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.

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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