Lawyering Part 1

Once upon a time, the Family Feud surveyed 100 people for the top answers on who to call when you are in trouble. Number 1 on the board? The police, of course. Number 3? Lawyers. What has yet to be discovered is a Family Feud survey asking for the top 10 adjectives used to describe lawyers (or police officers for that matter!) Over the years, this article does a fine job holding the feet of policeman and truckers to the fire. Now it’s time to dig into our other member occupation – lawyers.

A previous ITEA article was written regarding the lack of knowledge by police supervisors and why it is important for the ITEA to serve as a point of external accountability for truck officers. As a defendant travels down the road of criminal justice from roadside to jail, the knowledge of truck laws does not improve from the police station to the courthouse.

Do local prosecutors or state’s attorneys have a solid understanding of truck laws? Rarely. Do the judges, who were once the attorneys standing on the floor prosecuting or defending truckers have any clue? Again, rarely.

Similar to the career trajectory of police officers, few attorneys can fully devote themselves to truck defense. They need to represent clients charged with other types of crimes or take on civil work to pay the bills. This is not to say police officers or attorneys with other responsibilities cannot be masters of their craft. However, becoming a subject matter expert is difficult if the workload is thin and stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

The cultural view of attorneys is a love/hate relationship. While most Americans will typically demonize defense attorneys with the words coming out of their mouth, they will not hesitate to call the phone number on that little card in their wallet when they are in trouble. Americans may call lawyers “liars” and denigrate them at every turn, yet TV shows and movies about legal work is a massive genre which never grows old.

Just as all police are seen as the enemy to the criminal element of society, in the eyes of law enforcement defense attorneys have the reputation of being the low of the low. They tear policemen apart on the stand. They introduce arguments to distract from the case at hand. They conduct themselves in loud and boisterous ways to turn the courtroom into a circus.

The unfortunate reality is attorneys like that are the exception to the rule. The same police officers who are quick to cast a wide net of judgment over all lawyers are the same police officers who quickly condemn the citizenry beating them up on social media. It’s the “few bad apples” argument.

The problem for police officers is wrapping their justice-seeking minds around the fact people, even those who are bad and deserving of consequence, can be professionally represented to beat the charges. What is aggravating to law enforcement is uninformed attorneys taking credible police work to task. What is infuriating is a court system which buys into it.

The reason the ITEA membership is open to lawyers is to prevent bad lawyering. This association works tirelessly to bring wayward truck officers to the middle. Similarly, the ITEA spends an inordinate amount of time training and resourcing truckers to be complaint with the law.

Does it not make perfect sense to do the same for the profession which serves as the third arm of the criminal justice system? Would it not be better for all parties involved to have competent prosecutors and defense attorneys rather than foolish ones?

No truck officer likes a defense attorney who beats them in court. The quality truck officer will look deep and ask if he beat himself by doing sloppy police work, or did he lose to an attorney who exploited the system? If the later, welcome to the real world. If the former, do better next time.

ITEA truck officers recognize they need good defense attorneys out there to hold them accountable for doing their job with excellence. When police officers cross all their T’s and dot all their I’s, it’s a tough case to beat.

The next three weeks, this blog will look at three aspects of lawyering typically seen in truck enforcement world…and it is going to get interesting!


Restricted Endorsements

Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war. Sometimes you have to take two steps back to take one step forward. Sometimes to get an endorsement on a driver’s license you have to have a restriction first. Huh? Yes, that’s correct. Want to learn about one of the most convoluted laws in the Illinois Vehicle Code? If so, read on to learn about restricted endorsements.

When police officers stop drivers, they usually will perform a status check of the driver’s license through the Illinois Secretary of State. That’s just common police practice and how law enforcement finds suspended/revoked drivers. It’s also not uncommon for truck officers to find a driver with a CDL (or non-CDL) which lists a restriction for religious vehicles, senior citizen transports or ride-sharing agreements.

The big question is why would a CDL holder, who has a passenger endorsement, have a restriction saying he cannot drive a religious vehicle, a senior citizen transport vehicle or engage in ride-sharing? The reality is many people obtain CDLs to drive buses or vans for their church. Or they want to volunteer for the township getting elderly folks to the store and social events. Or they want to create an official ride-sharing agreement to carpool with others in a geographic region.

The ITEA has been asked this question several times, usually from police officers who are confused and looking for answers. A few times the ITEA has been alerted to enforcement action taken because the driver was operating a vehicle from which he appeared to be restricted.

While this enforcement action is wrong, it is understandable why there is a misconception. This is because the restriction is not a restriction at all. It’s an endorsement! However, it cannot be called an endorsement, so consider it a “qualification” instead.

The term “endorsement” is exclusive to CDLs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has regulatory authority over CDLs and they decide what endorsements may be placed on a CDL. This includes passengers, doubles/triples, tankers, hazmat, school bus, charter bus, etc. Each endorsement is assigned a letter which appears on the CDL when appropriate tests have been passed.

While each state manages their own CDL process, they must comply with the regulations set forth by the FMCSA. When the FMCSA says there is a limited number of endorsements, that’s it. Final. Done. Nothing left to argue. So what happens when the General Assembly of Illinois wants to create their own version of endorsements?

The Secretary of State is not to blame for calling these endorsements “restrictions”. Many things the good citizens of Illinois are angry about is completely out of the hands of the SOS. The General Assembly creates laws, and the SOS (and other regulatory agencies) are mandated to follow them whether or not the legislature provides funding or infrastructure for implementation.

The same is true of religious vehicles, senior citizen transport vehicles and ride-sharing agreements. For legitimate reasons, the General Assembly has enacted three laws, 625 ILCS 5/6-106.2, 106.3 and 106.4. These statutes lay out minimum qualifications drivers must have to operate vehicles in these operations.

The qualifications say the driver must be 21 years of age, have a valid and properly classified driver’s license for at least three years, prove safe operation of the vehicle in question and not have convictions for a litany of serious crimes. Most people would agree driver’s transporting kids, senior citizens and strangers from nearby workplaces should probably be vetted. While not perfect, these laws prescribe a few things to try and maintain public safety for the vulnerable.

In turn, the SOS must do what the General Assembly says and add these “endorsements” to driver’s licenses. Because they cannot call them endorsements, the SOS lists them as restrictions instead. Depending on the class of driver’s license (A,B,C,D), there are a series of “J” restrictions listed on the face of the plastic license. The purpose behind each restriction is listed on the backside of the hard card.

The “J” restrictions for these three purposes range from J02 to J08. There are “J” restrictions for other things as well, but that’s for a later discussion.



One – it is the loneliest number. However, there is power in being the solitary numeric. Only one person can be President of the United States. Only one person can be the quarterback on each play. Only one person can drive the car (which excludes the backseat driver). One means exclusiveness. When it comes to weighing trucks and trailers to investigate overweight violations, the police officer only weighs the vehicles once. The article this week explains why.

First, some background. The first Standard of Practice (SOP) ever written by the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is about the requirement of officers to actually use scales when writing overweight tickets. It may seem ridiculous such a policy is necessary, but that’s what happens when the law is misinterpreted or taught incorrectly. The ITEA has written an article about this topic in the past and you can read it HERE.

Second, some legislative truth. The Illinois Vehicle Code has very little to say about using scales. The law requires scales to be used when a vehicle which is suspect of being overweight is investigated. Also, the scales must be certified by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That’s about it.

What the law does not say is how to weigh trucks on scales. This may sound unbelievable, but the law does not say the ground must be level prior to weighing. The law does not say liquid loads cannot be weighed on portable scales. The law does not say dummy pads must be used to keep a vehicle level.

When the law lacks direction, common sense should prevail. In training classes, the ITEA teaches proper methods to weigh vehicles by filling in the gaps left by the General Assembly. A person need not be a physics genius or an engineer to see certain methods of weighing trucks can alter weights, even if the law does specifically prohibit or prescribe specific actions.

What’s fair is fair, and police officers should be taking the high road at all costs when weighing trucks which could result in citations in the multiple thousands of dollars. Unjust scales and unequal weights are an abomination to all things good about law enforcement.

A concept the ITEA teaches is to only weigh a vehicle once. What is being referred to here is weighing a truck on one scale, then weighing it a second time on a different scale. This concept does not apply to weighing the same truck multiple times axle by axle on the same scale for an aggregate gross weight.

So here’s some comparisons for the skeptic police officers. When checking vehicle speeds, do you use two radar guns and write the citation using the evidence gained by radar displaying the higher speed? Or when you arrest a suspected drunk driver, do you have the person blow into two different machines to see which yields the greater blood alcohol concentration?

Of course you do not do these unscrupulous things. The reason is because no two instruments of measurement are going to be exactly the same. There are margins of error in everything. Take any two measurements as far to the right of the decimal point as you want, and eventually the two calculations will diverge.

When a police officer compares two similar measurement devices against each other, and receives two different results, one impeaches the other. Which one is right? Which one is wrong? A reasonable doubt has been established. This provides an affirmative defense for defendant. With a competent judge, these cases will be dismissed.

Good for the trucker, but bad for the administration of justice. Regardless of your opinion of the police and truck enforcement efforts, you are a citizen. You pay compulsory taxes. You should expect your police officers to follow the highest standards when enforcing the law, even if you disagree with it.

It’s not uncommon for a trucker who has received an overweight ticket to show up in court with a weight ticket from another scale. Sometimes these secondary weighs are taken prior to the traffic stop or after the traffic stop, but they always show a significant discrepancy compared to the evidenced used by the officer.

One may speculate the many reasons why these weights could be different, but the police officer only has to meet his burden of proof. #YouOnlyWeighOnce.


Dumb Laws: Flatbed Load Securement

Yeah, you read the title of this article correctly. There is a dumb law concerning securement of flatbed loads in Illinois. Does that mean flatbed load securement is dumb? Of course not, it is very important. However, Illinois has a dumb law regarding the topic and the article this week is going to expose this law for all it’s dumbness. Dust of your dunce cap and read on!

Here’s a revelation for you: not all laws are well written. Most laws are well intentioned, but they do not always reflect how things occur in real life. Further, because the Illinois Compiled Statutes is so complex, introducing one small piece of legislation in one part may have a rippling effect on laws in other parts.

What irritates people is when laws are passed and it is apparent those who will be affected in the real world were never consulted or their opinions were unheard. It’s in those instances laws may be enforced incorrectly or completely ignored. It’s an imperfect world run by imperfect humans.

So what does all this have to do with flatbed load securement? Great question – here’s the answer!

To find a person who believes flatbed load securement is not an important issue is to have found an idiot. Any rational person can conclude that trailers without walls will more easily spill their loads onto the highways of Illinois. Therefore, flatbed loads must be secure.

The issue isn’t the existence of the law found in 625 ILCS 5/15-109(c):

“The Department shall adopt such rules and regulations it deems appropriate which require the securing of steel rolls and other objects on flatbed trucks so as to prevent injury to users of highways and damage to property. Any person who operates a flatbed truck on any highway in violation of the rules and regulations promulgated by the Department under this subsection shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”

The issue is the manner in which it is written. Run through this battery of logic:

  1. Are steel coils (which routinely weigh upwards of 50,000 pounds) dangerous if they come loose? Yes.
  2. Should there be specific laws to address safe load securement? Yes.
  3. Should there be serious penalties for those who fail to secure steel coils appropriately? Yes.
  4. Did something tragic inspire this law before it became effect in August 1981? Probably.

What is unfortunate is the method the General Assembly provides to prove a violation of the law.

First, the law starts specifically mentioning steel coils, but then states “other objects”. This means ANYTHING else on the flatbed. A load of feathers? Boxes of balloons? What should probably be exclusive to steel coils is left open for enforcement of any commodity.

Second, the law does not specifically say how to secure flatbed loads, but defers to the Department for rule making outside the legislature. The Department is the Illinois Department of Transportation and their rules are the adoption of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).

Third, the penalty is a Class-A misdemeanor. This is serious, much like an arrest for not having a CDL when required. The driver can be handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted and photographed. The truck and trailer can be towed or impounded.

So why is all this so bad? The statute cited is a state law, meaning all law enforcement officers, local and state police, may enforce it.
However, the FMCSR can only be enforced by the Illinois State Police. If you haven’t yet learned the ITEA stance on local Illinois police officers attempting to enforce the FMCSR, read HERE.

It’s dangerous to have a law, no matter how well intentioned, which can so easily be misconstrued. Whether a local police officer mistakenly assumes state level authority by inerrant reading, or intentionally abrogates the law for sordid gain, the trucker is the one who will have to pay a pretty stiff penalty for the errors of police work.

Flatbed loads are disproportionately stopped and inspected nationwide in comparison to enclosed trailer loads due to easy visualization. Couple that with improper enforcement, it’s not a level playing field.

This little paragraph of the law is important, but it is written for exclusive enforcement by the Illinois State Police. Maybe it’s high time to amend it as such before a very few number of “creative” police officers come up with some twisted enforcement ideas.


Officer Down

Illinois was dealt a crippling blow on Tuesday, September 1st 2015 when Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz of the Fox Lake Police Department was savagely murdered at the end of his midnight tour of duty. Lieutenant Gliniewicz was the first municipal police officer killed by gunfire in Illinois since 2011. In the wake of a spree of police killings nationwide which has left eight officers dead in less than two weeks, it is time to sound off.

You wouldn’t believe this by reading anything in the media, but the people of America truly support the police. The criminal element does not support the police. Certain extremes of the political spectrum do not support the police.

However, the general public supports the police. They do not like the police when they step out of bounds, but they understand the need for law enforcement. The lukewarm appreciate the need for order even though they may not fully endorse the method.

In particular, the trucking industry is a huge supporter of the police. Any truck officer who has been involved with industry for a length of time knows this all too well. Truck drivers slow down for officers on the side of the road. They put their four-ways on to slow down cars. They block lanes. They may question citations, but more often than not are professional in their disagreement. There are scores of occupational comparisons between the two professions which is why the ITEA and industry have formed such incredible working relationships.

Since the national spotlight begin focusing on the events surrounding Ferguson, MO in August 2014, the anti-police sentiment has ramped up to heights never seen before. The liberal press and social media outlets have provided platforms for voices to be heard. But let’s be clear, these are not real voices. These are a very small group of cowards cleverly using the internet to create a false impression of our culture. They hide behind screens while blood spills on the streets of America.

Never in the history of this nation can opinion be swung quite as quickly as it does now. For example, in 2008, 145 million people used Facebook. In 2013, 1.2 billion! The instant information provided through social media integration into handheld devices is astonishing. The most current trend and hashtag will exploit reality to influence culture.

Pick a 180-degree social or cultural shift in the United States during the last seven years, and ask yourself if it could have happened as quickly ten, twenty or fifty years ago. Without the internet, most likely not. Unfortunately the anti-police agenda has been the most recent and bloody culture trend yet.

In the midst of all this hostility, something incredible is stirring. As the brazen few desperately try to incite anarchy, the stalwart majority is pushing back. People are tweeting, posting, tagging and commenting their appreciation for police using the very same platform the enemies are using to tear them down. It’s a revival.

In turn, citizens are lovingly approaching police officers as never before. They thank them for their service. They express sympathies for lost comrades. They show remorse for the sins of their own society. They are opening their wallets to support the fallen. They are praying.

Ask any police officer in the northeast part of Illinois how many communications they have received from friends and family in the days following the Lt. Gliniewicz murder. It’s unprecedented. When reality strikes close to home, people can taste the bitter sacrifices being made. The heart speaks louder than mouth.

This is happening nationwide in all locations where police officers are being hunted, killed or otherwise dying in the performance of their duties. There is hope yet still.

How should good Americans and the police community respond? Turn off the news and spend time with real humans. Ignore those who post negative items about the police – unfriend and unfollow them. To engage them in debate is to give them a voice. Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him yourself.

Every police officer killed in the line of duty is a tragedy, but not all are victims of this social phenomenon. This is a fallen world and unfortunately more police officers will pay the ultimate price to protect others.

But they will press on. They will continue to keep order. They will root out evil. They will not surrender.


Exemplary Police Work #9

Turn on your favorite news service and watch the turf wars. Pakistan and India are at peace, but Kashmir is still disputed. For millennia, the middle-east has waged war over Israel. Wisconsin continues to battle for rights to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Okay, the last one isn’t true, but turf wars are nothing new. The article this week will describe a common turf war found in Illinois truck enforcement and the exemplary way a local police officer dealt with it.

Want another turf war example? Arsenal Road belongs to the Will County Division of Transportation, however it once belonged to the Illinois Department of Transportation. After a nearby municipal rail crossing was closed by the Illinois Commerce Commission, a massive amount of trucks carrying overweight intermodal containers were forced onto Arsenal Road. Predictably, the county did not want to be responsible for overweight permitting and repairs to Arsenal Road, so jurisdiction is being transferred back to IDOT! This example may be a high profile, but the truth is IDOT and local government transfer road jurisdiction quite often.

The challenge to the industry, particularly those involved in specialized oversize/overweight (OS/OW) transportation, is determining the correct jurisdictional authority so appropriate permits may be purchased. With tens of thousands of centerline miles in Illinois, it’s not unreasonable to believe the paperwork for a block here, or a half-mile, there may be in dispute.

Technology and mapping systems have greatly improved efforts, but humans are still required to input data. Where there are humans, there are errors. When there are errors, there may be trucks off route. When there are trucks off route, there may be enforcement.

During the first week of August 2015, a local truck enforcement officer observed an eight-axle crane traveling on a local road. It was fairly uncommon to find OS/OW loads on this highway, and the officer made a lawful traffic stop because he had reason to believe it was overweight without a local permit. After being stopped, the driver produced an OS/OW from the IDOT.

Much to the surprise of the officer, the state permit claimed the local road was actually a state highway. He believed the jurisdiction of the road had transferred many years ago from IDOT to the municipality.  A cursory check with some other local officials led to the same belief. Over the years, this town had created a local weight restriction, plowed, fixed and maintained the roadway it as if it was their own. Turns out they were wrong.

Was the officer wrong for making the stop? No. Was he wrong for believing the highway belonged to his municipality? No. This left the officer with two choices:
1.   Weigh the crane, write the $40,000 overweight and leave the driver to defend himself in court.
2.   Let the crane go and do nothing.

The officer chose option #3: Let the crane go, but go the extra mile. Why, because it was not the fault of the crane company. Even if the highway was truly under the jurisdiction of his municipality, what was the carrier to do? They applied for a state permit and the state said the road was theirs.

The officer began an exhaustive search of local records to determine who the road truly belonged to. He also contacted the IDOT permit office in Springfield and spoke with the local roads division. The IDOT workers dropped what they were doing and immediately began combing through their records and the local officials did the same. All parties came to the same conclusion: it was indeed a state highway. No jurisdictional transfer had ever occurred.

The officer could have used his authority to write a very expensive overweight, but he chose reasonableness. He could have left the carrier to mount an expensive defense, but he chose compassion. He could have done nothing afterwards to sort out the confusion, but he honored his office and launched a thorough investigation.

The exemplary conduct of this ITEA certified officer is to be commended. Instead of igniting a turf war and driving more wedges between enforcement and industry, he proved how police, carriers and regulatory officials can work together. This is what the ITEA is all about.


Special Olympics Truck Convoy 2015

When two parties have opposing viewpoints, it’s not uncommon for the two parties to move further apart as differences go unresolved. The angst, the presumptions, the speculation only serve to make compromise more difficult. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has worked hard the last six years to find ways for law enforcement and the trucking industry to work together, and the Special Olympics World’s Largest Truck Convoy is one of the best venues for inter-occupation partnership!

This Saturday, August 29th 2015, the ITEA is partnering with the Mid-west Truckers Association, the Illinois State Police and several local police agencies to bring the Convoy to the northern part of the suburban Chicago area.

For many years, the Convoy has taken place in south suburban Tinley Park, IL. The participation there has been a fantastic success. However, the demographics of the convoy have always favored law enforcement and industry domiciled in that region. This year, the south suburban convoy will take place on October 10th.

But what about all those police departments and trucking companies located in northern DuPage & Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties?

For these truckers desiring to participate in the south convoy costs more than just the tax-deductible entry fee. Fuel, tolls, wear’n’tear and extra time (usually overtime) for drivers make participation less attractive. As the economy has slowly began to improve, many companies are back to working on Saturdays, making it even more inconvenient.

In an effort to involve more trucks and police officers, a second convoy was added this year. Kicking off at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, the convoy will head west to on I-90 to the RT47 interchange in Huntley, then turn around and return eastbound to RT59. The whole way being escorted by police officers who will open truck lanes and block intersections for continuous traffic flow.

Here’s the deal – it costs $100 to enter a truck. In the scheme of most businesses every dollar counts, but if $100 bankrupts your company, it was probably about to collapse anyhow. It’s a small price to pay to help a truly awesome group of people compete in athletics. If you have never had an opportunity to be part of a Special Olympics event, you are missing out.

The Illinois Special Olympics is more than just the Law Enforcement Torch Run. This umbrella covers many other events involving police departments such as the Polar Plunge, the Plane Pull, Cop on Top of the Doughnut Shop and more. If swimming in icy water, proving your strength or enjoying a morning pastry is your thing, would you consider participating in one of those events?

Since you are reading this blog today, you are most likely in trucking or a police officer involved in truck enforcement. This is the time to be a part of something bigger using the gifts and resources bestowed upon you. Just as important, it’s a great way to spend time face to face with those in an occupation who are normally at odds.

If you are police officer, please encourage truckers in your town to sign up for the convoy. Let your local public works department, park district and school district know their trucks and buses are welcome too. If you cannot participate in your official capacity, offer to sponsor a truck yourself!

If you are trucker, dig deep and enter a truck. Come and meet the police officers who are regularly involved in truck enforcement efforts and get a new perspective.

Most importantly, come be a part of something that provides opportunities to those who have physical disadvantages in life. It’s easy to take for granted the ease of climbing into a squad car or a CMV each day.


Diverse Programs Command Respect

A common theme heard among police officers is the reason why they wanted to be police officers in the first place – variety. For most officers, the idea of a traditional job sitting behind a desk was not very attractive. However, it’s easy for people to get stuck in a rut doing the same monotonous job over and over and over again. Nothing could be truer for truck officers who only concentrate on vehicle weight enforcement.

Truck enforcement programs which focus on weight enforcement only are synonymous with the damaging reputation of revenue enhancement. Truck enforcement programs which empower a police officer to diversify his efforts, strengthen the reputation and perception of a police department.

There has never been a time in modern policing quite like today as it pertains to diversity. While the social and mainstream media outlets paint the diversity of police work on a cultural canvass, truck officers can do themselves a favor by not being weight-only enforcers.

Within the enforcement of laws, there is a lot more truck officers can do besides weight. They can enforce size laws, commercial driver’s license violations, safety tests and fuel tax. What local police officers in Illinois cannot do is stop and inspect trucks under federal law (which is reserved for the Illinois State Police) or creatively shoehorn a truck inspection into the Illinois Vehicle Code.

Weight laws are complex in and of themselves, but each discipline of truck laws is just, if not more, complicated than weight laws. Sometimes it’s easier to take the easy road, but those who do rarely last more than a couple years doing trucks.

It’s human nature to want to learn and be challenged. The thrill and excitement of overweight tickets can pass fairly quick. If truck officers want to build a reputable program for the long haul, they will need to learn to do more than just use scales.

The ITEA offers a 40-hour Advanced Truck Officer course every fall, and in 2015 it is being held October 5th to the 9th at the College of DuPage. The purpose for this class is two-fold. First, to go deep into truck law with the best and brightest in the craft. The second reason is to show them there is way more to do with trucks than just weight.

Good truck enforcement is not only about law enforcement. Truck officers, especially those assigned full-time, need to embrace the components of community policing and apply it to trucks. Any police officer can learn to write tickets. Becoming a true student of the industry means investing themselves into education, training and regulatory authority.

Truck officers should regularly train fellow officers on basic truck law, officer safety around trucks, and truck crash reporting. They should be actively involved in local permitting. Local businesses and trucking companies appreciate a pro-active and educational relationship with truck officers. They should be assigned to handle complaints from citizens about trucks, and complaints from truckers about citizens!

Truckers and trucking companies should not settle for mediocre, ticket writing truck enforcement programs. Being a taxpayer does not mean you always get your way, but a good taxpayer should be involved.

The trucking industry professionals who work constructively and cooperatively with local government can expect the same in return. There is nothing wrong with asking your local truck officer to sit down and discuss ideas on how you two can work together. There is nothing wrong with engaging local officials in a meaningful conversation about the diversity of their truck enforcement program.

Offer to help promote a day where the officer can be at your shop so other local truckers can stop by to meet, greet and ask questions. Offer to help the officer learn how to drive trucks so he can get a CDL. Offer to be eyes and ears for the officer when he knows companies are breaking the rules.

The trucker-police officer relationship surely does not need to be adversarial. Much like society as a whole, the more diverse things are, the better everyone gets along.


Officer Isolation Yields Officer Intervention

Three O’Clock High. The 80s cult classic comedy about the loner new-kid-in-school, Buddy Revell. In the movie, the character Buddy represents a lot of stereotypes, but the most important is isolation. He is out there alone, no peers, doing his own thing with no accountability. Truth be told, law enforcement has raised up truck officers like Buddy Revell. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there are easy solutions to prevent isolated truck officers.

A basic human need is community. Families, friends, churches and the workplace provide critical social support for police officers. As police officers mature, and their careers lead them into specialized areas, it is wholly appropriate for them to join groups or associations specific to their calling. This is what the ITEA provides for truck enforcement officers.

Each sect of police work has their own group to join. The Chiefs of Police have an association. The tactical officers have an association. The crime prevention officers have an association. The purpose of these groups is not just fraternity, but a place to learn and perfect their trade.

Here is a typical scenario which plays itself out time and time again:

1.   The officer receives basic truck enforcement training and graduates with no follow-up resources, peer support or third-party accountability.

A binder full of paper is outdated the moment the officer leaves the class. The modern police officer needs digital resources, a website and a phone number to call which will be answered in a timely manner. Ultimately, he needs a network of other officers nearby he can call for help.

2.   The officer becomes systematic in the use of improper enforcement techniques.

Truck enforcement is not for the faint of heart. Given the complicated and voluminous nature of truck law, it’s not hard to dream up difficult “what if” situations. It’s also not hard for a new truck officer to find himself on a stop with a truck and have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

However, the best guess is not good enough when commerce is being impeded or fines are being levied in the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars. The officer’s supervisors and administration do not know when a mistake has been made. The prosecuting attorney and judge have no clue about truck law, so all assume the truck officer is right.

Because many truckers would rather cut their losses than engage in a costly trial, the officer’s improper enforcement actions become unofficially “justified”. The same garbage will happen again and again until point #3 is reached. When you hear a truck officer say, “I have been doing it this way a long time and there has never been a problem” the next question should be “who are the other truck officers are doing it that way?

3.   The trucking industry responds with complaints, defensive trials, lawsuits or even legislation – aka “intervention”.

The unscrupulous officers (who thankfully are in the vast minority) know full well the “little guys” won’t fight back. The driver just puts his head down and pays the fines. It’s disgusting and an embarrassment to professional law enforcement.

Sometimes the industry does fight back though. They complain until a supervisor reaches out for authoritative information, only to find out their officer was in the wrong. The industry hires a lawyer to wage a trial. Maybe the lawyer even files a civil lawsuit. On the broader spectrum, the industry fights for statutory change to fix laws because of bad police work.

These are all unnecessary situations which could have been avoided had the officer not been working in isolation. The same problems are rarely found with officers who are active in the truck enforcement community.

For a mere $25/year, a police officer can be part of the larger community of truck enforcement officers in Illinois. Nearly 500 officers from 175 agencies have chosen to step up and be part of the solution.

If you are a police officer, honestly ask yourself if you want to be the Buddy Revell of Illinois truck enforcement. If not, come alongside others who can help you be the best.

If you are the trucker, put your mouth where you money is and start calling the police department where you live or work and respectfully demand their truck officers join the ITEA.


The Goal is Never Revenue Enhancement

It’s week three in the five part series on what makes a successful local truck enforcement program, and it’s going to get a little touchy. Why? Because the topic is about revenue enhancement. In a day when government agencies are under the microscope of accountability and transparency, it’s time to call a spade a spade.

Yes, there is revenue in local truck enforcement programs, however the revenue should only be the by-product of quality and reasonable enforcement programs. If there was ever a mantra which should be emblazoned on the office doors of police administrators, it should be this.

The tension between the police and the carrier industry is not about the law being broken and the need for  justice to be served. Common sense tells you overweight vehicles are unsafe and damage roads. For those carriers who play by the rules and find themselves at a disadvantage to competitors undercutting them by breaking the law, the police serve a true purpose.

The tension is not about the fact fines must be levied to encourage compliance. Without the threat of a penalty, the maintenance of order (why real policing exists) would be impossible to obtain. The rub is the disproportionally high fines unique to “crimes” involving trucks compared to cars. The consternation is the motive behind the enforcement in order to generate fine revenue.

The reality is overweight truck enforcement does not produce nearly the amount of revenue for local government as readily believed. Read more about that by clicking HERE. Yet an overweight fine does produce more than other traffic citations, therefore quantities of violations do yield a larger bounty.

Here’s another truth: The trucking industry appreciates local law enforcement. This can be illustrated by unparalleled support the ITEA has garnered from major trucking associations within Illinois and around the nation. What the trucking industry does not appreciate are local police agencies that see them as deep pockets to plug their budgetary holes.

So here’s a list of questions to consider to determine if a truck enforcement program is revenue driven or quality driven:

1.   Is the local truck officer expected to issue a certain dollar amount of overweight citations each year or risk losing his assignment?

Whether or not there is a written dollar quota (incredibly, this is not illegal) or a presumed one, if the officer feels threatened, he will use whatever tactics to keep his position intact. Revenue driven.

2.   Does the local truck officer always seek the highest possible fines in court for “regular” traffic violations just because a truck is involved?

In Illinois, petty offenses can be fined up to $1000. Are car drivers being fined hundreds of dollars for petty car violations? Look out for an agency using maximum fines (or leveraging a lesser yet still ridiculously high fine) for a petty truck violations like “no company name on vehicle”. Revenue driven.

3.   Does the local agency use alternative prosecution venues to increase the percentage of overweight fines or other truck specific offenses?

Any agency using administrative adjudication for overweights, or any Illinois Vehicle Code violation involving a CDL holder, is breaking the law even if they are a home-rule community. Revenue driven.

4.   Does the truck officer or police administrator harbor an opinion or belief the trucking industry is lucrative and can afford whatever fines are levied?

Yes, the trucking industry, as a whole, generates billions every year in revenue. That does not mean each trucker or company is living in the black. The trucking industry struggles to generate a profit like every other business in America. Oh yeah, and they do it as the second most regulated profession after the banking industry. Revenue driven.

5.   Does the local town make oversize/overweight vehicle permits difficult to obtain, thereby reducing the opportunity for compliance?

The ITEA maintains a webpage for local towns to list their OS/OW permit information, for free, as a good-faith effort to help carriers be compliant. This does not mean a town not listed is trying to hoodwink the industry. Some don’t know about it and others can’t cut through their bureaucratic red tape. The irony is the towns who have adamantly refused to post their information on this page are the ones most complained about. Lack of compliance is more lucrative than compliance. Revenue driven.

If you are the truck enforcement officer, honestly ask yourself if these questions describe you. If you are the police administrator, honestly ask yourself if you encourage or facilitate these behaviors. If you are the trucker, seek out the right answers to these questions and then formulate an honest opinion.