four axles, yielding a maximum gross weight of 56,000 pounds.

The number of axles isn’t what is illegal, there is just a limitation on the FBF. While straight trucks (single vehicles) are only allowed four axles under the FBF, combinations of vehicles (truck and trailer) are only given credit for six axles. You do not need a permit for extra axles, unless of course, the vehicle is overweight and non-divisible.

So bring them extra axles trucks into Illinois! Just remember that after a certain number, those extra axles are dead weight reducing the actual load which can be carried.

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Deflategate

Now that Super Bowl XLIX (and the halftime show) is done, America can also get busy forgetting the buzzword of January 2015 “deflate-gate”. Was it intentional? Was it not? Does it matter either way? The jury is out. There are plenty of football blogs to read about on that topic, but what this blog will inflate this week is what the law says about tires in Illinois, and what that means for enforcement of trucks.

First things first. There are two sets of laws regarding tires. First being the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). In Illinois, this set of laws is enforceable by the Illinois State Police only. The second is the Illinois Vehicle Code. The two codes are very similar in language about what makes a tire safe or unsafe, but they are not identical.

There are several reasons a tire could be considered “bad” or better yet, “unsafe”. Here are the common reasons why a tire could be found unfit to be on the roads of this great state:

  1. The ply or cord is exposed – this is not the same as a retread tire beginning to come apart.
  2. Cuts or cracks in the tread which exposes the ply or cord
  3. Cuts or cracks in the sidewall
  4. Insufficient tread depth within statutory intervals. 4/32” on the steer tires, 2/32” on everything else.
  5. Bulges or knots
  6. Deflated tires

While the regulations are very close in scope, how an officer stops and discovers the violations are an entirely different story.

When it comes to a motor carrier inspection by the Illinois State Police, troopers have the authority to stop any commercial vehicle (10,001 pounds or more) just to inspect it, which includes tires. If they find two bad tires next to each other, they have the authority to place the vehicle out of service.

Can local police officers do the same? No. Local police officers in Illinois do not have the authority to stop and detain trucks for the purpose of an inspection for any equipment violation. Local police officers must have probable cause to stop a truck. They are limited to enforcing the violation within the scope of the original reason for the stop, and then can only expand based on volumes of case law regarding search and seizure.

Is it possible for a police officer to see a worn out tire in plain view and use that as probable cause to stop a vehicle? Absolutely. If a police officer pulls alongside a truck at a red light, looks at the tires and sees it is totally bald, has bulges or knots or is deflated, that is probable cause. The law has been broken.

What that does not mean is the police officer then has cause to further his inquest into all other sorts of equipment violations. He can ask the driver for his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. He can check the tires which appeared to be bad. He can probably even make a quick walk around the truck and look at all the tires. That is within the scope of the stop and not unnecessarily detaining the driver for an unconstitutional amount of time.

He can’t check brakes, log books, medical cards, wheel lash, frame or suspension integrity, and so on. These are laws under the exclusive enforcement authority of the Illinois State Police.

So what does the local police officer do when he finds bad tires if he does not have the authority to put the vehicle out of service? The IVC, in 625 ILCS 5/12-405(f), provides a small remedy.

If a local police officer has “reasonable cause to believe” the vehicle is in violation of this section, he can order it off the road to inspect the tires. Just the tires, only the tires. Not anything else. Ordering it off the road is not the same as placing it out of service.

Conversely, a police officer who finds a truck with bad tires cannot lawfully tell a driver it is okay to continue driving with them. The job of law enforcement is never to enable further breaking of the law. Whether or not a police officer chooses to cite the driver or not is irrelevant.

The officer should advise the driver to get the problem fixed before traveling down the road. He should also admonish the driver that if he proceeds with unsafe tires and gets in a crash and kills someone, that is on him, not the officer. Or if he continues to drive, gets stopped in the next town and receives a ticket, that is his responsibility too.

Well maintained tires are paramount to safe trucking and good mileage. Proper enforcement is just as important.

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The Lone Wolf

The lone wolf. Every occupation has them. The guy who wants to be out there, on his own, with no accountability. The concern isn’t for people who thrive on working independently. The concern is for those who chose to disconnect from their peers. It’s the truck officer who has the exceptional authority to enforce truck laws, but no community of accountability to make sure it is done with excellence. Sometimes it blows up, and the article this week describes just such a situation.

While there is no joy in writing this article, bad situations need to be examined so one police officer can learn from the mistakes of another. The article this week focuses on a truck officer who was not trained by the ITEA, not a member of the ITEA and not certified by the ITEA. You choose which model of lawman you want performing truck enforcement in Illinois…the officer from last week’s article, or the officer from this one?

This past fall, a trucking member of the ITEA was towing an RV trailer from the manufacturer in Indiana to their dealership in Wisconsin on the hitch of a pickup truck. The truck was bearing 10,000 pound Wisconsin base plates. To their own shame, the company forgot to put the Wisconsin dealer plate on the trailer, and were stopped by the police.

Was this a legitimate reason for a traffic stop? Yes. Was there a violation of registration which could be cited? Yes. However, what occurred next was highly unfortunate.

First, after the driver showed the officer the dealer plate (which was in the truck instead of displayed on the trailer), the officer refused to allow him to mount it. Poor discretion.

Second, the officer told the driver that neither the Wisconsin base plate nor the dealer plate were allowed to be displayed in Illinois, therefore the entire combination was overweight on registration from pound zero. The fine assessed was in excess of $700. Poor interpretation of the law.

Third, after weighing the truck, the officer impounded the trailer until the company came and paid the overweight fine (and impoundment fees) weeks later. Poor police methodology…the law does not allow for this.

So what does the law say? When it comes to registered weight, foreign (meaning out of state) base plates may be operated in Illinois unless three things occur:
1.   The power unit has 3 or more axles. In this instance, the power unit had two.
2.   The gross combined weight on the scale is greater than 26,000 pounds. In this case, it was not as the officer weighed the vehicles and it was less.
3.   The vehicle is making an “intrastate” move with the load. In this situation, it was entirely interstate.

The only registration violation which should have been cited was for improper display of registration for not displaying the dealer plate on the RV trailer. Can a Wisconsin dealer plate be lawfully displayed on a vehicle in Illinois? Yes. These are called “restricted plates”(625 ILCS 5/3-400) which require the Wisconsin dealer to be using the plate appropriately as if it was an Illinois dealer plate…and it was. See Administrative Rule 1010.450.

After weighing the truck, the officer had the RV trailer towed by their municipal towing contractor and it was impounded. The officer informed the driver of the fine and told him when the fine was paid, they would release the trailer.

When the ITEA contacted the officer to get his side of the story, he immediately became defensive. He stated he was a certified truck officer by the State of Illinois. He said he had been doing it this way for years without any problems.

In regards to the impoundment, the officer even went so far as to say the trucking company voluntarily had the trailer impounded for safekeeping. However, when asked if he would release the trailer when the company brought appropriate registration, he said it could not leave. This action tacked on several weeks of impoundment fees in addition to the overweight fine. Insult added to injury.

Then came the deflection. He said his boss told him what he did was okay and that he needed to impound the trailer. He even offered to have the ITEA speak to his supervisor.

So the ITEA representative did just that. Turns out the supervisor was not fully apprised of the situation, did not understand the truck laws and did not authorize the officer to impound the trailer. However, like a standup boss, she blindly defended her officer.

In the end, the police refused to let the trailer go until the bail (and impoundment fees) were paid. Think how different this would have turned out had the officer humbly listened to reason like the officer in last week’s article. Or like countless other class act police officers in Illinois have done when they made mistakes like all humans do.

While these situations do not happen every day, they carry a huge ripple effect. The image of Illinois police officers is now tarnished in the eyes of a legitimate company from Wisconsin. They see Illinois truck officers as revenue bullies.

Exceptional authority demands exceptional accountability. It dangerous when the second part is lacking.

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Exemplary Police Work #7

Do you want a refund from the IRS this year? As you patiently wait for your W-2 form to get the process going, you have to ask yourself the annual question: do I save some money and try to do my taxes alone, or do I hire an accountant? The tax code is quagmire of laws, rules and regulations, and one wrong move, intentional or not, spells trouble. Truck laws are similar in the vehicle code. They’re complicated, and sometimes police officers make mistakes. The best truck officers, however, own their mistakes.

This week the article will look at a recent incident involving a mistake made by a certified member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. Next week, the article will show the stark contrast of a mistake made by a non-member, non-certified member of the ITEA. You choose which model of truck enforcement officer should be working the street.

There are three ways a truck enforcement officer can be certified by the ITEA:
1.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer course
2.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course
3.   Attend the ITEA 8-hour Certification Course, designed especially for those not originally trained by the ITEA.

An ITEA certified truck officer is not an “expert”. Where there are humans involved, there are mistakes. Police officers need not apologize for doing their jobs, but a humble spirit will take responsibility for an error…especially errors with pricetags in the thousands of dollars.

There is the law, and then there are exceptions to the law. With each exception comes more exceptions with limitations and qualifications. One such set of exceptions are those known as “Special Hauling Vehicles”, or “SHVs”. This blog has discussed SHVs many times before.

The trucking industry uses politics to lobby for exceptions to weight law. This article is not making a qualitative argument for or against SHVs, but as more exceptions are added to the law, the more complicated it gets. The more complicated it gets, the more mistakes will be made.

Currently there are five vehicle configurations of vehicles with SHV status, and there are several other configurations of vehicles with exceptions to the law which are not SHVs. Most of these configurations, SHV or not, do not receive their exemptions of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. These are the interstates and tollroads of Illinois.

However, there is one configuration that does receive the exemption on the defense highways: certain 5-axle combinations called “shorty dumps”, or “bombers” in days gone by. These vehicles are the exception to the exception.

Given all these rabbit trails, it is reasonable to believe a police officer may make a mistake? Absolutely. It happened just recently when a certified ITEA officer failed to honor the SHV exception for a 5-axle shorty dump which was operating on a defense highway.

After issuing an overweight citation with a fine north of $3,000, the trucking company contacted the ITEA. As it turns out, the trucking company was an ITEA member as well. Within a matter of hours, the issue was settled.

The officer acknowledged the error. He did not take offense to being asked what happened. He was open to correction. He immediately corrected the problem so there would be no prosecution. He even contacted the trucking company directly to explain himself. He humbly owned it. He protected the industry.

In a day when police officers are taking a beating in the media and social networks, it is encouraging to see professionals like this officer defeating the stereotype. He was not originally trained by the ITEA, but he joined and elected to be held to a higher standard. His exceptional authority (the ability to levy enormous fines) was voluntarily kept in check because he chose to have exceptional accountability (ITEA certification).

This system of checks and balances has worked every single time in the four years the ITEA has being certifying truck officers. Unfortunately, there are just as many times when police officers, who were not trained or certified by the ITEA, do the exact opposite. Read more about that next week.

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Tall, Wide & Long

If you have email, at some point a friend of yours undoubtedly has sent you an invitation to join the social network LinkedIn. Or maybe 500 invitations, in one day. If you are on LinkedIn and interested in the heavy haul side of trucking, there is a group called “High, Wide and Heavy” moderated by Pete Lynch, a great friend of the ITEA. Towards the end of December 2014, the Illinois Department of Transportation expanded the days and dimensions certain permits can operate. In essence, IDOT made their permits higher, wider and longer!

In the specialized transportation world, there are three buzz words or phrases commonly uttered. “Harmonization” (read more about that HERE), what is “customary” and “industry standards”.

Harmonization deals with bringing uniformity between jurisdictions. Customary describes common practices which set precedent for future legislative or administrative rulemaking. The phrase which is important to the topic of IDOT expanding days and dimensions rules reflects the ever changing industry standards.

Here’s a little history lesson. For an uncountable number of years, vehicles which were overweight only (legal size) have been able to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in Illinois. Vehicles which were oversize were limited to daylight hours only, which really means 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.

Until 2010, oversize vehicles were only allowed to operate during daylight hours, Monday to Friday, and until noon on Saturday. After that, the people of Illinois needed not worry about oversize load on Saturday afternoon or on Sundays. In 2010 IDOT allowed travel during daylight hours seven days per week, provided  the vehicles were within (the now old) practical maximum dimensions: 12’ wide, 115’ long and legal height (13’6”).

The thinking was this: a lot of people traveling on the weekends, therefore the roads should be free of vehicles which would impede or slow things down. However, industry standards changed.

Hours of service regulations have consistently become more restrictive, requiring greater flexibility of travel times. Certain commodities like cranes, precast concrete and industrial equipment have found more cost effective means to move bigger and heavier objects. The industry standards started to evolve.

As states more progressive than Illinois slowly start to expand hours, days and dimensions, other states are soon to follow. New industry standards requires harmonization. It is for this reason IDOT made these changes in December.

Much like the philosophy behind the article last week (regarding the extra ton of weight for vehicles powered by LNG/CNG), Illinois needs to keep up with industry standards. As other states have begun allowing bigger and heavier loads at more liberal times, Illinois has become a roadblock to efficient transportation.

That is unacceptable for a state in the heart of the Midwest which is already floundering economically. In response, IDOT has done what they believe needed to be done to accommodate new industry standards in specialized transportation.

A key point to remember is that these new rules are only applicable on state highways operating under the permit authority of IDOT. Just because IDOT allows something on their highways, it should never be assumed the same benefits are granted on tollways, county, township or city/village highways.

On a similar note, the ITEA encourages local permit jurisdictions to comply and harmonize their permit rules with those of IDOT. Again, there is no mandate to conform.

Here’s the meat of the new rule. Effective immediately, vehicles operating on IDOT highways with a valid IDOT permit may operate during daylight hours, seven days per week, provided the vehicles do not exceed these dimensions: 14’6” wide, 15’ high and 145’ long. These dimensions are the new practical maximums. This has been made possible due to the massive engineering database contained within IDOTs automated permit system (ITAP). It should be noted that those vehicles operating on LCO (limited continuous permits) for overweight, are still limited to the size limitations listed on the permit (12′ wide, 115′ long, legal height).

So what happens if a police officer catches a load exceeding these limitations during daylight hours? Is the permit rendered void, knocking all weights and sizes back to legal? Can the police officer just cite the vehicle and allow it to continue on its way?

The answer to both questions is a resounding “no”. If vehicle has a valid permit, the excess dimension does not void the permit. It is a violation of permit citation only, written under 625 ILCS 5/15-301(j). This citation requires a court appearance and carries a maximum fine of $200 for the first offense. Even if the violation is cited, a police officer cannot allow a vehicle to continue on illegally. A new or revised permit must be obtained first.

Having an account on Linkedin? Optional. Knowing and understanding this new rule? Mandatory.

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A Ton of Gas

Want to mess with the mind of a small child? Ask them this simple question: “which is heavier…a ton of feathers, or a ton of bricks?” Invariably the child will say the bricks. The mental illusion exploits a child’s inability to differentiate between volume and density. A ton is a ton, even if it takes one-hundred 53’ semi-trailers full of feathers to equal 2,000 pounds! Effective 01 January 2015, Illinois has enacted a new law giving certain trucks an extra ton of weight for fuel. Read on to learn more!

Soooo…have you heard the economy is Illinois is not so good? Or even close to good? Part of the reason is because business is fleeing Illinois. There are many attributable reasons for this epidemic, but at the end of the day, Illinois is not a business friendly state.

The irony of the new law allowing extra weight for trucks powered by a certain types of fuel is a 180-degree turn for Illinois policy. The purpose behind the law is to be business friendly. Sure, Illinois could scrap all regulations pertaining to vehicle weight and business would love it. Except when roads and bridges collapse, the individual taxpayer foots the bill.

As always, the answer is in the balance. For the first time in a long time, Illinois was not the last state in the union to pass a transportation bill which helps grow business. Illinois joined Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia to allow extra weight for vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). This is green technology which is becoming a serious competitor for typical diesel fuel.

The political divide over alternative fuels and the methods to obtain said fuels is astonishing. The ITEA is not going to enter a debate of the merits of fracking, but one cannot deny that exploratory domestic fuels are helping drive down the cost of OPEC oil. Because diesel has not fallen in price at the same rate of gasoline, alternative fuels like CNG/LPG are even more attractive.

The jury is out on the performance of trucks powered by CNG/LPG. The frontline drivers are usually critical while the back office loves it. Regardless, it is here to stay and will only continue to grow.

In response, Illinois recognized the trend and got out in front by passing Public Act 98-1029. This bill allows any vehicle powered by CNG/LPG technology to operate at an extra 2,000 pounds. Are their critics to this bill? Of course…two of them:

First, the police officer who thinks this law gives those trucks an extra ton of free weight just for being green. Second, the trucker or company owner who does not have CNG/LPG powered trucks and believes he is at a competitive disadvantage because similar carriers can carry more cargo than him.

Both critics are incorrect. Yes, those trucks with CNG/LPG capabilities do get extra weight, but it is not a true bonus. The reality is the technology needed to power these vehicles comes not only with a higher front-end price tag, but heavier weight as well. It’s not a perfect science and depends on the equipment used, but it’s not unreasonable for the extra 2,000 pounds to be eaten up by the very equipment employed.

So how does the weight get added? It’s actually quite simple. If a truck is powered by CNG/LPG technology, it will receive an extra 2,000 pounds of gross weight, axle weight or bridge formula weight. This is not a grace weight. It actually adds to the legal weight of the vehicle, just like the 400 pounds for a functioning auxiliary power unit (APU).

If a CNG/LPG powered garbage truck was entitled to 54,000 pounds gross weight, it now receives 56,000 pounds gross weight. If the maximum tandem axle weight on a shorty-dump was 34,000 pounds, it is now 36,000 pounds. If a series of 4-axles spaced at 22’ on center receives 56,500 pounds, it now receives 58,500 pounds.

And if the vehicle has a functioning APU, add another 400 pounds and then start the grace weight calculation.

However, this law does not give the CNG/LPG powered trucks carte blanche to run an extra ton all the time. There are some limitations:
1.   Interstates – the extra weight does not apply on interstate highways.
2.   Posted elevated structures – if there is an elevated structure posted with an IDOT approved weight limit, the vehicle only receives the posted weights.
3.   Registration – if the truck needs more registration to cover the extra weight, then the owner needs to purchase it.
4.   Overweight permits – the permit applicant needs to take into account the extra weight and buy a permit large enough to cover the weight.

It’s a progressive law for sure. One can only hope it is another brick to help rebuild Illinois.

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Bring on 2015!

It’s a new year and the ITEA is stoked to begin year number six as a professional organization designed to serve law enforcement, truckers and attorneys! Many times news reports and magazines like to issue lists of highlights from the previous year. The ITEA works hard to leave a footprint using this blog and social media, so it’s not hard to go back and see what all happened in 2014. Instead, the article this week look ahead into 2015 and see what is to come for the ITEA and truck enforcement in Illinois.

EVENTS
ITEA Annual Conference | 07 JAN 2015
It’s not too late to sign up for this event! New and diverse speakers from the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Secretary of State, Jason’s Law, World’s Largest Truck Convoy and Diamondback Specialized CMV Training will be presenting. The ITEA will also be presenting the first Glenn Strebel Award…our version of the truck officer of the year. Not to mention there will be multiple raffle prizes (including a pistol).

IDOT Customer Conferences | 06 JAN 2015 (Schaumburg), 08 JAN 2015 (Springfield)
If you are in the permit business for oversize/overweight loads in Illinois, you probably have had to pull permits from the Illinois Department of Transportation. The ITEA will be on-hand to answer questions of IDOT permit customers to help resolve questions and concerns about local permitting. Sign up now (it’s free!)

Industry Expos / Conferences
Mid-west Truck & Trailer Show, Peoria IL | 06-07 FEB 2015
iLandscape, Schaumburg IL | 25-27 FEB 2015
National Transportation Symposium, Atlanta GA | 03-06 MAR 2015

TRAINING
40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement |The dates are still tentative, but the ITEA plans to offer its basic 40-hour Truck Enforcement course two times in the spring…one week in the suburban area and one week in Springfield. This course is all about hands-on training. Half the time in the classroom, half the time with real trucks.

40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer | Much like the basic course, the ITEA plans to conduct this training twice in the fall, once in the suburbs and once downstate. Built to dig into the finer and most confusing parts of truck law, this course is for the truck officer who has been through a basic class and spent time on the road already doing truck enforcement.

8-hour Certification | The ITEA believes that police officers performing truck enforcement duties need to operate at an exceptional level of accountability given the exceptional authority  they possess. Police officers who have successfully completed an ITEA 40-hour or 8-hour course in the past can recertify each year via an online test. Those who have been through a basic school not conducted by the ITEA may elect to take this course to become certified by the ITEA. Coming this Spring!

SERVICES
Interactive Flowcharts | If you are a member of the ITEA, you have access to several paper flowcharts to explain when a driver needs a CDL, and IFTA sticker or vehicle safety test. In the modern world of portable electronic devices, these documents are easy to download. To take it up a notch, the ITEA will be releasing new interactive flowcharts throughout the year. You punch in the information you have and it will automatically tell you what the answer is! Plus, you will have the option to have the finding emailed to you in a report. The first flowchart regarding CDLs will be live mid-January.

Portable Scale Recertification Program | Yes, the truckers hate portable scales. However, they are a tool, which when used properly, greatly expedite the weighing of trucks. Each year the Illinois Department of Agriculture must certify the scales. In an effort to cut down on costs (passed along to the taxpayers), the ITEA transports trailer loads of portable scales free of charge to local government. In 2015, the IDOA is providing the ITEA with three weeks! Sign up now for one of the runs in January, May or September.

The ITEA is excited about another great year resourcing and advocating for both law enforcement and industry. As always, please let us know your ideas, suggestions and comments. We’re here to serve you!

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Shovels, Brooms & Buckets

Think back to a time earlier in the year when the sun was out, the air was warming, the trees were turning green. As you walked past the pear tree in your backyard, you took a piece of the fruit, ate it and instantly died. Why? Because the fruit was poison, that’s why. When it comes to enforcing laws, police officers have to be aware of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. There are a host of laws specific to tow-trucks, but they are easily poisonous fruit, and the article this week explains why.

Before traveling down this road, it’s time to pause and remember what is coming in just a few days: tow-truck registration enforcement. At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, all Illinois base tow-truck plates which have not been renewed, will expire. You can read more about that topic by clicking HERE.

And because tow-truck registration is at the forefront of a truck enforcement officer’s mind this time of year, it’s not uncommon for all things tow-trucks to be considered. The ideology of the law is irrelevant. The proper enforcement methods, however, is paramount.

In 2003, Illinois made a violation of the seatbelt law primary probable cause to stop a vehicle. Before that time, police officers had to find other lawful reasons to stop vehicles in order to cite drivers who were unbuckled. To have made a seatbelt violation the primary reason for the traffic stop was unlawful. If the stop (or the analogous “tree”) was bad, everything after (the analogous “fruit”) was poison. Get it?

This is the same principle that applies to suspended driver’s license violations, DUI, searches etc. Just because there is a law on the books does not mean a police officer can automatically enforce it. It’s a ramp. A police officer starts with one thing, and based on his abilities to ask questions and be a good investigative police officer, he may be able to find additional violations of the law.

Another example of this (and a future blog article of its own) is the difference between “inspection” and “investigation”. There are many times the Supreme Court has given police officers or other agents of the government the authority to conduct warrantless searches. While a search typically has the connotation of drugs, weapons or other contraband, it really is a quest to find other violations of the law.

Health code inspectors can enter a dwelling without a warrant or probable cause and inspect for violations of a law. The Illinois State Police troopers can stop any commercial vehicle without a warrant or probable cause and inspect for violations of the FMCSR.

Local police officers are never given any authority under the Illinois Vehicle Code to inspect trucks suspected of breaking the law. They are vested under the color of law to investigate violations. This means building a case and not eating the fruit of the poisonous tree.

Chapter 12 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/12-606) speaks to certain equipment which must be carried on a tow-truck. When talking about registration and higher axle weights afforded to tow-trucks, the tow-truck definition is limited to those vehicles which are actually towing another vehicle during a towing operation. When it comes to the equipment specific to all tow-trucks, it can be either a vehicle towing or carrying another (625 ILCS 5/1-205.1).

All tow-trucks (towing or carrying) are required to have the following equipment:
•   One or more brooms and shovels
•   One or more 5 gallon trash cans
•   One fire extinguisher

Failure to carry these items is against the law, and may be cited by any police officer in Illinois. Discovery of these violations is another issue.
Illinois police officers have no/none/zero/zilch/nada authority to stop a tow-truck solely to inspect for these violations. Police officers must find lawful reasons to stop a tow-truck and then ask the driver questions as to his compliance, aka investigate.

On the scale of severity, drugs and weapons are in a different class of crime compared to a tow-truck driver not having a shovel. But they are both violations of the law nonetheless. A police officer may not stop or search tow-trucks for shovels and brooms any more lawfully than he can stop cars and search for drugs and weapons.

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