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.

How About Them Axles?

Let’s start at the very beginning. Why?  Because it’s a very good place to start. Truck 101. Sometimes you need to drill down to the basics to understand a bigger concept that causes confusion. No house, no matter how ornate and expensive the finishes, is worth anything if the foundation is bad. The article this week will focus on what defines an axle. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well maybe there is more to it than you thought.

The legislature in Illinois was wise to create Chapter 1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. It is here where definitions used throughout the IVC are located. 625 ILCS 5/1-105.6, gives us the definition for an axle load.

“The total load transmitted to the road by all wheels whose centers may be included between 2 parallel transverse vertical planes 40 inches apart extending across the full width of the vehicle.”

Two key concepts here. First, there is actually no definition of an “axle” in the IVC. Motorcycles and bicycles have axles. If they didn’t, the singular wheels would not spin. This definition refers to what a legal “axle load” is. In order for there to be an axle load, there has to be a plurality of wheels extending across the full width of the vehicle.

Here is an example. A semi-tractor trailer combination is tooling down the road. The trailer has two axles, more commonly referred to as a tandem (more on that later in this article). However, the first of the two axles is missing one wheel on the driver’s side. Is there physical “axle” present? Yes. Is there an axle load? No there is not, because there is only one wheel.

The second concept to understand in the definition of an axle load is the measurement of 40” on-center. While the author probably could have explained this a little more clearly, the intent is obvious. An “axle load” may have more than one physical axle. However, it is only a singular axle load if the distance, on-center between the physical axles, is less than 40”.

Look at the picture below. There are two physical axles, however they are only about 35” apart on center. Since the this distance is less than 40” for purposes of weight law in Chapter 15 of the IVC, this is only a single axle, meaning the entire weight of all four wheels for both axles only is allowed 20,000 pounds gross weight.

2014-10-09 09.14.50 (500x375)

 

 

 

 

These are typically found on smaller landscape and enclosed trailers. In reality, most of these axles would never survive being loaded to the legal weight of 20,000 pounds or they would snap. The purpose of the multiple axles is more for balance and load sharing on smaller wheels and tires.

In order to be considered a tandem, this definition found in 625 ILCS 5/1-204.3 must be met:
“Any 2 or more single axles whose centers are more than 40 inches and not more than 96 inches apart, measured to the nearest inch between extreme axles in the series…”

There are two key points to consider here also. First, this definition is more plainly written, but the key phrase is “2 or more single axles”. This means there could be three, maybe even four single axles in a tandem. Think of those tiny wheels under an oversized manufactured housing trailer.

The second part is the spacing. In order to be a tandem, the distance must be a minimum 40” on center between the first and last axles in the group, but no more than 96”. The number of axles is irrelevant. If there are four axles, and the on-center measurement is 95” like the one in the picture below, it is a tandem and receives 34,000 pounds legal weight.

tripletandem

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, there has been some poor and short-sided interpretation of this language taught to police officers in Illinois. Apparently the 40”-96” part of the text has been forgotten, and the “2 or more single axles” means everything. Wrong.

What has happened is police officers being taught any series of three consecutive axles, regardless of the distance, is a tandem. This is wholly incorrect. Many times on a lowboy trailer or an intermodal chassis there is a series of three axles. The improper instruction has taught truck officers this is always a tandem and only receives 34,000 pounds. That’s dangerous teaching.

Maybe a group of three axles is a tandem, maybe it is not, but it is surely not an absolute. If a group of axles is more than 96” on center, then what is to be done? Next week, the article will explore the correct application of the Federal Bridge Formula and expose more erroneous teachings.

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Administrative Adjudication of Overweights – Part 3

One of the raging debates in national politics is the issue of exclusive authority. For instance, is immigration reform under the purview of the federal government, or can states pre-emptively regulate it? The same arguments can be found regarding gun control, abortion or a national driver’s license. The ITEA has no opinion on these topics, but similar to how the states and the federal government butt regulatory heads, the State of Illinois and local government in Illinois do the same. This is plainly seen when it comes to CDL holders and administrative adjudication of overweight violations. It’s in these situations the laws of the State of Illinois has exclusive authority.

An interesting twist in this debate over whether or not local government may administratively adjudicate overweight violations revolves around the Catom v. Chicago lawsuit mentioned in the previous article on this blog. That case was used to prove that overweight violations are moving violations, and therefore cannot be administratively adjudicated by local government.

However, the Appellate court also said in the Catom case that an overweight violation was not a “reportable offense”. This is only partially true.

In 625 ILCS 5/6-204(c), the General Assembly mandates the clerks of the circuit court to forward convictions of “any offense under this Code or similar offenses under a municipal ordinance” to the Secretary of State. Predictably, the legislature then excepts certain violations. This list includes “standing, parking, or weights of vehicles”. Further, the law lists a plethora of IVC violations (including the gross/axle overweights in 15-111) and City of Chicago ordinances.

It is by this plain reading that the Appellate court ruled that “overweights” are non-reportable. The Court neglected to keep reading past this paragraph though. Two paragraphs down, the legislature requires that all violations (except parking), including those previously excepted, must be reported by the clerk to the SOS for any holder of a commercial driver’s license. In any vehicle, whether the vehicle requires a CDL or not.

Notice that none of the registration offenses found in Chapter 3 are listed. They are reportable offenses. An overweight on registration does not automatically find itself non-reportable because it is a “weight of vehicle” violation. It is a registration tax violation and a moving violation all rolled up into one. It’s report to SOS is mandated.

The Secretary of State has an exclusive right to review all traffic violations committed by CDL holders. Local government cannot pre-emptively choose to make an end run around this mandate by administratively adjudicating overweight violations outside of the venue of the circuit court. The exclusivity of the SOS in these matters is plainly seen in the case of Ryan v. Hanover Park (1999).

In this case, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that local government could not create an alternative traffic enforcement program which pre-empted the rights of the SOS to take disciplinary action against certain violators. In other words, if the municipality is writing ordinance tickets for violations which could “cancel, suspend and revoke” a driver’s license, then SOS must be notified.

“Whoa whoa whoa” says the municipal employee. Did the law not say that convictions for municipal ordinances must be reported? Would it not stand to reason that an administratively adjudicated overweight to a CDL holder could be reported to the SOS?

The answer is no. The SOS does not, and will not, receive reports from municipal government. The law only permits them to receive reports from the circuit clerk. The issue here is venue. As mentioned in a previous article, only certain municipal ordinance violations may be administratively adjudicated in the venue of the municipality. All municipal ordinances may be adjudicated in the venue of the circuit court.

“Whoa whoa whoa” says the truck driver. So no matter how inconsequential the violation was, the circuit clerk has to report my violations to the SOS, even if committed in my personal car, solely because I am a CDL holder?

The answer is yes, however not every violation has a negative impact on the CDL. The SOS has the exclusive right to review violations committed by CDL holders to determine if there is a statutory reason to take disciplinary action on the CDL. As mentioned last week, there is no definition of the term “moving violation”.

The SOS has to take action on the CDL when the offense committed, as reported by the circuit clerk, is required to do so by statute. Overweight violations, even though they are technically “moving violations”, do not require any action by the SOS. Other than stiff fines, there are no licensing penalties assigned in the overweight statute. Overweights are not serious traffic violations in the IVC (625 ILCS 5/1-187.001) nor the FMCSR (Part 383.51).

All traffic offenses are coded using the AAMVA Code Dictionary (ACD) which provides uniform coding between all the states for CDL holders. Guess which offense has no points? That’s right…overweights.

Overweights cannot be administratively adjudicated because they are moving violations. They cannot be administratively adjudicated when the offense is committed by a CDL holder because that makes them reportable offenses. Local governments who administratively adjudicate overweight violations are exceeding their lawful authority.

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Administrative Adjudication of Overweights – Part 2

The morning after a trip to the grocery store, you crack open a new box of Fruit Loops and sit down to an (un)healthy breakfast. However, when you pour out the cereal, the bag is full of Cheerios! It’s irrelevant what the box said, all that matters is what was inside. In the Illinois Vehicle Code, moving violations are like Cheerios, and the various chapters of the IVC are the cereal boxes. Moving violations can be found in many chapters of the IVC, and overweights are wholly moving violations. And because overweights are moving violations, they cannot be administratively adjudicated.

Before we explore the geography of the IVC and see how moving violations are everywhere, some definitions need clarification.

The terms “moving violation” and violations concerning the “movement of vehicles” are completely interchangeable. For clarity, this article will primarily be using the term “moving violation”. However, there is no legal definition of what a moving violation is! Nowhere is the IVC is there such a statute.

Generally speaking, Illinois police officers are trained that moving violations are found in Chapter 11 of the IVC. In fairness, this is where the most common violations like speeding, red lights, DUI, reckless driving and stop signs reside.

The mistake police officers make is they naively believe this is the only chapter where moving violations are found. Interestingly, Chapter 11 has been titled by the General Assembly as “Rules of the Road”, not “Moving Violations”. Also of note, Chapter 12 of the IVC is titled “Equipment of Vehicles”, but the section which prohibits texting and cell phone use (625 ILCS 5/12-610.2(c)) specifically mentions a second offense is a moving violation.

Because there is no statutory definition of a moving violation, the police are left with what the courts have interpreted the term to mean. The benchmark case which defines a “moving violation” is Catom Trucking, Inc v City of Chicago (2011 IL App (1st) 101146). Interestingly, one of the four opinions of the 1st Appellate District in this case centered on the City of Chicago unlawfully administratively adjudicating overweight violations.

In both the Municipalities (65 ILCS) and Counties Codes (55 ILCS), home-rule units of government are authorized to perform administrative adjudication. It is here an identical statement is found:

“A system of administrative adjudication means the adjudication of any violation of a municipal ordinance, except for… (ii) any offense under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar offense that is a traffic regulation governing the movement of vehicles and except for any reportable offense under Section 6-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.”

In the Catom case, the Appellate Court looked at the City ordinance regarding overweight violations, which specifically says the words “moved upon”. The Court also compared this ordinance to the City ordinance authorizing oversize/overweight permits and to the Illinois Vehicle Code. They found the language in both the City code and the IVC to be similar (aka “concurrent”), and the term “moved upon” to mean a moving violation.

Therefore, even though the City of Chicago has home-rule authority, they cannot administratively adjudicate overweight violations.

Now the clever reader realizes there are two different kinds of overweight violations, those found in Chapter 15 of the IVC regarding gross and axle weights, and those found in Chapter 3 of the IVC regarding registered weight. Was the Court in the Catom case talking about both, or just the Chapter 15 overweights?

Let’s look at language of both. The Catom case specifically mentions Chapter 15 (625 ILCS 5/15-101) as a moving violation:

“It is unlawful for any person to drive or move on…upon or across any highway any vehicle or vehicles of a size and weight exceeding the limitations stated in this Chapter or otherwise in violation of this Chapter”

Similarly, the language regarding overweights on registration in 625 ILCS 5/3-401 is nearly identical:

“(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to violate any provision of this Chapter or to drive or move or for an owner knowingly to permit to be driven or moved upon any highway any vehicle of a type required to be registered hereunder which is not registered or for which the appropriate fee has not been paid when and as required hereunder “

Notice both IVC statutes encompass the whole Chapter to which they belong. Notice each statute uses language identical to which the Court says is to be considered a moving violation. They cannot be administratively adjudicated.

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Administrative Adjudication of Overweights – Part 1

Once upon a time there was a carpenter who built a house for a customer. When the work was completed, the customer gave him half of the wages earned. Confused (and a little bent), the carpenter inquired as to the shortage. The customer said even though the carpenter did all the work, the State was entitled to half of the money. Ridiculous? Of course it is, but that is what happens with the fine money from every overweight citation adjudicated through the circuit court system. Regardless of how audacious you think the law is, it’s the law, and it cannot be circumvented by local administrative adjudication of overweight violations.

For the next few weeks, this blog will post a series of articles regarding the illegitimacy of administrative adjudication of overweight violations. It is a deep, dark rabbit trail of law, but it is not without purpose. Like any legal argument, there will be supporting and dissenting opinions, but the spirit and intent of the law is crystal clear.

Before an argument can be made against administrative adjudication of overweight citations, two things must occur. First, one has to first understand what administrative adjudication is. Secondly, one has to understand why a local government would want to administratively adjudicate overweight violations.

Administrative adjudication is an alternative venue to prosecute ordinance violations which became a lawful for municipalities in 1998. In 2010, the Illinois General Assembly authorized county governments the right to do the same, but divided the counties into two groups: Cook and the collar counties, and everyone else.

The purpose is two-fold: First, to clear unnecessary, non-criminal matters out of the circuit court. This would include offenses such as health code, building code and parking violations. Second, administrative adjudication allows the local government to keep fine revenues in-house.

Local units of government in Illinois are permitted to create ordinances, or local laws. Depending on the authority of such local government, whether it is home-rule or not, certain limitations are imposed as to how these ordinances are governed. Administrative adjudication was created to allow local government civil prosecution of ordinance violations instead of criminal prosecution.

Unlike in the circuit court where this a defendant and a judge who determines guilt or innocence, administrative adjudication has a respondent and a hearing officer who decides liability. There is a protection clause, however. In the event the respondent does not agree with the decision of the hearing officer, an appeal can be made and the case must be heard by a judge in the circuit court.

The movement to begin administratively (and unlawfully) adjudicating overweight violations at the local level ramped up in 2010. This was in response to the massive capital bill signed by Governor Quinn which doubled the overweight fines in a quid pro quo agreement to make all highways uniform in weight.

Essentially, what the General Assembly did was create an “unfunded mandate”. In the eyes of local government, those two words are synonymous to a four-letter curse word starting with the letter “f”, followed by “you”. Was Illinois long overdue to become the 50th state to adopt the uniform weight standards set by the federal government? Absolutely.

The problem is the State used the doubled half of the new overweight fines to fill their own coffers. Not a single penny was allocated to local government to repair their roads, even though the law mandated a higher weight limit.

The truth is nobody likes doubled fines. The trucking industry doesn’t want to pay it. The police officers do not like levying it. In a perfect world, administrative adjudication of overweight tickets would be ideal. Follow the line of thought in this next paragraph and play devil’s advocate.

Overweight truck enforcement is not going away. Therefore, overweight fines will continue to be assessed. Would it not be preferable to have the fine money stay in the local town you live or work to fix the problems in that local community? Would that not be better than watching fine money dispersed into a broken system of state government and used for purposes that do not benefit you at all?

Guess what though – it’s not a perfect world. Just because an idea might make greater sense or be philosophically correct, it does not justify abrogation of the law. Check back next week to begin understanding the systematic arguments as to why.

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The Better Way to Interdict CMVs

A show of hands please: whose heart bleeds for the truck driver caught smuggling drugs? Does anyone really lose any sleep over the truck driver caught human trafficking? Anyone? That’s right. Even the biggest and most influential representatives of the carrier industry would love to eliminate the black eye trafficking gives their profession. Unfortunately, in the name of justice, law enforcement has developed systematic training to interdict these criminals, much of which has yielded a fishing expedition into the industry. There is a better way, and it is coming to Illinois in December.

The eradication of these evils is a noble goal for sure. Heck, even if the goal is to find loads of cash belonging to the drug trade, that in and of itself is not a terrible thing. No one is shedding a tear.

The problem is the methodology in which law enforcement employs to interdict commercial motor vehicles. If you leave an acorn out on the sidewalk, even a blind squirrel may find it. If you throw a baited hook in the water enough, eventually a fish will nibble on it.

For many years, law enforcement has been taught an unreliable CMV interdiction methodology. Does it work? Well yes, on occasion, but not without leaving a wake of innocent truck drivers behind it. This method is called “indicator training”. It teaches police officers to look for several different indicators, and if all the stars align, that truck is most likely smuggling drugs, cash or people.

If 100 truckers are stopped, detained and searched, and a police officer finds contraband on one of those trucks, is that really efficient police work? Great job finding that one truck, but what about the 99 other innocent truckers? Their liberty should not be sacrificed in the name of interdiction.

The root issue is those who have historically trained law enforcement have been police officers themselves. They have found intermittent success using the indicator method, but lack the more successful trade knowledge of the industry.

The reality is the best interdiction efforts come from those who work inside the trucking. Why does federal law enforcement hire ex-convict computer hackers to find criminals? Why do large trucking companies hire retired CMV enforcement officers to inspect and audit their fleets? Because those with insider knowledge are the best. They have a unique perspective and skill set.

On December 15-17, 2014, Ray Herndon from Diamondback Specialized CMV Training will be in Illinois teaching a 3-day course on a revolutionary new and effective method to interdict trucks.
A method that will yield a higher percentage of success that typical indicator training.
A method that does not waste the time of the officer or an innocent trucker.
A method which teaches police officers insider info into the trucking world to expose the true criminals.
A method which builds a proper sequence of events that will pass constitutionally muster.
A method which teaches police officers how not to exceed the scope of their authority.
A method which is taught, and demonstrated, using classroom instruction and real trucks.
A method which protects the industry.

This groundbreaking methodology is sound for two reasons:

First, he has been a successful drug interdiction officer for nearly twenty years with the case studies to prove his methods work.  Second, he has owned and operated his own fleet of trucks for and even longer period of time. He is fully police officer and fully trucker. Rarely will you find someone with such intricate knowledge of both professions with such a great respect for both.

A recent article in the Washington Post began to expose police tactics used in interdiction efforts, and the picture does not paint law enforcement in a positive light. The time to tear down and rebuild CMV interdiction efforts has come. Diamondback Specialized CMV stands alone from the any other training institutions. The ITEA has witnessed it firsthand.

Do not miss this class. Seating is limited, so sign up ASAP…you will not regret it.

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Exemplary Police Work #6

It’s unfortunate there are times erroneous police work must be exposed. One of the toughest parts of policing is the policing of the police. Like all professions, most people are good and it’s just the few rotten apples that spoil the bunch. The same is true in truck enforcement world, it’s just the stakes are incredibly high. Couple an immensely complicated law with unparalleled high fines and you have a recipe for disaster. The redeeming beauty is when a truck officer does the right thing, like the story to be told in this article.

Oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits are one of the most complicated parts of truck law. Every jurisdiction, state, county, township and municipal authorities have their own set of rules and regulations. This makes the issue complicated not only from the perspective of the carrier trying to obtain a permit, but also from the police officer trying to understand the enforcement methodology of permits.

When the carrier operating under the authority of OS/OW permits makes a mistake, the penalties can be devastating. Since 2010, when the State of Illinois passed a law doubling the fines of overweight vehicles, it is not uncommon for off-route permit loads to have fines exceeding $30,000. Not all permit load mistakes are that expensive, but many are. In the diverse world of trucking, none are as susceptible to these kind of fines like those in specialized transportation.

When vehicles are operating under the authority of an OS/OW permit issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there is a unique set of rules, or conditions, which must be followed. These are created in the Administrative Rules, which have the force of law. They are more commonly found in the IDOT Permit Manual and listed on the OPER 993 form.

One such IDOT regulation is more commonly known as the “1-mile rule”. Under this rule, IDOT provides grace for the driver who goes off his assigned permit route for one of four reasons. One acceptable reason is because the driver mistakenly got off-route in the first place. The caveat is the vehicle may only travel for 1-mile off-route, and the road travelled on must be a state highway contiguous to the assigned permit route.

Last month, a young truck officer (a rookie with less than one year on the job) who had recently been through the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement course, stopped an OS/OW permit load on a state highway. During this conversation, the officer asked to see the driver’s permit. The driver had page 1 of his IDOT permit, but did not have page 2 which included the routing. Had the driver actually had the routing page of the permit with him, this traffic stop would have been over in minutes.

The driver knowingly admitted he was off-route, and by his description of where he had travelled, he was more than seven miles off-route. On the surface of things, it appeared this officer had the driver dead to rights. Based on the weight of the vehicle, the fine would have exceeded $16,000.
The officer could have written the ticket, the company would have paid the fine and there probably would not have been any fight in court over.

The reality was everyone was in agreement the driver messed up, and messed up bad.

However, this officer knew the red flags he felt going up needed counsel. As an ITEA certified truck officer, he accepted a creed to make an informed decision before making a wrong one.

Truck officers in Illinois have privileged access to the IDOT permit system called ITAP. In this database, police officers can verify and download the actual permit issued by IDOT. Unfortunately, the officer had not yet received permission from his command staff to apply for ITAP access, so he contacted the ITEA who looked up the permit for him.

As it turns out, the driver was indeed off-route, but less than 1-mile from his permitted route and on a contiguous state highway. No overweight citation could be issued. If this officer was suffering from moneylust, he would have issued the citation and no one would have been any wiser.

Thankfully this young man was of noble character and did the right thing.
The ITEA is proud of this officer. He is a fine example of the role police officers are supposed to play in the world of highway transportation.

On October 28, 2014, the ITEA is hosting a free 8-hour certification for current truck officers who have been trained elsewhere. If you are in the carrier industry and desire to see more truck officers like this one, get on the phone and respectfully demand truck officers in Illinois who are not certified attend this class. You can find a list of non-ITEA certified officers and their agencies by clicking HERE. Your voice can make a difffernce.

Fight For Your Right

The youth of today have been described as the “entitlement” generation. The old curmudgeons of the nation just call them “lazy”. Sometimes entitlement is a good thing! The beauty of living in America is there are certain rights and privileges all people are entitled too, and those are cherished. While entitled kids who think they should make executive pay straight out of college is irritating, is it as irritating as enforcement tactics which revoke you of the very laws you are entitled too?

Imagine this scenario: The bills are stacking up. As you are trying your best to keep your head above water financially, you forget about renewing the registration on your car. Later that night, BAM! The alert policeman spots the old sticker and stops you.

After the police officer does his routine and issues you the citation, he informs you that you are under also arrest for not having a driver’s license. What? The officer informs that your license is indeed valid through the Secretary of State, but because the vehicle was unregistered, it should not have been on the road. And because the vehicle should not have been on the road, you should not have been driving. Therefore, you do not have a driver’s license.

Preposterous? Of course it is. This scenario bears a resemblance to a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when a mob is trying to determine if a woman is a witch. Take a question, create all kinds of ridiculous justifications, carve out some rabbit trails and you can get any answer you want to hear.

You broke the law by not renewing your registration. That does not mean that you have inherently violated other laws. Even a convicted felon is entitled to some protections under the law while in prison. If violating one law meant the police could connect the dots from one crime to another, we would all end up in the electric chair.

Expired safety tests, IFTA stickers and overweight vehicles do not void registration. Exceeding the speed limit does not void a driver’s license. Each crime has its own elements of the offense and stands alone. 

Unfortunately, this situation plays itself out in truck enforcement world all too often. Here are the common denominators each time, every time:
1.   The citation has a significant financial penalty.
2.   The officer was poorly trained. 
3.   The officer is not a member of the ITEA and not held accountable to standards.
4.   The officer takes advice from another officer, also poorly trained, unaccountable and not a member of the ITEA.
5.   The officer rationalizes the stop with “I could have done this (insert worse penalty)”.
6.   The officer claims the “state police” affirmed the actions.
7.   The officer claims their local attorneys affirmed the actions. 
8.   The officer claims they have been doing it like this for years without any problems.
9.   The officer refuses to listen to reason.
10.   The officer loses the case in court.

Here is a real life example. In February 2013, and ITEA member trucking company had a driver operating a rubber-tire, articulated bucket loader on a suburban highway. A local officer who had recently been trained in truck enforcement stopped the machine. 

The officer was not sure what to do, so a senior officer who had been to truck school years ago was summoned. The two put their heads together and determined the machine was not allowed to operate on the road, therefore not entitled to the legal gross and axle weights of Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

After forcing the owner to low-boy the machine to the police station to be weighed on portable scales, an $8,000 overweight fine was levied. The machine was held hostage until this was paid. Several other improper citations for driver’s license violations were issued as well.

The ITEA called the arresting officer to get their side of the story. They said they received affirmation from the Illinois State Police (never corroborated), their local prosecutor and even their truck enforcement instructor! They claimed they had done this before and it had never been a problem. They claimed they could have put the driver in handcuffs, but instead chose “discretion”.

The true law was explained, but the officer refused to listen to reason. Months later, the case was predictably lost in court. Unfortunately an attorney had to been retained and paid for, all the while the court hung onto the $8,000 cash bail.

Sometimes you have to fight for your right to operate according to the law. But know that in nearly five years of the ITEA, not a single similar complaint has even been lodged against an ITEA trained and certified truck officer.   

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Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer 2014

A well-rounded and effective truck enforcement officer is like fine wine. It takes time to season them to be proficient in their trade. The best truck enforcement officers in Illinois not only understand the detection and application of law, but they are keenly aware that it’s more than just writing tickets. It’s about compliance. It’s about education. It’s about advocacy. It’s about respect for the most vital industry to our economy…trucking. From September 29th to October 3rd, 2014, fifteen of the best truck officers in Illinois will rise to a new level of performance at the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course. Will you be there?

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association prides itself in not just being a puppy mill for truck officers. The practice of arming multitudes of police officers with nothing but basic training is dangerous to the industry. Even worse it hurts the perception of quality truck enforcement officers. Churning out scores of truck officers with limited knowledge and a ticket book pointed at revenue is nothing short of destructive.
Only the ITEA trains, certifies and holds accountable truck officers with updates, resources and advanced training. The only other advanced training available teaches local police officers to exceed their authority and impersonate the Illinois State Police. The ITEA offers something completely different.

The 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course offered by the ITEA reinforces the basic training and post-training field experience of truck officers. Instead of teaching new ways to try and teach officers to write more tickets, the course teaches truck enforcement disciplines from the perspective of the trucking industry and regulatory officials (whom all the curriculum was built in partnership with).

The lead CVSA instructor from Illinois spends a day teaching about how the international program works. The ISP trooper spends the day going over how they perform an inspection (with the appropriate authority), training and reporting techniques. Officers quickly learn that observance of critical safety violations is important, but enforcement based on unauthoritative instruction is dangerous.

A day is spent teaching the finer points of CDL rules and regulations. The officers then have an opportunity to learn what it takes to get a CDL…just like the industry. The class reports to a Secretary of State CDL facility to take the permit tests, perform a walk-around pre-trip inspection, and then actually drive a semi-tractor trailer combination on the skills course. Officers get to see the world from the trucker perspective, and soon learn the worst truck drivers are better drivers than they are.

Truck registration is a complicated mess. Much like CDLs, a day is spent teaching the details of registration from both an intrastate and interstate point of view. Instruction not only teaches the law, but how the operation of the Secretary of State Commercial & Farm Truck Division works. At the end of the day, the officers learn how to apply for and register an entire fleet of trucks…just like the industry.

The specialized transportation industry relies on oversize/overweight permitting to get the biggest and heaviest loads delivered. The OS/OW permit process is a nightmare of individual state, county and local regulations. A detailed comparison of state law vs. local law is explored and the effect it has on the industry. Students are then given the opportunity to sit in the seat of the permit coordinator and apply for basic permits…just like the industry.

Weight enforcement is an important part of a well-rounded program, but learning what is heavy and what is not takes a lot of trial and error. While this is expected with new truck officers, much time and money is wasted by officers on fishing expeditions. A full day is spent going over different configurations for different commodities and the explaining loading trends. Real life photos from ITEA officers are used to show how to stop and weigh the trucks that are actually overweight, proper weighing procedures and reasonable enforcement discretion.

If you want the best, be the best. Do not miss the opportunity to take this unique course. Please contact the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at 630-942-2295 to register.

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