Sign & Drive

There’s comes a day when all seems right with the world. Okay, maybe not, but in the midst of national turmoil, political unrest and ambiguity regarding Taylor Swift as a pop diva or country music darling, Illinois has something good going for it. Yeah, that’s right, Illinois has done something GOOD. It’s called Sign & Drive, and it has been a long time coming. But guess what else? It might not be as great for truckers as one may think.

Here’s some background. Every time someone breaks the law in Illinois, they have committed a crime, even if it’s just a traffic violations. On a human scale of severity, most traffic crime pales in comparison to other crimes against persons or property. Since most traffic violations do not require custodial arrest, it’s easy to pile them in the closet of forgotten offenses.

When crimes are committed in Illinois, bail must be posted. Some call it bond, some call it bail. Find a couple lawyers with no clientele and let them argue the merits of the two words. For all practical purposes, they are 99% interchangeable.

In the Land of Lincoln, the Illinois Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all things bail. Available on the internet is a series of documents called the Supreme Court Rules. Article V of the rules spells out bail procedures for traffic and misdemeanor offenses. This is the proverbial who, what, when, where, how of bail procedure. It is not without purpose, but reading Article V is not for the faint of heart either. It is a complex, rabbit trail document.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly sometimes trespasses upon the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches of government. In this case, the vast majority of Illinois motorists will appreciate the conflict setup by Public Act 98-0870. A student of the Illinois Vehicle Code and Article V will quickly see that legislative mandate is not always answered by the judiciary.

This leaves police departments, circuit clerks and the Secretary of State in limbo over how to process violations. Whose word takes precedence? It’s not unreasonable to say “it shouldn’t be this hard”, but the reality is, it is.

Per the General Assembly, when this new law goes into effect on January 1st, 2015, Illinois drivers cited for certain petty offenses will no longer have to post their driver’s licenses, a bond card or $120 cash as bail. This archaic procedure is almost entirely unique to Illinois for basic traffic violations like speeding, seatbelts, red lights and stop signs.

The real consternation for Illinois drivers is that 44 of the other 50 states in the Union (including Illinois) are part of an interstate compact. This compact allows a speeding driver from Iowa to not have to post bail for his crime…he can leave after signing the ticket. However, our own Illinois residents has to cough up money or their driver’s license.

There is a catch in this law though. While it may seem that all tickets which do not require a custodial arrest are eligible for Sign & Drive, this is not true. The General Assembly, in a less than easily understandable way, deferred some authority back to the Supreme Court.

First, the law says that when the Illinois Supreme Court requires an Illinois driver to sign the citation, he may sign it and go. The Rules, however, never provide an Illinois driver to sign and drive! The Rules require all Illinois drivers to post bail.

Second, the law says that whenever the Supreme Court has an assigned bail, the Supreme Court Rule takes precedent. What this means is, generally speaking, everything which is not the typical $120 bail for a petty offense, such as no insurance ($2000/10% or driver’s license), misdemeanor traffic violations ($1500/10%) or overweights have to post bail in the traditional manner.

As it pertains to trucks, if a driver receives an overweight on either a Chapter 15 violation (gross/axle/bridge formula/elevated structure/permit) or a Chapter 3 overweight (registration), the full fine must be posted as bail. Not having a CDL when required is a misdemeanor, so the bail still remains $1500/10%. This is because the Supreme Court has deferred authority from the legislature.

Some truck violations by Illinois truckers like oversize (length/width/height) violations, violation of classification, a violation of permit, or IFTA violations would qualify for Sign & Drive. A court date, or a higher fine than $120 may be required, but the signature is all that is needed for bail.

The devil is always in the details, and many details still need to be fixed. To make this law clear requires a statutory amendment by the legislature and a rule change by the Article V committee of the Supreme Court. Rest assured, the ITEA is already working on both.

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What’s So Gross About Ratings?

Let’s play a game of word association. We’ll say a word that has to do with trucks, you respond with the first word that comes to your mind. Ready? Driver’s, LICENSE. Good work! Let’s try another: semi, TRAILER. Excellent. One more: Gross Vehicle, WEIGHT? WEIGHT RATING? That’s right. Gross vehicle weight and gross vehicle weight rating may only differ by one word, but the two totally separate things. When they are misinterpreted by policemen and truckers alike, expensive enforcement happens.

To make reading this article easier, the terms GVW and GVWR will be used. That “R” makes all the difference in the world. GVWR exclusively stands for what the vehicle manufacturer says the maximum loaded weight of the vehicle is. This definition is found in 625 ILCS 5/1-124.5 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC). When it comes to truck enforcement in Illinois, GVWR has only a couple useful purposes.

First, it is the primary criteria for driver’s license classification, which is enforceable by all sworn police officers in the State. Second, it is a qualification standard for the Illinois State Police to use in determining which vehicles are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Lastly, the article last week discussed a new law where in a very limited situation, GVWR can be used for weight enforcement.

That’s it. Done. The cousin term GVW is used in many places in the law. Sometimes it is under the acronym, other times it is spelled out as “gross vehicle weight”. Its official definition is found in 625 ILCS 5/1-125. Gross vehicle weight is the actual weight of the vehicle(s) and the load when it’s on the scale.

That’s it. Done. No crossing the streams. Two terms. Similar in text, completely different in definition and application. However, there are a couple myths out there which need to be clarified.

Myth #1: The law, and the Secretary of State, require a vehicle’s registered weight to cover the GVWR.

This is entirely false. Anyone who believes the contrary is welcome to produce a single shred of authoritative evidence. Oh wait, the ITEA has in its possession a document from the SOS dispelling this hogwash. You can read it HERE. It is handed out at the SOS registration facilities solely to combat this rumor.

Could an SOS worker be misinformed about this topic? Of course! Everyone makes mistakes. That is a far cry different than taking costly enforcement action against a driver with an overweight on registration citation. Using the error of a regulatory official as grounds to continue abrogating the law never acceptable.

Registration is a tax. It’s a free country, and you are welcome to pay as much or as little tax as you want. Buy too little? You pay the overweight fine. Buy too much? Thanks for the donation to State coffers.

Myth #2: A police officer can issue an overweight citation when the manufacturers GVWR exceeds the maximum registered weight.

Rubbish. The law NEVER says this. While it is advisable that an owner purchase enough registration to cover the GVWR, it is not required. The sister myth to this one is that when this scenario occurs, the police officer does not have to even weigh the truck!

The rationale is this: if the truck has a manufacturers GVWR of 11,500, and it is registered with an 8,000 pound B-truck plate, it is 3,500 pounds overweight on registration. Why would a police officer need to weigh that? Why? Because any overweight ticket, lawful or unlawful, statutorily requires the police officer to put the vehicle on a scale. Read more about that topic HERE.

These myths occur primarily because of selective reading. In 625 ILCS 5/3-815, the legislature demands that flat weight registration be based on “gross weight” in pounds. It never says gross vehicle weight “rating”. Unfortunately, many police officers have chosen to play the “it seems to me” interpretation game and extrapolate the very clear intent of the General Assembly.

Every time a police officer takes this wrong enforcement method, the myth spreads. The intent of the officer is irrelevant. It could be moneylust. It could be poor training. It could be a senior officer or supervisor who has believed the hype.

Any which way, it needs to stop.

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False Security

In simpler times, before the dawn of cable TV, high resolution video games and the internet, children around the nation were entertained by the Peanuts cartoon. Simple story lines, simple animation. One of the more peculiar characters was Linus. Although he was a boy genius, he still walked around with a security blanket. Sometimes laws are like security blankets, but there is nothing fun about learning the hard way how a law really didn’t protect you the way it was intended. On January 1st, 2015, one such law goes into effect for the trucking industry.

Public Act 98-0942 was signed into law by Governor Quinn on 15 August 2014. The intent was clear: give trucks who are doing emergency sewer repair work for a municipality higher weight limits. Not a bad idea, as the more trucks it takes to haul for a job, the bigger the bill is to the taxpayers.

What actually became the law, however, is legal swiss cheese. Intent? Noble. Execution? Poor. The article this week will show why. The hope is that the law will soon be amended to fix the problems, Until that the time, we encourage police officers to use great discretion when enforcing it after it goes into effect. Now for a systematic dissection of the law.

Sewers
Not all underground utility work involving pipes is sewer work. Many times it is broken water mains. This law exclusively exempts sewer repair work only.

Municipalities
By reading the law, it gives the appearance that sewers belong only to municipalities. This is not true. Depending on the system, the underground utility may belong to a county, township or even park district. These are all units of local government, and trucks servicing them are not covered by the exemptions. Unfortunately, people sometimes only like to hear the part of the law they want to hear. Truckers will invariably believe that there is an exemption for ALL municipal work, which is obviously not the case.

Emergencies
The weight exemptions only apply to “emergency” sewer work. There is no definition of what constitutes an emergency. While a reasonable police officer should be using great discretion before writing overweight tickets to trucks servicing a municipality during any emergency, the interpretations door is wide open. Many times “urgency” and “emergency” are confused. Vague words yield interpretive enforcement which yields big problems.

GVWR
For the first time in Illinois legislation, the manufacturers GVWR may be used to enforce an actual overweight violation. While GVWR has been rumored as an overweight criteria amongst industry for years, this was never the case. Unfortunately, some police officers even enforced it as such. Under this law, a small window of GVWR enforcement has been opened.  Much like the selective reading by truckers in the paragraph above regarding the municipal scope of this law, police officers will begin to unlawfully apply GVWR in other areas of weight enforcement.

Gross Weight
Under this law, qualifying trucks (of the 3 or 4 axle variety) are allowed 66,000 pounds gross weight (on the scale), or the GVWR, whichever is LESS. That’s easy enough to understand, but the law does not specify what the maximum axle weights should be. In the many other exemptions to 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a), both maximum gross and axle weights are listed. It is safe to say that a 3-axle truck, loaded to the legal 66,000 lbs, will exceed single axle (20,000 lbs) and tandem axle (34,000 lbs) weights. Yikes.

County Lines
The extra weight exemption only applies to Cook, Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will counties. Does this mean if a truck expecting the exempted weight drives through a non-listed county, whether inbound or outbound, it does not receive the extra gross weight? Materials for the emergency work may have to be purchased outside the geographic region and hauled in. Spoils may have to be hauled to a location outside the geographic region for disposal.

Protected Roads
Like many other weight exceptions to the Federal Bridge Formula (garbage trucks, cement mixers), the extra weight is not allowed on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Fair enough. But the law goes on to prohibit trucks operating under this exemption from crossing other “bridges or elevated structures”. Does this mean all bridges or elevated structures, or only those defined in 15-111(e) and (f) which are posted? If a qualifying vehicle crosses an unmarked box culvert with a creek running through it, does that knock the truck back to legal weights?

The unfortunate consequence is there are going to be truckers loading heavy under the security of this law, only to be stopped, weighed and cited for some pretty hefty overweight fines. Valuable work time will be spent at roadside when police officers will be calling to verify “emergency” work. Valuable time and finances will be spent challenging the cases in court, with no certainty of outcome.

Even Linus could have seen this coming.

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Cluck Cluck Turkey Truck

There’s two invariable truths to which a person must acquiesce when studying the trucking industry. First, the industry has an unprecedented obsession with fowl. Chicken trucks, chicken lights, chicken coops, rooster cruisers…it goes on and on. Secondly, around Thanksgiving, the trucking industry lights up social media with pictures of trucks hauling live turkeys, just to prove they make the holiday happen! The ITEA agrees. As the ITEA passes the5th anniversary milestone this holiday season, it is important to look back on reflect on the impetus for the ITEA. We are thankful for a lot of things.

To get a true appreciation of our gratefulness, dial the clock back to November 18th, 2009. Although the ITEA was officially launched to the public on January 1st, 2010, this date in November was the first official meeting of the original ten members. It was here the foundation was poured.

At that time, Illinois truck enforcement was in chaos. An 11th hour legislative change drastically changed truck weight laws in Illinois. While the intent was noble and long-deserved to bring Illinois into compliance with the other 47 lower states, the delivery was awful.

Local government was blindsided. An unfunded mandate of heavier trucks was thrust upon the roads they are responsible for maintaining, without compensation. The rewrite (later rewritten) was less than comprehensive as gaping holes and contradictions were legislated. So-called truck enforcement “trainers” were teaching local police officers incorrect application of the new law leading up to the effective date on New Year’s Day. The disparity among police officers in correct interpretation and enforcement methodology was at an all-time high.

Enough. Many other specialty areas of law enforcement had associations representing their craft, and the time was ripe to do this for truck enforcement world. We needed uniformity among our own. We needed to work together with industry and the legal community.

The group came up with the six foundational statements. First version by-laws were scratched out. Everyone threw in $25 (for a grand total of $250) to buy domain names, launch a very basic website and hire a local attorney to file organizational documents.

Would anyone join? Would industry welcome our efforts? Would the state regulatory agencies acknowledge our existence? Could we really walk the delicate fine line of representing enforcement, industry and the legal community at the same time? It was a gamble, but it’s worked.

We are thankful for the 400+ police officer members representing nearly 175 agencies across Illinois. It is not an easy thing to police the police. The humble and professional demeanor of our officers, especially the ITEA certified ones, is incredible.

We are thankful for the 100+ trucking company and carrier members who have joined our ranks. The further we walk with the industry the greater our knowledge and compassion grows. We have seen strong anti-enforcement truckers/owners become some of the biggest truck enforcement supporters.

We are thankful for the dozen attorneys and law firms who are ITEA members. Without informed legal counsel, bad enforcement prospers. Without proper education, uninformed attorneys make unnecessary trouble for enforcement.

We are thankful for the leadership of the State regulatory agencies who oversee their world of trucking authority. The Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Secretary of State and others have graciously welcomed the ITEA. They have resourced our every move. In a culture where the public casts a suspicious eye on all things Illinois state government, the ITEA has had the privilege to work with quality leaders. Leaders who do their duty to protect the public and infrastructure, yet have a heart to see the trucking industry proper as well.

We are thankful for our partner industry associations who have shown the ITEA unparalleled support. There is no doubt, and with great reason, for them to have looked at the ITEA with trepidation in the beginning. They now invite the ITEA to speak and participate at their events. They defer local enforcement issues to the ITEA. They have welcomed the ITEA into their ranks. Here’s a special shout-out to Mid-west Truckers, the Professional Towing & Recovery Operators of Illinois, Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, Illinois Trucking Association, Illinois Landscape Contractors Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau…thank you.

In January, the ITEA will begin distributing special 5-year challenge coins to those members who have crossed that milestone. We are thankful, and look forward to big things in 2015 and another five years serving you.

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Electronic Display of Permits

It’s a small world, right? What a person who travels quickly learns is that its pretty much the same everywhere you go…just little differences here and there. There’s a local flavor to everything. Even though truck laws are uniform throughout Illinois, sometimes how they are applied varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and that does not make them wrong. Just different. The article this week will look at what the term “written form” means when it comes to oversize/overweight permits, because interpretations vary.

Oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits are crucial to lawful operation of big loads. When a carrier wishes to exceed maximum size and weight limits, as set by statute, a special permit must be obtained. In reality, an OS/OW permit is a legal document which authorizes a vehicle to lawfully break the law.

It’s a big deal, because when a vehicle has  not obtained a permit when required, the fines can be astonishing. The authority for the State and local government to issue a permit is found in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. In 15-301(f), it states:

“Every permit shall be in written form…”

First, notice the term “shall”. It does not say “may”, “could” or “should”. It is a command. The ITEA wrote an article about this a couple years ago…you can read it HERE.

Secondly, notice the term “written form”. It does not say “verbal permission”. No unit of local government has the authority to authorize an OS/OW vehicle to operate on a public highway with verbal permission. It is unlawful and it sets the carrier up for failure. Verbal permission does not protect the industry.

As difficult as it may be to obtain local permits, no carrier should ever move OS/OW on verbal permission. At the end of the day, there will be a policeman, a set of scales and a ticket book because the verbal permission granted by an uneducated city worker will be forgotten. It is not worth it.

The debate occurs when interpreting what “written form” means. In days gone by, before the dawn of portable electronic devices, written form unanimously meant “paper”. However, in today’s world, electronic copy is readily accepted as a valid form of documentation in most arenas.

In 2012, the Illinois Department of Transportation reissued its Policy Manual which specifically included electronic display of permits as legitimate. There was one condition though: whatever device displaying the electronic permit must be able to be inspected by law enforcement. Why? Because the law says so in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(f):

“…shall be open to inspection by any police officer…”

Notice that the rule allowing for electronic display of permits is in the IDOT permit manual and the OPER 993 form. What this means is that the rule is only valid on State highways which are permitted under the authority of IDOT. Therefore, the rule does not apply on highways under the permit authority of a local government.

While the ITEA encourages all local government to model the permit policies of IDOT, they are not required to. As a matter of fact, the ITEA has a Standard of Practice requiring member police officers to honor the IDOT permit rules, on IDOT highways, every time. While it may seem like a simple request for local towns to allow electronic display of their local permits, there is more to the issue which must be considered.

Compare electronic display of OS/OW permits to electronic display of insurance cards. In 2013, the Illinois General Assembly authorized electronic display of insurance cards in PA 98-0521, but with a caveat. If a motorist hands a cellular phone, tablet or electronic device to the police officer, and the police officer drops said device, he is not liable for the damage.

As the law stands today, it provides no such protection for police officers inspecting an OS/OW permit. If you are a naysayer who thinks a broken smartphone or tablet dropped by a police officer isn’t a big deal, you don’t understand local government.

It’s a broken iPhone, dropped by a well-meaning police officer, which results in angry phone calls, meetings and eventually payment. The little things always make the most waves. No policeman wants to be sitting in the Chief’s office explaining why he has to now pay out $500-$600 he has butterfingers. The law does not authorize or protect the officer in this regard.

Maybe the time has come for Illinois to change the law. It would be good for industry, and with the right protections, good for law enforcement too.

4th Annual ITEA Conference – #ProtectTheIndustry

A ridiculous stereotype portrayed by the media is the rogue “Dirty Harry” policeman persona. After shooting a victim, police officers do not stand on a suspect’s throat to mete out revenge. Once a threat has ceased, the police officer must do everything he can to save the life of the person he just shot. His duty and responsibility has just done a 180. On January 7th, 2015, the ITEA is hosting its 4th Annual Conference to show how and why the police should use their enforcement authority to protect the trucking industry.

It’s only fair for the carriers and companies who play by the rules to know law enforcement is seeking out those who undercut legitimate business. Being a “good company” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for inerrant law breaking, but the expectation for truck enforcement officers to protect them is reasonable.

This means choosing not to use enforcement tactics which exceed the authority of a police officer, even if the carrier deserves it. It means professionally addressing erroneous methodologies and tactics. It means choosing to stand up and do the right thing no matter what. Every time.

The theme for the conference this year is #ProtectTheIndustry. It’s a hashtag the ITEA will be using on social media for the next two months (by the way, it’s also the promotional code discount for our CMV interdiction class December 15-17, 2014…be there!).

What better symbol of police protection is there than a pistol? It has been customary at our conferences in the past to have charity raffles for different electronics and other items…and it will continue! The grand prize this year will be a firearm. What kind? Guess you will need to come and see for yourself!

Also new this year will be the presentation of the first Glenn Strebel award. You can read more about the award by clicking HERE. This recipient is not the officer who wrote the biggest overweight fine. It is not the officer who wrote the most overweight citations. It is the officer who used his enforcement authority to protect the industry.

There will be donuts and coffee in the morning, and lunch provided later in the day. In between is a roster of speakers who set themselves apart in both law enforcement and trucking.

Sergeant Lance Bonney | Illinois State Police
Sgt. Bonney currently serves as the ISP Deputy Chief of Staff and is one of the lead CVSA instructors for Illinois. In 2015, there are several new and complex laws coming which will impact truck enforcement efforts. Sgt. Bonney will be going through these laws in detail and their appropriate application on the street.

Hope Rivenburg | Jason’s Law
In 2009, Hope’s husband Jason was murdered in his semi. Her amazing journey from grief to lobbying Congress for millions of dollars to provide safe truck parking. Money which is available to local government.

Geno Koehler | Illinois Department of Transportation
Geno has been employed by IDOT for nearly 30 years and has served in many different roles including emergency management and now as the Permit Chief. Geno has overseen the implementation of ITAP since its inception 2013. There are big updates in the works and Geno will be going over them.

Katie Herriott | World’s Largest Truck Convoy, Special Olympics Illinois
For the last ten years, Special Olympics has brought the World’s Largest Truck Convoy to Illinois to benefit Special Olympics. There is no other benevolent event in Illinois which brings both the trucking industry and law enforcement together for a great cause. Come hear the plans to make the convoy an even bigger event in 2015, and how the ITEA is helping.

Ray Herndon | Diamondback Specialized CMV Training
This past January, Ray was unable to speak at our conference due to a last minute federal subpeona, but he will be back this January! As a career interdiction officer, and a career owner of a trucking company, Ray brings a unique perspective to commercial vehicle interdiction. You do not want to miss his 3-day class this December in Carol Stream, and you do not want to miss this presentation.

It’s going to be a great day packed with a lot of food, fun and critical information. The conference is open to all law enforcement and trucking industry professionals at the full rate of $75. If you are a member of the ITEA or a select group of trucking associations, the conference is discounted to $50. Register now by contacting the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at 630-942-6277.

The Ceiling is the Limit

Have you ever thought about a word and wondered who made it up and why? The word “ceiling” is one of those nouns. It means all kinds of things. It is the limit of someone’s patience before they blow up. It is what finishes the top of an interior room. It is also the limit of what someone has to, or will choose to, pay for a specific good. In truck enforcement world, the term “ceiling” gets tossed around when it comes to how fines for overweight on registration are calculated. This week the article will talk about why the term “ceiling” is such an important topic.

In order to understand the fine ceilings on registration overweights, three myths need to be dispelled.

Myth #1 – Compulsory amounts of registered weight
The owner of a truck is welcome to purchase whatever amount of registered weight he chooses. If he wants to spend $3191 (plus the federal heavy vehicle use tax) to register his F150 pickup with an 80,000 Z-truck plate, he can most certainly do that. If he only wants to spend $101 to register his 3-axle Peterbilt semi-tractor with 8,000 pound B-plates, he is more than welcome to do that as well!

Registration is a tax, plain and simple. Feel free to pay too much or too little, but the choice (and consequences) are yours.

Myth #2 – GVWR mandates registered weight
Registration has nothing to do with the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. NOTHING. While truck owners are encouraged to purchase enough registration to cover their GVWR, it is not required. Any person who tells you otherwise (or a police officer who dares write an overweight citation for it) is completely wrong.

Myth #3 – There is a singular ceiling fine chart
There are two ways a truck can be overweight on registration. First, if the vehicle has no registration, or the registration is expired, it is overweight. Secondly, if the registration is valid, and the vehicle exceeds the maximum registered weight, it is also overweight. The issue of a “ceiling” for overweight on registration fines applies in both cases.

In 2010, the ITEA, the Illinois State Police and several other organizations worked to have a piece of legislation passed which capped the fine amounts for overweight on registration. The statutory term “appropriate registration” was born from this bill.

If a truck has no registration at all, or it is expired, the police officer must weigh the vehicle in order to issue an overweight citation. Say the total gross weight is 35,750 pounds. If the police officer writes the citation using the overweight bond chart in found in 625 ILCS 5/15-113, the fine would be $10,800!

In these cases, the police officer must use the cost of the “appropriate registration” to calculate the fine. If the owner had simply purchased an L-truck plate (36,000 pounds), the total cost would be $1123. There is a ceiling to the fine amount.

Here’s another scenario. A truck with valid Illinois T-truck plates (64,000 pounds), is stopped and weighed with a gross weight of 69,500. To charge the driver for the cost of “appropriate registration”, in this case a V-truck plate (73,280 pounds), the fine would be $2624. The police officer is mandated to compare the cost of appropriate registration to the fine chart in Chapter 15. In this instance, the fine for being 5,500 pounds overweight, would be $1650. The officer must use this lower fine. That is the ceiling.

For years, police officers were instructed that calculating fines based on the cost of registration (625 ILCS 5/3-815) was the “ceiling” chart. The reality is there is no legal term in the Illinois Vehicle Code for “ceiling”. To dogmatically say the Chapter 3 registration fine chart is the “ceiling chart” misleads police officers to believe they should always use that fine structure instead of correctly choosing to use the lower of the two charts. This is why the term “appropriate registration” is a better way to describe the correct method for calculating overweight on registration fines.

Have you reached your mental registration ceiling yet?

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Be Careful Little Signs What You Post

Words mean everything. Our vocabulary is the most compelling form of communication. What/when/how we say the things can encourage, tear down, bring harmony or cause dissension. This is no different in truck world. How local government communicates to the trucking industry can help them do their job in compliance with the law, or can set up them up for failure. The article this week will show an example of a flawed way local government communicated to the trucking industry.

Imagine this. You are a truck driver tooling down an Illinois state highway to deliver a dry van full of goods. The GPS shows you need to make a right turn up ahead on a 2-lane local road. Once you arrive at the intersection, you see a sign like this:

Class2truck

The conscientious trucker quickly determines it is probably best to pull over and find out what the heck the sign means. It’s always a wise move to call the police and get the right answer before moving down a restricted road only to receive an expensive ticket.

Illinois is divided into two types of highways…designated and non-designated. Prior to 2010, each of these roads had different maximums for weight, width and length. Starting in 2010, width and weight became uniform statewide, leaving only length to have a separate definition for designated and non-designated highways.

Within the definition of a designated highway, there are three classes: Class I, Class II and Class III. Class I highways are typically the interstates and toll roads. Class II highways are commonly found on 4-lane arterial and collector highways. Class III highways are going by way of the dinosaur.

The sign in question was erected on a local suburban Chicago street. The local road intersects a Class II state highway. The intention of the sign was good, however, the delivery is a failure.

Because local government has the authority to restrict commercial vehicles on their highways, this sign was meant to keep trucks on Class II highways off their local road. Trucks which used to have higher weight, width and length limits on Class II highways compared to their local road.

But that is not what the sign says. If the goal was to keep bigger and heavier trucks off local roads, the signs needs to more effectively communicate the intention of the local government.

Why? Because there is no legal definition of a “Class II Truck”. The class of highway does not define the truck, it only tells what the maximum legal limits on a road is. Any truck under the maximums of a particular class of highway may operate lawfully on such road. Some trucks may be so far under the maximums of a Class II highway it would be legal on the very local road the sign is intending to restrict!

There is a definition of a “Class II” truck, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Class II highways. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) divides all trucks into eight different classes based on the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). A truck with a GVWR between 6,001 pounds and 10,000 pounds is considered a Class 2 truck.

So, does this sign mean Ford F250’s and Dodge Ram 2500’s cannot access this local road? Of course not. But is it plausible that a truck driver, looking at this sign from the perspective of his industry, could come to that determination? And because his truck does not meet the FHWA definition of a Class 2 truck, might he make a quick decision, turn, and get stopped by the police for violation? You better believe it.

In 2013, the ITEA held a contest for it’s members to submit pictures of signs which restrict trucks on local roads. The results were astonishing!

Over 130 different signs were discovered. You can view four short (1:00 minute) videos documenting many of them on the ITEA YouTube channel. The town singled out in this article is just an example. There are multitudes of local government with poorly communicated signs.

Since the law gives no guidance on how to post restriction signs, it is anyone’s guess as to the best way to accomplish the task in an equitable and effective manner.

Maybe ths sign was only meant to deter. If so, it probably isn’t working. Or maybe the sign was meant as the fair warning pre-citation. If so, it really isn’t very fair.

Either way, local government needs to carefully choose how to sign their local restrictions.

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This Road is My Road, That Road is Your Road

Have you ever had responsibilities in your job when some co-worker comes along and steps on your toes? It’s aggravating. If the co-worker did it on purpose just to irritate you, shame on them. If they did it with good intentions, maybe you show some mercy. Regardless, you will end up having to spend time cleaning up their mess. This happens all too frequently with oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits in Illinois, and when it does, the carrier is one left holding proverbial moneybag.

The issue is road authority, which is a convoluted and complicated mess in Illinois. Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be! When it comes to determine road authority and who is responsible to issue OS/OW permits for a particular highway, the two key words to consider are “maintenance” and “jurisdiction”.

Does maintenance mean who owns the road, or who plows the snow on the road? Does jurisdiction mean which police agency handles the crash reports on the road, or whose corporate boundaries the roadway falls within?

There are two key phrases in the Illinois Vehicle Code, both found in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a):

“The Department (IDOT) with respect to highways under its jurisdiction and local authorities with respect to highways under their jurisdiction…” and,

“upon any highway under the jurisdiction of the party granting such permit and for the maintenance of which the party is responsible.”

Even though the language of the law is muddy, the truth is not. There are five different road authorities in Illinois, and who owns the road is the one with authority to issue OS/OW permit for it:
1.   Illinois Department of Transportation
2.   Illinois Tollway Authority
3.   County Roads
4.   Township Roads
5.   Other Local Roads (City/Village/Colleges/Park Districts)

Any of these entities may have public highways under their jurisdiction, and if an OS/OW vehicle needs to travel upon it, it is their responsibility to issue the permits. That’s the end of the conversation.

Except it’s not. As always, there are exceptions to the law. For instance, if two governments enter into a Memo of Understanding (MOU) or an intergovernmental agreement to have one authority permit the road owned by the other, it is entirely lawful. This scenario is becoming more common in Illinois with townships having their county government manage their permits.

A second aberration is…wait for it, wait for it…the City of Chicago. In Section 554.313(A) of the IDOT permit manual (which is the Administrative Code, carrying the full force of law), permission is given to the City of Chicago to require permits for roads owned by IDOT which are within the corporate limits of Chicago. This means the specialized transportation industry must pull two separate permits to move down the same road, even though the Appellate Court found this practice unlawful in Catom v Chicago.

Unfortunately, too many times local government hears rumor of what is going on in Chicago and will require local permits for the State highways within their corporate limits. Or, they assume that because they plow snow on a state, county or township highway under contract, that this gives them permit authority.

Wrong. Permit authority over a road owned by another is only granted when the proper legal agreements are written out specifically for permitting. A town may plow the snow, plant the flowers, write speeding tickets and handle crash reports on someone else’s road within their corporate limits, but that does not give them OS/OW permit authority.

What compounds the problem is when a police officer without a full understanding of these laws (or has been instructed to contrary) assumes their local permits are required on a road owned by another authority. When this happens, the police officer will knock the vehicle back to legal weight and issue an overweight citation with a mighty large fine.

Even worse is when a local authority issues an OS/OW permit for roads under their proper jurisdiction, yet also list highways not under their jurisdiction without any disclaimer about who all the highways belong too. This sets the carrier up for failure.

Worse yet is when the local authority issues a permit improperly listing another jurisdiction’s highway, with no advisory language, and then writes them an overweight for not having the other jurisdiction’s permit.

The call here is for all local government to do the right thing by making the jurisdictional routing clear on an OS/OW permit. The call is to never give permit authority, whether verbally or in writing, over a route they do not own. The call is to protect the industry.

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A Bridge Over Troubled Pavement

Last week’s article got back to the ground floor of truck law. The basic definitions of an axle and tandem axle were discussed in depth. If there was perfect, universal understanding of this topic, these articles would not even need to be written. Unfortunately, when poor teaching is coupled with a complicated law, expensive mistakes happen. This week’s article will focus on the correct application of the Federal Bridge Formula and a common misinterpretation of it.

Guess what? In 2010 Illinois finally fell in line with the rest of the nation and became the 50th state to adopt the Federal Bridge Formula (FBF) uniformly on all roads. In the mid-1980’s, Illinois was forced by the federal government to do so on federally funded highways, like interstates and toll roads. Over time, Illinois began to designate other state highways to be compliant with the FBF, and local governments were allowed to do the same with their roads.

For clarity, when the FBF is being discussed in this article, it is not in reference to actual bridges which span water, rail or highways. In truck enforcement world, those are more appropriately referred to as “elevated structures”.

The FBF is a relatively simple concept to understand. Think of it like this: if you step in the mud with your boot, you will sink. If you lay a piece of plywood over the mud, it spreads your weight out and you do not sink (or at least not as quickly!). Axle are like the plywood…the more axles over a greater distance spreads out the weight and decreases pavement fatigue.

The formula to calculate the FBF is tricky, therefore there are multiple charts and calculators available with the math already done. The FBF is calculated by taking a measurement between the centers of axles to determine legal weight.

Many times when measurements are taken between the extreme axles, it’s referred to as “outer bridging”. When it’s between the internal axles, it has been called “inner bridging”. These are not legal terms and do not exist in the Illinois Vehicle Code or the federal regulations.

Here’s an example of how the FBF works: a 3-axle dump truck hauling stone is stopped. The truck has a steer axle and a tandem drive axles. As was learned last week, the single steer axle is allowed 20,000 pounds. The tandem drive axle is allowed 34,000 pounds and no single axle within the tandem may exceed 20,000 pounds.

The FBF says enforcement may take a measurement from the center of the steer axle to the center of the last axle to obtain the gross weight. Let’s say the distance is 21’7”. The officer would need to round up to 22’ with a maximum gross weight of 52,500 pounds on those three axles.

Simple enough, right? Yes, however poor instruction leads to poor enforcement. To understand how this happens, let’s look at the definition of the FBF in 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a):
“or a total weight on a group of 2 or more consecutive axles in excess of that weight produced by the application of the following formula:”

The key words here are “2 or more consecutive axles”. This series of one number and four words has caused decades of confusion in truck enforcement due to people reading way too far into it.

In many courses offered to local law enforcement, the instructor will teach this 6-axle combination has only five possible FBF measurements to take. By referring to the steer axle as “axle 1”, this type of instruction will say only five measurements can be taken within “groups” of axles. This is incomplete and not in the law.

Incomplete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The law actually says “2 or more consecutive axles”. This complete method means twelve measurements can lawfully be taken between axles. Further, none of the six axles can individually exceed 20,000 pounds, and none of the three tandems (2-3), (3-4), (5-6) can exceed 34,000 pounds.Complete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normally, all these measurements would not produce overweights on a properly loaded truck. However, when one axle in the group is an adjustable tag or pusher axle, a vehicle loaded to the proper overall gross weight may easily exceed a bridge measurement. This is because many times an adjustable axle does not carry an equalized weight when compared to fixed axles.

A glaring benefit to the truckers exists with the incorrect application of the FBF. If there are less ways to calculate an overweight, there are less ways to receive citation.

That logic is tragically flawed because it provides a false sense of security. If the truckers do not load legal based on faulty advice from a misinformed police officer, what happens when they are stopped and weighed by a police officer who knows what he is doing?

That’s right. Costly overweights. It’s safer to have the whole story instead of parts of it.