There’s Still A Dead Cop

It’s hard to believe more than five months have elapsed since the suicide of Fox Lake, IL police lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz. The scorching heat of that September day saw the very best of the law enforcement. They rallied together for one of their own. Even through the eventual betrayal, no one regrets the action taken and will gladly do it again when the radio crackles of an officer down. But, there’s a still a dead cop.

The movies and TV have a penchant for over-dramatizing police corruption. It sells. Police officers, like most, enjoy a good film about their profession even if it casts them in negative light. America knows it’s a caricature. There’s always a little truth sewn into the yarn, but it’s just a story.

The burning question is how does a police officer like Gliniewicz get to a point where he must kill himself? This article is not about to justify his actions and crimes. Nor is this article going to address complexities built into the emotional, medical, psychological or spiritual conditions of suicide. Rather, this article will follow one path (and there are many) which lead to a Gliniewicz situation. It goes like this:

Authority
Authority is a double-edged sword. The freedoms held dear in a democracy depend on order and justice. Some call policing a necessary good, some will describe it as a necessary evil. Regardless, it’s necessary. Even the best humans have a streak of evil in them, and a statutory authority may very well expose it.

Opportunity
Police officers are exposed to the extremes of lifestyle choices on a daily basis. However, it’s the basic opportunities afforded most people which police officers have a greater ability to conceal. Read any true story of police corruption and you will find one of three things, or a combination thereof: money, sex and alcohol. Every time.

Money, however, is the risk of truck enforcement officers. Where there are overweight trucks, there is an abundance of cash. The exceptional authority of a police officer to enforce weight limits and collect enormous fines requires exceptional accountability.

Lack of Accountability
With unique knowledge like truck law, it’s easy to pull the wool over the eyes of supervisors who should be holding subordinates accountable. Once a police officer can justify his actions in a way which appeases superiors possessing less knowledge, the impropriety can flourish.

Charade of Success
This is where the true fallacy begins. It’s hard for police administrators or municipal officials to deny an influx of cash. Contrary to popular belief, most local governments run a lean, mean frugal ship. Every penny helps provide community services. The police officer generating revenue shines like a star.

Discovery
The con of evil is that it will remain concealed. The honest and honorable recognize the evil inside themselves and choose to do good. They can foresee the embarrassment, the consequences and the judgment when what was hidden comes to light. They choose to believe they will get caught and not create rationalizations for their actions.

Termination
Maybe it’s simple and they only lose their job. The more heinous are indicted, arrested and prosecuted. Some avoid it all by taking their own life. Regardless, the career is over and the public trust is compromised.

The public has not heard why Charles Gliniewicz became a police officer. This author will give him the benefit of the doubt. He was probably a good person with great intentions to serve the public.

He was given authority to be a police officer and was promoted several times to a position of greater authority. He was given an opportunity to run a successful police explorer post which may have produced fine future police officers. He had little accountability over his methods of instruction, the finances he managed or his time. Throughout the years, he was heralded with praise, awards and recognition. The success was an illusion as the walls came crumbling down.

But there’s still a dead cop.

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Don’t Hinge Your Plates

What does it mean to display something? The term itself seems simple enough. Take a moment to look around right now. Whether you’re in your living room, out in your vehicle or in a public place, there are numerous items in your view. Chances are, those items were strategically displayed to accomplish a very basic task; to show you that they are important to those who placed them there. The same goes for truck and trailer registration.

At home it may be that autographed Dale Earnhardt racing jacket that you waited in line for hours to have signed. You wouldn’t throw a classic piece of racing memorabilia like that in a box in the basement. At the very least, you would frame it and display it on your wall as a conversation piece to ensure that every visitor entering your house would hear about the unforgettable day that you met the legendary “Intimidator.” It’s in our very nature to want to show off the things that mean most to us.

Corporations spend billions of dollars every year in advertising to display items that will help lead their companies to more profit. The simplified theory behind this is that in order for something to seen, whether for financial benefit or to be the envy of your friends, it must be displayed!

Unless, you are in the trucking industry, the regulation of where items can legally be placed generally doesn’t come to mind. The number of items which need to be displayed on trucks and trailers are plentiful. From safety inspection stickers to IFTA decals, there seems to be an endless list of documentation that needs to be “appropriately” displayed.

To add more perplexity to the mix, this list of required items can vary from state to state. These facts, along with countless others, reaffirms that the trucking industry is not for those with shambolic characteristics.

Possibly one of the most important items that is required to be displayed on a truck is registration plates. The fact is the Secretary of State actually owns registration plates and the proper display of these items are VERY important to them. So important, there is an entire section of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/3-413) dedicated to the display of registration plates.

Illinois is a two plate state, meaning that the Secretary of State will issue two steel plates for every vehicle registered. This means that if your straight truck is registered with Illinois base plates (B-Z) it is required to display registration on both the front and rear of the vehicle. For all intents and purposes, the same regulations which apply to passenger vehicle registration plates apply to these types of vehicles.

The two plate rule does have some exemptions as it does not apply to motorcycle, trailer, semi-trailer, truck tractor or apportioned truck plates. While it’s obvious that trailer and semi-trailers would not be required to display two plates, there is often confusion when it comes to truck-tractor and apportioned truck plates. You can read more about this topic HERE.

Once you’ve figured out which end of the vehicle to affix the registration, there is further regulation of how and where the plate must be mounted. The statute requires every plate be securely fastened in a horizontal position and in a manner which prevents it from swinging.

The mounting also needs to be done at a height of no less than 5 inches from the ground which is measured from the ground up to the bottom of the plate. Finally, the plate must be in a place and position that is clearly visible, legible and free of materials which may obstruct it.

The latter part of that statement is obvious. You can’t simply throw a registration plate in the front window of your vehicle, partially blocked by a clutter of paperwork and drive down the road. That much every professional driver knows. What some may not know, is bumper-mounted swinging plate holders are actually quite illegal.

These items allow the plate to swing under the truck while it’s in motion making it nearly impossible for law enforcement to view the vehicle’s registration. While those who enforce the laws may understand the aesthetic and fuel economy benefits of such holders, the fact remains the Illinois Vehicle Code was not written to accommodate this rationale.

The Illinois Secretary of State thinks of your vehicle’s registration as its very own Dale Earnhardt memorabilia. So proudly display your plate, just as the SOS would want it and as the Illinois Vehicle Code requires.  Not all is lost in regulation though, you can continue to feel free and display those photos of your in-laws anywhere you desire within your residence. The State of Illinois doesn’t regulate that – yet.

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Who’s Got Your Ear?

Let’s get back to the basics. It seems among the general trucking population, including the unschooled law enforcement officers, there’s a disconnect between those who truly need a CDL and those who do not. Despite the many resources available, everyone the ITEA encounters who has an incorrect stance on the subject has shoehorned their trucking practices into some version of the exceptions.

The difficulty becomes, when you rely on others advice you’ve chatted with at the local breakfast diner, or at the grain elevator, or from the “experienced” employee that came from a larger company, it could end up costing your pocket book big!

It is easy to understand the large tractor-trailers on the road, hauling commodities from one side of these United States to the other, need CDL licenses. But what of the much smaller flatbed, ball-hitched trailers, over-state line grain haulers or RV driving weekenders?

There are two main violations to address: Operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) with no CDL and operating without the correct license class when no CDL is required.  Though each is a violation of law, there’s a big deference between them, mainly: jail time

When a non-CDL driver operates a vehicle which requires a CDL, whether the cause is ignorance, misinformation or blatant intent, the penalty is the same: a misdemeanor violation likely resulting in a custodial arrest, towing of the CMV for no less than $300 an hour to the towing company, fingerprints, mug shots and a long-lasting criminal history.

The second violation, when a non-CDL driver operates a non-CMV without the proper license class is much different. Very simply, the violation is a petty offense which alone, cannot result in jail time though can still impact the pocket book.

Some officers have discretion afforded to them by their respective departments who allow non-custodial enforcement of misdemeanor violations where a conviction could result in jail time. Others do not.

All officers however have been well educated in the art of liability mitigation, otherwise known as “C.Y.O.A.”  When an officer chooses to allow a driver to continue down the road when that driver doesn’t possess the proper license class or CDL and that same truck crashes into a family, the penalty is the same: liability for their department, their family, and themselves. It is irrelevant whether the cause was ignorance, misinformation, or blatant intent.

This aversion to liability means one thing to truck drivers found in violation: your truck likely isn’t moving!

Now, who is exempt in Illinois from having to have the proper license classification? Most likely you are not! The only people who are exempt from license classification are those who are exempt from possessing a license in the first place!

If you are required to have a license, you must have the proper license class for the vehicle you drive, regardless of whether a CDL is required.

Now, who needs a CDL? Time to get technical… drivers who operate:

  1. vehicles with a total weight or combined rated weight of 26,001 lbs or more *and* a trailer over 10,000 lbs actual or rated weight,
  2. a vehicle with a total weight or rated weight of 26,001 lbs or more,
  3. a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more people, including the driver, or
  4. a vehicle hauling hazardous materials.

If you’re using your vehicle commercially and it fits one is those above categories, you very likely need a CDL to drive that vehicle. Are there exceptions?  As with any law, ABSOLUTELY. Check back in a few weeks to learn whether you fit one of the exceptions.

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Permits In Your Pocket

Back in the day, your math teacher would tell you that you won’t always have a calculator so you better be able to find the solution in your head. Fast forward to 2015 and in your pocket is a smartphone that has the ability to do any math problem as well as instantly talk to anyone around the globe, play games and even write a blog post. Your smartphone also does one more thing – display your oversize/overweight permit to whomever needs to see it. So how did electronic permits keep up in 2015? Read on to find out…

The Illinois Department of Transportation has been using its Illinois Transportation Automated Permits (ITAP) system to permit loads up to 249,999 pounds as well as practical maximums for size. This means that of the 230,197 permits issued in 2015, 179,771, or 78 percent, were issued electronically with no human intervention. The time saved by the trucking industry is enormous, with permits being issued immediately versus within a day or two.

To add to the simplicity of the electronic permit system, many local, township and county agencies have begun using online methods to issue their permits. One company, Oxcart Permit Systems, has gone from two agencies to twenty-five providing their permits online, simplifying the process for the trucking industry. Oxcart processed more than two thousand permits in 2015 and is working to make online permitting a one-stop-shop for the trucking community.

There is no question that when a trucking company has to apply for multiple permits for one movement, this can be time consuming and costly. Some communities require in-person applications, some by fax and some communities do not require permits. Many companies have at least one person dedicated to applying for permits. When the information is easily found and applied for online, this saves time and money as well as improves efficiency.

Communities who use online permits can work together with businesses when routing these large movements. For instance, a bridge restriction from IDOT routing a load onto a local road means another permit for the company they weren’t expecting. With the online system they can easily find and apply for a permit without having to sit on the phone all day or fill out various forms and wait for a response. And the police agency that patrols those roads can instantly see the permits and know that that truck belongs on that road.

An ITEA certified truck officer can access the ITAP system to check permits before even stopping an oversize load. They can verify the validity of the permit and ensure everyone is following the rules. This keeps these loads moving with less interruption, saving money.

When a company doesn’t follow the rules, the officer can provide that information to the Illinois Department of Transportation so they know which companies are violating their rules. The officer can also save the information as evidence to bring into court.

The future is now and online permits are simplifying the process for both police and truckers. Both sides win when the information is easily available and simple to get through. Speak to those who handle permits and encourage them to go online to save time and money, and help the police better enforce permit movements with less interference. Please join the ITEA at their conference March 17, 2016 to hear more about what IDOT is doing with the permit process.

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Flick the Booger

Everybody loves an inheritance. Not that they want a loved one to die in order to receive it, but there is something to be said for one generation stewarding their money wisely so heirs can benefit from it. Some people pass along debt though, and nobody likes inheriting the problems of another. That, however, is exactly what is about to happen in northeast Indiana with a new plan for weigh-in-motion (WIM) scales. The booger, as they say, is about to get flicked.

Some call it punting, others call it passing the buck. The ITEA calls it flicking the booger. This is when one person (or group) transfers a problem from themselves onto someone else. The question isn’t whether or not its intentional. The question is how is the recipient going to deal with the problem handed off to them?

Two weeks ago the Indiana Department of Transportation announced a plan to install WIM scales along I-94 between the Illinois and Michigan state lines. These scales are able to weigh trucks at highway speeds and trigger a camera to photograph the license plates of trucks which are exceeding the weight limits.  The technology is very similar to the photo enforcement of red light and speed cameras in Illinois.

The Indiana DOT does not have authority to actually cite or fine these overweight trucks…yet. Instead they are going to mail notices to those carriers found to be heavy and inform them of their trespasses.

Even the simpletons who read this blog can see the slippery slope about to be slid down. Eventually either the DOT or the Indiana State Police will be citing these trucks for overweight. One can only believe the State of Indiana is not going to spend the money installing these scales just for the sake of public education.

Is there a private vendor who has lobbied Indiana to install their product? If so, they are not going to allow their equipment to be used for free, forever. They will soon want their cut of the proceeds.

It’s not that Indiana doesn’t have good reason to take action. This area is one of the heaviest traveled truck routes in the nation. Their roads are crumbling and a near catastrophic incident of an overweight vehicle crossing a bridge deck over I-65 was the final impetus for the DOT to take action.

The booger is about to be flicked. Whether or not the DOT is mailing gentle notices or multi thousand-dollar overweight citations, truckers will only hear “tickets”. Truck stop rumors and social media will not tell the truth, therefore truckers will begin to steer clear of this stretch of I-94, particularly if they know or suspect they might be overweight.

Where are these trucks going to go? Their destinations are not going to change, therefore they will turn to the surface streets to avoid the WIM scales. The local towns and counties will begin to absorb heavier volumes and weights of trucks on their roads. Good for the state coffers, bad for the locals. Will the state reimburse the locals for this unfunded mandate? Doubt it.

This is one of those instances where the Illinois economic mess will actually benefit the trucking industry. There is no money for such a system in Illinois, and the lack of legislative movement during this political stalemate will not afford an opportunity for a bill of such controversy to progress anyhow.

However, WIM scales are already being used in Illinois. Many of the interstate weigh stations have these scales embedded in the ramps leading up to the scale house. The truck weight inspectors can use these scales to filter out legal weight trucks and direct the overweight trucks onto the big scale for an evidentiary weigh.

The difference is the trucker already had an expectation of being weighed when he exited into the scalehouse. It’s well known overweight trucks will avoid roadside scales on surface streets, except when they are closed. These WIM scales will be open 24/7 which means permanent detour.

Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in Indiana. It is not uncommon for the successes or failures in one state to be replicated or avoided in the neighboring states.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association! Last week this blog had to focus on some of the negative outlooks moving into the new year, but now it’s time to get the glass half full! The article this week will highlight some upcoming events and initiatives of the ITEA. Calendar year 2015 was not a banner year for law enforcement, but it’s over now. Calendar year 2016 shows a lot of promise!

Training
Bad news: the State of Illinois is broke. There is no budget. Without a budget the comptroller is not authorized to pay bills. Without funding, the sixteen Mobile Team Units (MTUs) managed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board are basically shutting down. This means continuing education for police officers statewide has ground to a halt.

Good news: the ITEA does not train through an MTU, rather through the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy. The truck officer training offered by the ITEA is of the highest quality and continues on with or without a budget from the State of Illinois. In April 2016, the ITEA is hosting it’s 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement course. Now is the time to enroll!

Later in the fall of 2016, the ITEA will offer its signature 40-hour Advanced Truck Officer course. Also, during the late winter/early spring, the 8-hour ITEA Certification course will be held.

Events
For the 5th consecutive year, the ITEA will have a booth at the Mid-west Truck & Trailer Show in Peoria, IL, February 5th & 6th. Never been there? Come stop by the ITEA booth and claim your free ITEA t-shirt! Every hour on the hour the ITEA will call a volunteer out of the audience to play a game called “Truck Cop Trivia” and have a chance to win some stellar prizes. This also may be the year the ITEA pinewood derby truck takes home the checkered flag!

On March 17th, the 5th Annual ITEA Conference will be held at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Speakers from the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Secretary of State, the Specialized Carriers & Riggers Association, Oxcart Permit Systems and DuPage B.A.T.T.L.E. will be presenting. Lots of great prizes and raffles to be given away. There is room for 600 attendees. Registration is open now and costs $50 for ITEA members (be checking your email fora promo code), $75 for non-ITEA members! Truckers, attorneys and of course police officers are welcome!

Glenn Strebel Award
At the 4th Annual ITEA Conference in January 2015, the ITEA presented McHenry County Deputy Andrew Thomas with the first Glenn Strebel Award for excellence in truck enforcement during the year 2014. Nominations for the 2015 award are now open and will close February 12th, 2016. DO you know a police officer who has shown the best of what law enforcement has to offer in his or her truck enforcement duties? If so, please nominate this fine public servant for the Glenn Strebel Award by clicking HERE.

Portable Scale Recertification
Yeah, yeah, yeah…truckers hate portable scales. However, they are here to stay. Your local town with portables can either waste hundreds of dollars having scales annually recertified the expensive way, or they can do it the cheap ITEA way!

For five years, the ITEA has been multiple making runs each year to Springfield with a trailer full of portable scales to save local government (and taxpayers). This free service has saved Illinois taxpayers nearly $100,000 fulfilling an unfunded mandate, but it will end after this month…but for good reason! The ITEA will be announcing a new same-day certification plan for local police officers right here in the suburbs. Stay tuned!

501(c)(3)
Did you know the ITEA is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit? This means you can donate to the ITEA at any time with a tax-deductible contribution. Feel free to contribute and help maintain the high-level of service provided to the law enforcement, trucking and legal communities served by the Association. Contributions can be made online by clicking HERE.

Blog
The weekly articles will continue throughout the year, but will feature five new authors! Be prepared for new writing styles, new content and fresh perspectives.

2016 is going to be a great year and the ITEA is proud to partner with you all!

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2016: Open Your Wallet

Ahhhh…the excitement of a new year is here. Resolutions for personal change. Madly scribbling out the old calendar year each time you write the wrong date. The feeling summer is ages away. Most importantly new laws by the dozens take effect in Illinois. If you are trucker in Illinois, particularly if you are operating in Cook County, you have two new financial pinches to celebrate. Happy New Year! Sort of…

Time for an honest confession to satisfy the perfectionists: the new Cook County fee which will tax truckers and motorists alike technically is not a “new year” item. It actually went into effect in mid-November 2015.

What is this new Cook County fee, you ask? Court fees for cases disposed of with a “straight conviction” have now increased from $159 to $179. True, this will affect any motorist who receives a traffic citation and opts to take the conviction instead of supervision to keep it off their record. However, CDL holders are not eligible for supervision in Illinois. Oh, and by the way, the supervision fee only went up $10, so apparently it costs less to keep it off your record. Go figure.

It does not matter if a CDL holder is cited for speeding in his personal car or cited for an overweight in his semi, he is held to a higher standard.
All citations in Illinois, issued to CDL holders and regardless of disposition, are sent to the Secretary of State as convictions. This does not mean every conviction has a punitive action on the CDL status, it only means CDL holders can only receive convictions. You can read more about that HERE.

Per Illinois Supreme Court Rules, police officers have the discretion to require a trucker cited for an overweight violation to post the full fines and fees as a cash bail at roadside. That means the cost of the overweight ticket just went up $20 in Cook County, and the trucker never has to go to court. Apparently the cost of labor to deposit a copy of a ticket in a file cabinet is escalating.

The truth is the entire Cook County system of government is a financial mess, much like the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. The court system has felt the pinch, partially due to the no “ticket quota” law which came into play in 2015. Courts and police departments statewide have seen a massive drop in tickets (and associated revenues). Why? Because police administrations can no longer require officers to write tickets.

Be careful what you wish for. You are going to pay for it on one end or the other.

Instead of fees being collected from the masses to make ends meet, they now have to be spread out among the few. As lousy as this fee may sound, it’s only the insult to the statewide injury being inflicted among the truckers heading into January 2016.

Hey – no one is saying it’s okay for truckers to break the law and not be cited. The question has always been “why are punishments for truckers so disproportional compared to citations for car drivers?” Yes, overweights cause more damage to roads and that argument is answered in the fine structure established by the General Assembly.

The problem is the blatant lie told to all people of Illinois regarding how the new police bodycam legislation is funded. Who’s funding it? Truckers.

Contrary to what the press and media outlets report, it’s not an easy $5 increase on all traffic tickets. It’s a $5 increase to the multiplier used to figure the statutory surcharge for all traffic violations. If you receive a $120 speeding ticket today, baked into that number is a surcharge computed at $10 for every $40 of statutory fine. This multiplier escalates to $15 effective 1/1/16.

Does this mean the $120 speeding ticket will rise? Nope. That number is set by the Illinois Supreme Court as bail (with a conviction) for speeding. What it does mean is the surcharge increase will take a bigger bite out of the balance divided between what the courts and the enforcement agency. It has already been seen how Cook County plans to recoup that loss.

When fines are calculated in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars for overweight violations, do the surcharge math. It’s an incredible exponential leap for truckers. The industry wasn’t clamoring for police bodycams, but now they are eating the biggest piece of the pie. Check that – the consumers whom the cost will be passed onto will be eating it.

Be careful what you wish for. Rumor has it very few local police departments will even ask for the state bodycam funding due to the ridiculous rules.

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A Moneylust Christmas

Tis the season for every merchant who has hired an overpriced marketing firm on TV or radio to suggest the most pedestrian of all holiday gimmicks: a rhyming parody starting with the line “twas the night before Christmas”.  The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association would never want to be seen as a dissenter in world of yuletide conformity, so allow us to spin you a yarn.

Twas the night before Christmas. Santa was in his sleigh delivering highly incomplete truck GPS systems and overpriced electronic onboard recording devices to all the good little safety managers belonging to the American Trucking Association. Unknown to the jolly old fat man, he was behind on his lease-to-own reindeer payments from his carrier.

Apparently Mrs. Claus was not paying the bills on time. After this story she will blame the shippers. Saint Nick can’t make money (or keep kids happy) if he is sitting at the loading dock watching his hours-of-service tick away waiting, ironically, for the very swag he was delivering.

As Mr. Claus carefully navigated over towns, farmlands and urban blight, the reindeer started to falter. Gravity got the best of the situation and he landed full speed on an interstate in suburban Chicago. Thankfully he had an IPASS, so the toll would only be half of what it could be, yet still more than double that of cars.

This raised an interesting question in the mind of Santa (and the extra-territorial police officer who quickly pulled up behind him). Seeing as how neither the soon-to-be repo’d animals nor the sleigh have any axles, how exactly does the tollway calculate fees. Silly Santa, it doesn’t matter, it’s Illinois!

Here’s when things started to come unglued. Even though the interstate was not within the corporate limits of the Village of Moneylust, the police officer from said municipality took it upon himself to take enforcement action. Hey – the badge does say “State of Illinois” on it, right? Right?

Poor Santa. The list of violations was long. Longer than the list he checked twice. The same list which listed the police officer as naughty, not nice. Here’s the pedigree:

  • Speeding – even though there was no radar, the officer was able to determine the speed based upon prior knowledge and vast experience as a lawman observing reindeer/sleigh combinations.
  • Fraudulent driver’s license – unfortunately, the Secretary of State erroneously listed his name as Santa Claus instead of Kris Kringle, his given name on the driver’s license.
  • Overweight on Registration – even though the SOS wouldn’t register the sleigh because it was non-conforming as a 1st or 2nd Division vehicle, the officer knew better than the SOS. Off to the uncertified scale they went.
  • Overweight on Blade – since there is no such a law to punish heavy sleigh drivers, the Village council quickly convened and passed an ordinance mandating a $500 fine. Sucker.
  • Fleeing and Eluding – after exiting his sleigh, Santa’s pants fell down, so he quickly bent over to pick them up. At this point, the officer felt he was trying to create a diversion while devising a plan to run. “Crime attempted,” he mused, “equals crime committed.”
  • No medical card – well, anyone as robust as Santa could not pass a medical exam. Duh. Who needs the Illinois State Police and their exclusive authority anyhow?
  • No company name on side of sleigh – Is that a wrench in your sleigh Santa? Obviously, he was a construction sub-contractor. There had been dozens of “reports” of fat men in red suits burgling the town in recent months, all whom had wrenches and sleighs.
  • DWI – apparently Santa consumed a little eggnog and some magic dust a few weeks prior to Christmas, just to get the party started. He gave some to the reindeer, then a little bit more for Santa Claus (and a little bit more for Santa Claus). Although he passed the tests (contrary to the reports) and there were no signs of impairment, he was dragged to the hospital for a blood and urine specimen, which he refused. Easy $500 admin tow fee.

With a slam dunk case like this, even a judge as merry as Bing Crosby tap-dancing with Danny Kaye could never dump these charges against the big man. However, there was an independent video seized by the assistant state’s attorney.

And to all a good night.

EOBRs: The Unfunded Mandate

There’s nothing quite like working hard for your money, saving and getting to a secure place in your finances. The reality is most Americans don’t ever reach this goal because each time an increase is gained, an unexpected hand reaches into their pocket. When the bigger fish takes a monetary bite out of a smaller fish, it hurts. Guess what? On December 10th, 2015 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did just that to owner-operators nationwide with the new electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) rule.  It’s called an unfunded mandate.

What’s an unfunded mandate? Unfunded mandates are when a higher level of government uses regulatory or legislative powers to force a lower body of government (or in this case private industry) to spend money on something they would not do electively.

This is quite common in the battle between state and local government. As the State of Illinois is being dragged into the abyss of insolvency hell, the legislature continually mandates local government to perform certain tasks. Buy this special equipment, establish this protocol, implement that policy, etc. However, in all its wisdom, the State of Illinois does not provide funding to local government for many of these directives.

Most recently this can be seen with the new bodycam program in Illinois. The truckers are footing the biggest portion of the bill for the initiative and there is no guarantee any local police departments are going to take advantage of it. Why?  Because it’s an unfunded mandate.

Oh sure, the body cams are “free”, but the State has an encyclopedia of rules which must be followed. One is data storage and retention. Get your cameras on the trucker’s arm, but spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to store tens of thousands of hours of video. “No thanks” has been the general reply from most local law enforcement leaders, many of whom are not opposed to bodycams per se.

The list of unfunded mandates dumped on local governments from the state and federal governments is long. Unfortunately, private enterprise is not immune.

Let’s be perfectly clear: no one is promoting unsafe truck driving. One of the deadliest forms of trucking is the fatigued driver. Driver’s exceeding their hours-of-service is the number one reason drivers are placed out of service and a leading cause of highway fatalities. For decades, truckers and law enforcement have played a cat-and-mouse game with paper log books.

With EOBRs comes the faulty promise of technology thwarting the trucker who cheats on his hours. Computers are amazing tools, but require very specific, linear instruction. The creative trucker can manipulate even the most sophisticated EOBR. Please put the argument to rest that EOBRs are somehow going to hold truckers more accountable. The same truckers who cheat on their paper logs are going to find end-runs around EOBRs too. Wait, they already have.

Come December 11th, 2017 all interstate carriers operating trucks manufactured in the year 2000 or later will be required to use an EOBR to track their hours. Great for the mega-carriers of nation who can afford these devices and already are using them. Bad for the owner-operator who has to spend several thousand dollars to purchase and install this device in their tractor.

Are there advantages to EOBRs? For sure. Not everything is bad about them. There are probably some owner-operators out there who are successfully using them on their own accord just like the mega-carriers.

Please, call a spade a spade. Since the deregulation of trucking, large fleets have worked endlessly to push out the owner-operators because they cut in on their business. What better way to cripple them than by forcing an unfunded mandate down their throats?

Time will tell, but EOBRs may very well prove to be less safe than our federal government is predicting. It’s well documented that large carriers have routinely forced drivers to continue driving when the driver knows they should rest. In the eyes of management, if there are eleven hours in a driver’s day, better use them all for the company! EOBRs make that micro-management possible in real time. How is that making the highways safer? It’s not.

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Cry Two Tears in Two Buckets

There’s a reason things come in twos. Without a second wheel on a bicycle, balance is quite difficult. Steering and shifting gears in a truck is a lot easier with two hands. What’s not good in pairs is two buckets accompanying an excavator being hauled on the authority of an oversize/overweight permit. The article this week will explain why this often misunderstood law creates an expensive problem for heavy haulers.

Understanding the concept of a divisible load requires one to first understand why permits are necessary in the first place. The Illinois General Assembly has set maximums for size and weight in Illinois. Like it or hate it, it’s what the elected leadership of this state have ruled, and it is illegal to exceed these limits.

However, there are objects or vehicles traveling on the highways which are too heavy, too wide, too tall or too long to conform to legal limits. They just cannot be made any smaller. The legislature has recognized this problem and has accommodated these loads through the issuance of oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits.

The second concept to understand is the limitation of the OS/OW permit. The purpose of a permit is not to create a new artificial maximum size or weight which can be filled in with multiple objects above legal. Multiple objects can sometimes be carried on vehicles with permits for dimension only (a topic for another article), but multiple objects for overweight loads are a no-no.

For instance, the legal gross weight for a 6-axle lowboy combination with a wheelbase of 67’ is 80,000 pounds. The driver loads an excavator on the trailer bringing the gross weight to 83,000 pounds. Just to be safe, the driver wisely applies for a permit for 88,000 pounds to cover the entire gross weight.

The purpose of the overweight permit is to allow the minimum amount of excess weight necessary, not to pile on more and more. This is why divisibility is so important.

If you have your trucker hat on, of course you think it’s ridiculous that an extra excavator bucket really makes that big of a difference. Maybe so, but that’s not what the law says. A quick survey of some equipment operators quickly determined no excavator can operate with two buckets simultaneously.

If two buckets are okay, where does it end? At what point does “enough is enough” take hold? A driver could load the trailer with extra equipment like a trenchbox, a stone-miser and road plates and continually push the vehicle unnecessarily overweight.

The legislature decided to avoid the moving target of what is “reasonable” and say only the bare minimum can be loaded when maximum weight is exceeded. Extra objects are considered divisible, and under statute, a divisible load voids a permit. This knocks the vehicle back to legal weights and any excess weight can be cited.

This is not a mere “violation of a permit”. The statute is clear in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a) that a weight permit is void if found to be divisible. Some attorneys over the years have unsuccessfully argued a divisible load is only a violation of a permit under 625 ILCS 5/15-301(j). What they fail to understand is 15-301(j) applies to valid permits, not void permits.

There’s a converse myth which needs dispelling as well. A few misinformed police officers recently have imagined a new divisibility interpretation by saying a single excavator bucket, securely mounted to the excavator using a “quick couple” is considered divisible. This is absolute nonsense.

An excavator without a bucket is not an excavator. It most certainly can be hauled with one bucket (not two) securely mounted on the machine. Whether this is through a quick-couple device or a pin is irrelevant. The issue is if the bucket is secure. If the quick-couple bucket can lift 5 tons of dirt and load it into a truck without falling off, it is most certainly securely mounted while in transit.

Two bucket loads are an easy mark for the trained truck officer. Hiding it between the tracks, curling it up in the attached bucket or chaining it down on the deck will most certainly result in a trip to the scales.

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