Inclement Weather Ahead

There is no denying it, and there is no hiding from it. Old Man Winter has arrived and he plans to stay for a while. While winter can bring headaches, it also brings something special to everyone who lives in Illinois. For adults, winter brings Christmas, New Year’s celebrations, extended vacations from work, hockey and visiting family members from around the globe. Winter brings children a chance to go sledding, to make snowmen and have a break from school. Winter however never fails to deliver the same thing year after year – snow. For trucks, snow has it’s own set of rules.

As snow adds enjoyment to the holiday season, it also must be removed, along with the stalled and crashed cars it victimizes. The two greatest tools to remove snow and cars from the roads are snow plows and tow trucks. Talk of snow plows and tow trucks is nothing new to the ITEA. Browse through the hundreds of articles the ITEA has written and you will find countless articles mentioning the likes of these trucks. The laws pertaining to these trucks are an ever-changing quagmire of rules and regulations that seem to change as often as the seasons. Tow truck law is so complicated the ITEA has two Standards of Practice dedicated to tow truck law which is available to its members.

Snow Plows

When driving down the highway on the eve of a winter snow storm, one may see dozens of snow plows fully loaded and patiently waiting on the side of the road ready to take on the upcoming snow. It’s a powerful sight and motorists would be powerless without them. Open the Illinois Vehicle Code to Chapter 15 which governs weight and size, and the very first page grants special privileges and exemptions to equipment used for snow and ice removal.

The IVC separates these exemptions into two categories: equipment owned and operated by a governmental body, and privately owned and operated equipment. As most would expect, government owned and operated equipment is not bound by the rules of size and weight law. It would be counterproductive if they were. Under certain circumstances, privately owned and operated equipment is also exempt from the rules governing size and weight.  But like all things truck law, these exemptions have restrictions.

In order to receive the exemptions the IVC provides while driving private vehicles a snow plow blade greater than 102″ in width, certain criteria must be met.

•   The vehicle AND the blade must not exceed twelve feet in width.
•   The snow plow blade must have an 18 inch flag on the driver’s side, and the vehicle must be equipped with an amber flashing light that is visible at 500 feet.
•   If the amber light is blocked by the load (road salt), then the vehicle must have an amber light mounted to the rear of the vehicle that is visible at 500 feet.

If these criteria are met, then according to Illinois law (625 ILCS 5/15-101(c)) these vehicles are exempt from the width law up to 12′ wide and are exempt from weight law. See below.

625 ILCS 5/15-101(c) – The provisions of this Chapter governing size, weight, and load do not apply to any snow and ice removal equipment that is no more than 12 feet in width, if the equipment displays flags at least 18 inches square mounted on the driver’s side of the snow plow.

There is one law however these vehicles are not exempt from – the laws of registration.

While Chapter 15 in the IVC allows a snow removal vehicle an exemption to the axle and gross weight limitations, there are no exemptions in Chapter 3 which allow the vehicle to exceed its registered weight. A driver can theoretically load a two-axle pickup truck to 40,000 pounds (although the would would break in half). But if the pickup truck has only paid tax for a B-plate, it is required to weigh 8,000 pounds or less. No tickets will be issued for being overweight on the gross or axles, but tickets can be issued for being overweight on registration. While overweight on registration tickets are not as expensive as overweight on gross, certain overweight on registration tickets can lawfully exceed $3,000.00.

Tow Trucks

Snow plows cannot do their job unless tow trucks do theirs. In most cities and suburbs in Illinois, residential parking bans usually take place when there is two or more inches of snow. If vehicles are left parked in the street, snow plows can’t do their job. When vehicles crash on the slippery highways and become disabled on the roadways and shoulders, snow plows can’t do their job. When these events happen, the mighty fleet of tow trucks come clear the way.

Members of the ITEA most likely have read through the two Standards of Practice published some time ago. The SOPs lay out tow truck laws and the many exemptions and limitations which go with these vehicles. While this article will not cover all of the Illinois tow truck laws, it will make a few points to prepare drivers for the winter at hand. If towing from the scene of a wintry crash:

•   A two-axle tow truck can weigh 24,000 pounds on the rear axle during a tow operation.
•   If the wrecker has two rear axles (drive axles), it can weigh 44,000 pounds on those axles during a tow operation.
•   There is no limitation on gross weight, but too much weight may push the driver into CDL criteria.
•   If the tow truck is carrying a vehicle (not towing behind), there are no extra weight allowances.

The most important thing one can do is join the ITEA and head straight to SOP 14 and SOP 18! Let this article serve as a reminder all Illinois tow-truck flat weight registration plates expire at the end of the month.

There is always time to talk about tow trucks. The ITEA considers tow-truck education such an important topic that the upcoming ITEA Conference in February 2017 has an entire block of training dedicated to tow-truck education for the industry.

Tow-truck laws are complicated and confusing. To add to the confusion there are new laws about tow trucks recently introduced in the FAST Act. The ITEA wrote an article about it last month which can be read HERE. The FAST Act will also be covered in its entirety during the 2017 ITEA Annual Conference.

Until then, prepare for what winter always delivers. Drive safe, arrive safe.

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Deals and Discounts

Before the turkey and stuffing were digested (or in some cases prepared) newspapers, television and radio were overtaken with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” advertisements. For those who participated in the madness which 3:00 AM brings the Friday after Thanksgiving, the hope is the deals ventured out for were discovered. For those who spent Monday glued to their devices searching for rock bottom prices on the “must have items of 2016”, the hope is the bosses didn’t notice the inevitable lack of productivity. There are still plenty of deals to be had at the friendly local Secretary of State Office! The article this week will discuss some great deals and discounts offered for second division vehicle registration.

What’s even better about Jesse White’s registration deals is one doesn’t have to wake up at preposterous hours of the morning, or search through hundreds of websites to find it. These deals are available all year round and there is only one website to visit to find all the information: www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

These deals and discounts are not part of any type of promotion or sale, they are special types of registration offered for certain vehicles qualifying for their use. Over the past year, the ITEA has released several blogs about different types of specialized registration which can be purchased for a variety of vehicles. The fact is there is likely a special type of registration to fit the specific needs of any trucking company in Illinois, the land of over 100 plates.

Many of the specialized types of registration, such as Permanently Mounted Equipment (PM) and Farm Machinery (FM), may only be used on vehicles which perform specific functions or carry certain items. These plates are offered at a significantly reduced cost due to their limited use.  There is, however, one little known type of registration which has the versatility to meet the needs of many intrastate carriers in Illinois.

The Mileage Tax registration plate is offered for second division vehicles registered from 12,000 lbs up to 80,000 lbs. These plates may be used on a second division vehicle being operated for virtually any purpose. This type of registration is offered at a cost ranging from $95 to $1630, depending on the weight covered by the plate. Mileage Tax plates are also offered for trailers with a cost ranging from $98 to $870 depending on weight coverage. These rates are nearly half of what one would pay if purchasing base weight plates.

Like any specialized registration, Mileage Tax plates do come with some restrictions. The most obvious of them being the mileage restriction itself. For every vehicle bearing these plates, a log must be kept recording the miles traveled annually. This information must then be provided to the Secretary of State at the end of the registration year.

The miles a vehicle can travel annually is also restricted based on the plate. Mileage Tax plates allow vehicles to travel from 5,000 to 7,000 miles annually depending on the weight rating of the plate. In addition to the original registration fees, a $500.00 surety bond is also required at the beginning of the registration year.

This bond will be used to cover any overages in mileage that may occur throughout the year. The penalty for traveling over the allowed mileage is between $0.02 – $0.27 per mile depending on the weight covered by the plate.

Power units and trailers which are registered with Mileage Tax plates must have a working odometer or hubometer in order for the plates to be considered valid. Any vehicle caught operating without a functioning odometer or hubometer will be considered operating without valid registration. The vehicles will be weighed and fined the amount which a base plate would cost for the vehicle, plus court fees.

Finally, and most importantly, Mileage Tax plates may only be used for intrastate trucking as they have no reciprocity in other states. Those traveling into other states must stick with flat weight (and the important “trip permit”) or apportioned plates.

While Mileage Tax registration may not work for everyone, it can be a cost-saving option for many companies. Sometimes savings, deals and discounts are available all year round. One only needs to know where to find them. No early mornings, waiting in line or dealing with unruly crowds is needed when you subscribe to the ITEA blog!

There are many more registration options buried deep within the pages of the Illinois Vehicle Code. These will be covered by the ITEA in future blogs.

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Regarding Murdered Police Officers

This week, the ITEA breaks from it’s normally scheduled programming of truck enforcement warblings. Instead, the article this week is the reproduced text of a letter, written by the President of the Illinois Association of Chief’s of Police, to it’s membership on November 22, 2016. These words reflect the growing anger and outrage all law enforcement has been experiencing the last couple of years as brothers and sisters in blue have been cut down during a season of political indifference in Washington DC. Thank you ILACP and Chief Steven Casstevens for being valued partners of the ITEA, and for allowing this letter to be posted on our blog.

*****

Detective Benjamin Marconi of the San Antonio, TX Police Department was assassinated in front of his own police station on Sunday, November 20th. Less than a week before the majority of Americans will gather together to celebrate and give thanks for life, love and family, the Marconi family is forced to turn their attention to burying Benjamin: a son, brother, husband, father and grandfather.

I begin this statement talking about Detective Marconi, as opposed to issuing a standard press release “on behalf of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police” or “as a police chief,” because the dreadful issue of overt, concerted and directed violence against law enforcement officers across the United States of America is personal. And it must stop.

I am compelled to speak. I am compelled to demand outrage from the American public. I am compelled to demand that the media gives this issue the attention it deserves – because the righteous indignation that has been afforded to countless other incidents of tragedy has not been bestowed on the law enforcement officers of this nation who have fallen at the hands of hatred, depravity and wanton explicit acts of anti‐police sentiment and murder. Detective Marconi was murdered. He did not die in a heroic act of lifesaving. He was writing a traffic ticket and someone shot him in the head…twice.

Despite my visceral urge not to, I had to turn on the news and tune into what passes for news these days – social media. Imagine my horror when I came across a video on Facebook of a group of young people in Austin, Texas over this past weekend chanting, “**** the police. What’s better than nine dead cops? Ten dead cops! What’s better than ten dead cops? Eleven dead cops!”

Those are vile, vitriolic, violent words. I want the media to print them, to show them, to showcase them and to broadcast them from the rooftops. Because this is the society we live in right now. Chanting for the outright murder of police officers is not protesting, it’s riot‐inciting and absolute terrorism. There is a peaceful process for speaking your mind. This is not it.

Don’t bleep out the expletives, Mr. and Mrs. Media, fearing the safe space of our country’s fragile young ears. These are the mouths, lungs and hearts connected to many ears. If the nature of this message is palatable to you and the sentiment appeals to your exploitation, let the freedom of the press and the expression of the American public cry forth in its purest and most uncensored form.

Americans are screaming, “**** the police” in the middle of the day, the same weekend that an honorable man was ferociously slaughtered in what should have been the most reasonable boundaries of safety – behind a badge, in a police car, in front of a police station, in the United States of America.

Does human decency remain anywhere? Have we watched the last thinning shreds of civility fall to the winds of indulgent, selfish, capricious cowards who do not speak for social justice but rather act brutally and sadistically for their own petty, indulgent crusades? Is there no safe quarter for the guardians and protectors, who at times are also forced to be warriors, who stand sentinel over our homes every day, night, weekend, and holiday, through onslaughts of weather, at the cost of personal and family time?

I am outraged. Yes, as a police chief and as a representative leader of my state, but also because I am a human being who is watching other human beings being targeted, assaulted, maimed, disabled and killed because they wear a badge that pledges their dedication to keeping communities across this great nation safe.

At this time in our country, more than ever, we must stop talking about theoretical common ground and find it…and stand on it…with each other and against the rage, wrath, and perceived vengeance of a vocal group who seek to bring great harm to our American way of life.

I am tired of grieving. I am weary of sending condolences. I am physically sickened at the thought of where our nation stands as a people in the face of a social contract between citizens and policing that has stood, perhaps imperfectly, for hundreds of years.

I refuse to accept the normalization of violence against police. Targeting, harming and killing law enforcement officers is a vicious, calculated act of domestic terrorism. It is not to be entertained, much less tolerated, by a nation that lives, breathes and thrives on liberty and freedom from tyranny. Every decent citizen of this country should demand that this stop.

Where is your voice? Where are your letters to the editor? Where are the media that so quickly plaster stories over and over about questionable officer‐involved shootings before all the facts are confirmed? Are you not outraged? Will you not give equal time to senseless killings of police officers and chantings for the killing of more?

  • Detective Benjamin Marconi, San Antonio, TX Police – murdered while sitting in his police car – 11‐20‐16.
  • Deputy Commander Patrick Carothers, United States Marshal – shot and killed while serving a warrant – 11‐18‐16.
  • Deputy Sheriff Dennis Wallace, Stanislaus County, CA – shot and killed investigating a suspicious person – 11‐13‐16.
  • Officer Darrin Reed, Show Low, AZ Police – shot and killed investigating a suspicious person – 11‐08‐16.
  • Deputy Daryl Smallwood, Peach County, GA – shot and killed investigating a neighbor dispute – 11‐06‐16.
  • Sergeant Patrick Sondron, Peach County, GA – shot and killed investigating a neighbor dispute – 11‐06‐16.\
  • Officer Cody Brotherson, West Valley, UT Police – struck and killed by criminals fleeing in a stolen car – 11‐06‐16.
  • Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo, New York City Police – shot and killed responding to a robbery call – 11‐04‐16.
  • Sergeant Anthony Beminio, Des Moines, IA Police – shot and killed in an ambush attack – 11‐02‐16.
  • Officer Justin Martin, Urbandale, IA Police – shot and killed in an ambush attack – 11‐02‐ 16.

The officers listed above, sons, brothers, fathers and grandfathers, were murdered in the line of duty just this month. This reflects a rate of one officer murdered every two days in this country. This should shock the conscience of every American.

Again, I ask you, where is your outrage? I ask you to grieve for the families of these officers. I also ask you to grieve for all families of the 128 police officers who gave their lives in the line of duty so far this year. I ask you to reflect upon the 20,789 police officers, whose names are etched in granite at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, who gave their lives to protect this country. They did it for you. It has to stop.

That’s what the American public, community after community, leader after leader, elected official after elected official and person after person must say about attacks on law enforcement. It has to stop.

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The Exception Proves the Problem

In 2004, there was no bigger animated film than The Incredibles. The evil antagonist Syndrome, a self-made, artificial “superhero”, created technology which would grant any average person superhero powers. He justified his insanity by claiming “when everyone’s super, no one will be”. Syndrome’s warped ideology is a caricature of many things, truck law being one example. The article this week will look at how watering down laws makes them practically pointless in an effort to make all trucks equal.

In a perfect world, all things are equal. But it’s not a perfect world. Everything is not apples to apples. Some people are highly intelligent. Some are super athletes. Some are wealthy. Others are none of those things.

Spend a semester in a college level sociology class and you will hear talking heads working towards a single Utopian theory which concisely explains all human behavior. It’s the intellectual one-size-fits-all, and it will never be accomplished.

Legislation is similar. In an effort to do right by society, legislatures ratify laws which are meant to better the lives of their constituents. As luck would have it, no one law perfectly fits everyone, so the laws must have exceptions. Truck law is no different, and arguably one of the most excepted laws enforced by police officers. Here are three examples.

Example One – Weight Laws

The State of Illinois has four foundational weight laws: single axle weight, tandem axle weight, gross weight and bridge formula weight. These are contained in 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a). There are nineteen numbered exceptions to this law, and buried within each of the exceptions are more sub-exceptions, limitations and qualifications for each.

There are good reasons for these exceptions and they were hard fought and won by special interest lobbyists. The question is at what point does legal weight become useless? If every configuration and commodity has an exception to the rule, is it time to scrap the law altogether? (For the record, the ITEA is NOT endorsing this idea.)

The FAST Act required states to consider raw milk as a non-divisible load for the purpose of overweight permitting. This was the first time the Illinois legislature codified a specific commodity as a non-divisible load. A slippery slope for sure, as each sector of the trucking industry will surely begin campaigning to carry more weight in excess of legal.

That pesky “non-divisible load” definition keeps getting in the way though. Is it unthinkable to forecast a day when there are dozens of exceptions to “non-divisible load”? Is it fair to those who don’t have the resources to pay lobbyists to be the lone ducks having to play by non-excepted laws?

Example Two – Hours of Service

In recent years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration overhauled the hours of service laws. For sure drivers shouldn’t be tired while driving as it directly correlates to highway fatalities. However, the universal application of the law does not meet the reality of many trucking operations who have the ability to operate safely outside these stringent regulations.

As to be expected, there are a host of exceptions to the hours of service laws for short haul  operations, interstate vs intrastate, hazmat drivers and most recently a well-deserved exception for specialized carriers on their meal breaks. If there needs to be so many exceptions to the regulation, maybe the root regulation itself is inadequate?

Example Three – Illinois Idling Laws

Sleeping people (usually people who foolishly bought a home next to a truck lot or within earshot of loading docks) do not like the sound of diesel engines churning. In response, the Illinois legislature created idling laws so as not to disturb those who count sheep.

First, the truck has to be idling in one of nine counties (out of 102) and in portions of two others. Second, the truck can’t be idling for more than ten minutes in any given sixty minute period. Still following along? Good, because there are sixteen numbered exceptions from this point forward.

The honest truth is it’s almost impossible to create a scenario when a truck is idling unlawfully, thereby rendering the law useless.

It’s a good thing Syndrome was only a cartoon character.

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Dirty Lyle, Revisited

Five years ago today, the ITEA published its first blog article, titled Dirty Lyle. Since this time, more than 250 articles have been published on current events which intersect the trucking and law enforcement professions. Some articles have been written to clarify confusing issues. Some have been to end ridiculous rumors. Some have been critical of truckers and some of been critical of police officers. Has this blog served its purpose for the last half-decade? Read on to judge for yourself.

Truck law is a massively confusing quagmire of legalese for both professions. Even those who study the statutes and practice them each day find new places where legislation does not meet reality and those on the street, the police officers and truckers, are left trying to sort it all out.

The tragedy is violations of truck laws carry significant fines, fines not seen in any other aspect of law enforcement. While the vast majority of truck officers have enormous respect for the industry, and use compassion when levying these fines, there are still those out there who exploit the system.

In the five years since this blog was launched, the ITEA has seen a drastic improvement in these situations. Unfortunately there are still some officers out there doing the opposite.

They don’t follow a code. They don’t want to be accountable. They can’t listen to constructive criticism from peers. Nor do they really want to because they have a heart problem.

Please read (or re-read) the text of the inaugural Dirty Lyle blog post. Ask yourself if you know a police officer who acts like this, and then go watch Convoy, one of the great trucking movies of all time.

*******************

Emerging from the CB radio heyday of the mid-1970’s came the rather forgettable cult classic movie Convoy starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, and Ernest Borgnine. The movie, and it’s theme song by C.W. McCall, accidentally became a rally cry for the owner-operator truckers of this nation on the cusp of deregulation.

Borgnine played a cop named Dirty Lyle, aka “Cottonmouth” on the short wave. He lived up to the name “Dirty” for sure – setting truckers up to break the law and busting them when they did….and finally soliciting a bribe to forget the whole thing.

There is no doubt Lyle and his nemesis, the “Rubber Duck” (played by Kristofferson), were caricatures of their respective occupations. But in all things Hollywood, there is always some truth that inspires the storyline.

Lyle hated truckers and abused his authority. Let there be no suggestion truck cops in Illinois today are engaged in the corrupt agenda of Dirty Lyle, but should they not challenge themselves to rise above the anti-trucker mentality that Dirty Lyle represented?

Here are some questions professional truck cops should be asking themselves:

Am I doing truck enforcement to provide a maintenance function of public safety, or am I doing it to be a revenue generating machine?
Do I generalize all truck drivers as criminal, or do I treat each driver as an individual worthy of respect?
Do I find myself using petty violations or questionable interpretations of the law to increase productivity?
Have I sought out authoritative resources to make an informed decision before making a wrong one?
Am I humble enough to ask for help when I don’t understand something?
If I make a mistake, will I be open for correction, or will I get defensive?

Police Officers: Judge yourselves honestly and look for ways to improve. There is a job that needs to be done but it needs to be done with excellence.

Truckers: Don’t be the Rubber Duck. Play by the rules. Be respectful.

A cooperative spirit between both industries will do more to balance the vital needs of commerce and public safety than rogue personalities.

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Dumb Laws: Covered Heavy Duty Tows

Welcome to the third installment of the dumb laws trilogy involving the federal FAST Act implementation in Illinois. To review, the FAST Act in and of itself is not dumb. The intentions are good. What is dumb is the how it was interpreted by Illinois lawmakers and squeezed into Illinois statute. The article week will discuss the term “covered heavy duty tow and recovery vehicles” and the quagmire of unnecessary contextual non-sense.

To begin, the towing and recovery profession enjoys an exceptional history of working with law enforcement. Police agencies around the nation contract with towing companies for crash, criminal and safety towing. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is proud of the outstanding relationship it has with the Professional Towing and Recovery Operators of Illinois.

It’s right the towing industry has exceptions to size and weight law. If they did not, how would large vehicles ever be removed from the highways of this state?

Prior to the FAST Act, Illinois law provided extra size and weight provisions for certain tow trucks. This does not mean the law was perfect and could not use some revision and clarification. However, Illinois was not one of the states which had no exceptions for towing which initiated the FAST Act provisions.

As mentioned in the previous articles, the FAST Act only required the states to adopt the language on federal highways, which are primarily the interstates and tollways in Illinois. The well-intentioned idea to make it uniform across all Illinois highways is where the mass confusion comes into play.

With the FAST Act language now in place, once again police officers are left to creatively interpret the law and its application. If anyone thinks this is a good idea and will help the towing industry, please speak up.

Where the authors went wrong was their failure to seek counsel from multiple stakeholders in the enforcement and interpretation of proposed language. If they would have reached out and asked, they would have learned it might be a good idea to amend the current law and blend the two. Alas, this never happened.

So now the police come to a fork in the enforcement road when they have a wrecker stopped they believe to be overweight. Is it a “covered tow” under the FAST Act, or is it a tow which receives the benefits of the old law?

To be considered a “covered tow”, three criteria must be met.

First, the tow has to be from the initial point of disablement. That’s easy enough and mirrors the old state law prohibiting secondary tows from receiving higher weights.

Second, the towing vehicle must be equal or greater in weight than the vehicle it is towing. So here is a practical example: an 80,000 pound semi breaks down and the 4-axle, 52,000 pound rotator comes to remove it. Does the towing vehicle weigh more than the towed vehicle? No. Therefore, it is NOT a covered tow under the FAST Act law. Yes, the police will be weighing each vehicle to prove the operation is not a covered tow.

Third, the tow must be destined to the “nearest repair facility”. Does this mean the nearest repair facility which the towing company or the driver/company of the disabled vehicle chooses? It’s a  great unknown.

This means the police officer can stand at roadside, scan the horizon for the nearest repair facility and opine the supposed “covered tow” has traveled too far. This is a terrible plan, but within the officer’s right. Don’t blame him.

Based on these criteria, and without much effort at all, law enforcement can easily make the case that no tow operations are covered tows under the FAST Act. In the event the tow is not a covered tow, then the operation defaults back to old state law, which is no simple piece of legislation either.

What if the police officer considers the operation to be a covered tow? What benefit does it provide?

If it’s a covered tow under this new law, then it has no weight limitations, except for registered weight. It’s exempt from everything else. No axle, gross or bridge formula weight limits. It can cross over posted weight limit structures.

Why? Because the language written by those who did not seek counsel said if it is a covered heavy-duty tow, then the vehicle is exempt from the weight limits of “this section”, meaning 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a).

They got a better deal than the fire trucks, who ironically had weight limits imposed upon their industry through the same legislative effort. A+ governance. Solid.

Now there is the primary problem of a bad law, the secondary problem of its interpretation and the tertiary problem of who is going to fix it. Will the owner of this law please rise and make this right? The ITEA will be glad to help.

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You Can’t Have Your Cake

Think about the last purchase of your car’s license plates or registration renewal sticker. For most people, it’s as simple as entering credit card information into the Secretary of State’s website and clicking submit. Likely, the hardest decision to make regarding license plates was whether or not to spend the extra cash on a Chicago Cubs specialty plate at the risk of looking like a bandwagon fan. These are the same issues thousands of Illinois vehicle owners face every day. These issues, however, are almost laughable when compared to the process owners of commercial vehicles go through when purchasing registration.

There are many angles an owner of a commercial truck needs to consider before shelling out hard earned cash to Jesse White. How much does the truck weigh empty? How much will it weigh loaded? What kind of special plates does it qualify for?

These are just a few of the many questions which need to be asked before a purchase is made. If these questions aren’t asked and answered appropriately, the monetary consequences can be significant.

In Illinois, the cost of registering a truck can range from $101 to about $3200. While it can be expensive, the logic is easy: the more you pay, the more you can weigh.

This simple rhyme is easy to remember and is relatively accurate when referring to flat weight Illinois truck registration. However, it is not all inclusive as Illinois does offer special types of registration for certain vehicles.

Special plates are typically offered at a significantly reduced cost from flat rate registration plates. The caveat is use restrictions. Restrictions such as the type of equipment which can be carried on the vehicle, the miles traveled annually or the distance traveled from the owner’s registered address.

Owners applying for special registration plates must sign an affirmation statement acknowledging all of the provisions of the special plates and associated fines (and possible revocation of privileges) for violations.

So what is the benefit to purchasing special plates? A huge cost savings to the owner if they are used appropriately. In the case of mileage tax plates (when vehicles are restricted by annual mileage) the cost of an 80,000 pound plate is about half of the cost of a flat weight “Z” truck plate. In the case of a truck registered with farm machine (FM) plates, the cost of an 80,000 pound plate is only $13 every two years!

When vehicles qualify for these types of plates, it is an outstanding deal. But remember, with great deals comes great responsibility.

Reduced rates come with a different type of cost in the form of strict regulation. If any of the restrictions listed on the affirmation statement are violated, the plates are being used unlawfully and the vehicle may be considered unregistered.

In Illinois, any second division vehicle which is operating on a roadway while unregistered is considered overweight on registration from zero pounds. The vehicle can be weighed by a law enforcement officer and fined the amount that would cover the cost of the appropriate registration as listed in 625 ILCS 5/3-815. This means no more special deals or discounts. Only the price of a flat weight plate to cover the weight of the vehicle as it sits on the scale.

Recently, an ITEA officer stopped a vehicle bearing expired special plates. Since the vehicle was considered unregistered, the officer weighed the truck and assessed a fine which would have covered the appropriate registration.

The fine exceeded $2,000. The company argued if they had renewed the specialty plates, the plates would only have cost $270. They further believed the $270 should meet the definition of “appropriate registration”.

While this theory may seem logical, the fact is the company is not entitled to the benefits of the special registration if they have not paid to renew them. Similarly, they would not have been afforded the benefits of those plates if they were valid and it was determined that they were not operating under the guidelines of the affirmation statement. The law is clear – this vehicle falls under the flat weight registration fees in both instances.

The moral of the story is you can’t enjoy the benefits of special plates, if you don’t want to play by the rules set out by the Secretary of State. In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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The More You Know

This past month, local law enforcement officers rose to the challenge and completed the ITEA’s signature Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer training.  This 40-hour training class went above and beyond any basic class they previously encountered.  Curriculum presented included the nitty-gritty of overweight and over-dimension permitting, Illinois Vehicle Code equipment and overweight violations, and Secretary of State Commercial Driver’s License and Registration law.  What these officers may not have picked up on is that their exposure to this knowledge has great ramifications, beyond themselves and their departments.

It can be very easy for police officer to get into a professional rut.  After an officer becomes comfortable in his job, he can come and go without thought and yet possibly be very effective, for a time.

Supervisors see new truck officers as being productive and give the proverbial thumbs up. Co-workers see their ability to be productive (and give another proverbial sign…of disgust), and employers see the same ability to be produce and they make a mental note of the efforts.

And all is well. Or is it?

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones put it well when he said “Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except the books you read and the people you meet.”

The officers who chose to further develop and expose themselves to a larger knowledge base are ensuring they will not be the same person the following week.

They are ensuring their department’s enforcement practices will operate on the cutting edge of new case law, vehicle code and administrative code interpretations by the highest of Illinois State agencies.

The communities where the officers work will benefit by having a local enforcement expert with a broad knowledge base.

Trucking companies traversing the officer’s patrol area can rest assured they are not going to suffer consequences of poor or inaccurate enforcement practices.

Everyone remembers the short NBC public service announcements starting in the early 90s.  Some notable public figure would give a tidbit of enlightening information titled “THE MORE YOU KNOW (dum dum dum dum)” and captivate the viewer until their TV show came back on.

These public service announcements have been parodied in everything from Saturday Night Live to Family Guy, but this idea is not something to be discounted. Exposure to literature, colleagues or instructors, who are more knowledgeable than themselves, is not only good for personal growth but critical for professional growth.

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association could be one of those sources for you, your police department, or your company.

What have you done lately to not be the same person you were 5 years ago?

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Give Them an Inch…

Give them and inch and they’ll take a mile, is how the old saying goes. Police officers see this in action every day. The speed limit is 30 mph but the motorists push the limit to see how much faster they can go before they get pulled over. A car pulls up to the white stripe at an intersection, how far over the line until the officer decides the motorist disobeyed the stop sign? Same goes for oversize/overweight permit moves, which are set with very little margin of error. So what are the common errors made by the trucking industry and how many inches do officers give for those mistakes? Read on to find out!

Axle Spacings

With the implementation of automated permits by the Illinois Department of Transportation, it’s more important than ever the trucking industry know the correct axle spacings when requesting a permit. IDOT regulations say the axle minimum axle spacing must be correct or the permit is deemed fraudulent, and the officer can knock the weights back to 80,000 pounds.

What’s important to remember is the greater the axle spacing, the less weight is compressed in one area. In other words, exceeding the minimum axle spacings would not constitute a fraudulent permit. Officers should also be aware the tool they use for measuring axle spacings will have a margin of error. In this instance, the officer should give the trucking industry the inch.

Divisibility

IDOT regulations, the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations explain what is considered a non-divisible load. Compromising the intended use of the load, destroying the value of the load, or taking more than eight hours to dismantle would render a load non-divisible. As such, many companies who regularly participate in permit moves know what can and can’t be transported on the trailer.

IDOT clearly states that tie downs, brooms, shovels, rigging and other dunnage can be carried on the trailer. In other words, minor things that help the workers get the equipment on and off the trailer, and secure it are perfectly legal to have on the trailer. Once again, the officer can give the inch to the trucking industry.

Number of Axles on the Ground

When applying for a permit, the company must state how many axles will be on the ground. So when the huge permit load drives by with five axles on the ground and the permit requires six, one would think this voids the permit. According to IDOT’s permit manual, not enough axles on the ground is a violation punishable by a regular traffic citation for a “Violation of Permit”, not an overweight ticket. When there is not enough axles on the ground, the officer should give the inch.

Off the Assigned Permit Route

The police officer hears it all the time, “I can leave my permitted route for 1-mile for the purposes of loading, unloading, food, fuel rest, or repairs”. Well, not exactly. IDOT regulations state a permitted load can go from one state highway to another state highway for food, fuel, rest, repairs, to return to permitted route after mistakenly getting off route or to comply with regulatory signs to weigh. Often times, the trucking industry believes they can utilize non-state roads for these reasons. They cannot. So in the instance a permitted moves turns onto a local road, the officer gets the inch.

Police officers have great discretion in deciding what the letter of the law is. In some instances, the officer should use their best judgement in deciding when a mistake is a clear violation of the law, or simply a subjective view. Sometimes the trucking company deserves the mile, but sometimes they don’t even get the inch.

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Pilot Cars

The average person who sees an oversize/overweight vehicle thinks one thing: big. It’s huge. It’s a massive truck. They only say this because their point of reference is a world full of small cars and SUVs. The truth is many oversize loads really aren’t all that big in the world of oversize loads. The presence of a pilot car is a sure sign to the lay motorist the load ahead is a big one. As in all things trucking, even pilot cars are controversial and their necessity is a point of contention state by state.

The first point of controversy is pilot cars go by two names. The first? Pilot cars, duh. The second name these vehicles are referred to are “escorts”. The Illinois Department of Transportation, in their OPER 993 form, refer to them as escorts. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in an effort to harmonize all things oversize/overweight, the details matter. For this article, they will be referred to as pilot cars so as not to be confused with escorts of a different trade.

The second point of controversy in Illinois is the lack of statutory mandates regarding pilot cars. The Illinois Vehicle Code requires pilot cars for certain oversize movements of implements of husbandry and buildings for agricultural/livestock raising operations. The IVC also gives IDOT the authority to create rules for pilot cars and sets fees for when the Illinois State Police serve in this capacity.

A common misconception among motorists (and sometimes police officers) is pilot cars are required for ALL oversize loads. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the IVC does not mandate is pilot cars for local roads. Each township, municipality and county has the authority to set their own rules regarding the use of civilian pilot cars or local police officers.

The third point regarding pilot cars in Illinois is the lenient standards of IDOT. This is not a bad thing, as for once Illinois is not the most restrictive state in the midwest.  IDOT requires a progressive number of civilian pilot cars based on increasing dimensions of the load.

Illinois State Police troopers are not required until the load is greater than 18’ high, 18’ wide or 200’ long. No pilot cars are needed for legal weight, oversize-only loads, nor are pilot cars needed for overweight-only loads.

Compare this to the State of Missouri. A state trooper is required in the front of the move and a civilian pilot car is required at the read for overweight loads weighing 160,000 pounds or more, even if they are not oversize. These two pilots vehicles are also needed if the load exceeds 16’ wide, 16’ high and 150’ long. The State of Indiana requires four State Police vehicles piloting their superload permits.

Where Illinois is more restrictive with pilot cars is the size of the pilot car itself. Illinois Administrative Rule 554.408 requires the vehicle to have gross weight of 8,000 pounds or less. Some have interpreted this to mean the manufacturers GVWR or the registered weight, but that’s not what the regulation says. It only says “gross weight”.

In Missouri, the law does not specify a weight. It only says the pilot car must be a single vehicle such as an “automobile, pickup truck, utility vehicle, station wagon, or equivalent”. Indiana requires the vehicle must have a minimum four wheels and a gross vehicle weight of 12,000 pounds or less.

The thought process behind the smaller pilot car requirement in Illinois is for a few reasons. First, a smaller car allows greater maneuverability through intersections. Second, the purpose of a pilot car is not to transport freight for the permit load itself. One could reason the bigger the pilot car, the more a person can stuff into it. The smaller pilot car limits this opportunity.

Are these regulations right? Are they wrong? It’s an ongoing debate nationwide as the carrier industry attempts to harmonize regulations across borders and struggles with the idea of civilian pilot car certification. The ITEA encourages the states to continue to discuss this topic, and for local agencies to play ball as well.

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