N is for Nancy, Nora…and Tanker?

Hopefully you filed your income tax refund on time this past week, and hopefully you are going to receive a refund. The ITEA knows you have a lot of plans for oodles of money you loaned the federal government in 2013, but here’s another option which only costs $5: a tanker endorsement for your CDL. Yeah that’s right, $5. One of the best deals the State of Illinois has to offer, but like all things truck law, it’s not always quite that easy!

The first thing to understand about CDL endorsements is what most people do not understand (including some courses which actually train truck enforcement officers) – only a CDL can receive an endorsement. Generally speaking, drivers of vehicles carrying a liquid or gaseous tank with a capacity of 1,000 gallons or more are required to have a tanker endorsement on their CDL. However, this is predicated upon the vehicle being operated required a CDL in the first place.

For law enforcement instruction to publicize a blanket “1,000 gallons” as a tanker requirement is irresponsible. When a driver is cited for not having the proper endorsement on a CDL, it is written under the same section of law (with the same penalty) as not having a CDL at all! In Illinois, this is a Class-A misdemeanor. Many local police agencies require officers to make custodial arrests of misdemeanor traffic violations. Handcuffs, towed vehicles, fingerprints, mug shots, state and federal arrest numbers. It’s big deal and requires a greater understanding that just a generic “1,000 gallons”.

For instance, a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds in Illinois is required to have a Class-C non-CDL. A police officer stops the vehicle after finding independent probable cause and determines there is a 1,500 gallon water tank bolted on the chassis. The driver does not need a tanker endorsement in this situation because the vehicle does not require a CDL.

The same officer then stops another truck with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds carrying the same tank. Since this vehicle requires a CDL, the driver must also have a tanker endorsement. It may seem ludicrous that a difference in one pound between GVWR’s creates such a requirement, but lines have to be drawn somewhere, and this is where the federal government drew them.

The criteria for the tank endorsement does just rely on the size of one tank, but also the aggregate total of tanks being carried on the truck. This is a two-prong test. First the sum total of all the tank capacities must be 1,000 gallons or more. Second, each tank being counted towards the 1,000 gallon total must individually be more than 119 gallons. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created this rule to address the growing use of intermediate bulk containers.

Just like any truck law can be difficult to understand, there are always exceptions to the law. Take for instance a cement mixer. An average cement mixer drum can hold up to eleven yards of cement. Eleven cubic yards is equivalent to 2221 gallons, therefore being in excess of 1,000 gallons. Wet cement is for sure a liquid, but guess what? A cement mixer driver is exempt from the tanker endorsement.

Another exemption are dry-bulk containers. Dry-bulk semi-trailers have an average capacity of nearly 8,000 gallons. Is it a “tank”? Yes. Does it carry liquids or gas? No…it carries dry materials. Therefore, it is exempt from the tanker endorsement.

Whoa! What if you are a CDL holder operating a CDL worthy truck and have to pick up a load of empty tanks to be transported for sale? Worry not – you are not required to have a tanker endorsement either. Neither is the farmer who loads his portable water tank on the truck to transport it out to the field. As long as he is not watering off the truck while operating on the highway, he is exempt from the endorsement as well.

So what does it take to get a tanker endorsement? Well, as previously mentioned, bring you CDL and $5 to your local Illinois Secretary of State CDL facility and ask to take the tanker test. The SOS staff will have you sit and a computer and take a short test about knowledge and safe operation of tanks on commercial vehicles.

Pass the test, and voila! You have a tanker endorsement.



The Commercial Distribution Fee

In the world of apps, the term “running in the background” has become common speak. Whether you are using a laptop, mobile phone or tablet, apps running in the background allow processes to work even though they are not being used at the moment by the user. That’s kind of what the Commercial Distribution Fee (CDF) is. It’s there, you don’t really see it, and unless you are paying for it or collecting it, you don’t really need to know about it. But guess what? Both the trucking industry and truck enforcement officers have a dog in this fight.

Let’s not pull any punches – the CDF is a fight. Back in the days of the Governor Blagojevich administration, there was a battle over the Rolling Stock tax exemption. The Governor could not get his way with it, so the CDF tax was created.

The CDF originally imposed a 36% increase in fees for any vehicle registered above 8,000 pounds. That meant any vehicle registered with a minimum “D” truck plate or “TD” trailer plate had to pay this percentage along with the statutory cost of the plate.

The trucking industry successfully lobbied to reduce the CDF to 21.5% in 2005-2006, and further reduce it to 14.35% from July 1st, 2006 until the present. Since that time, scores of bills have been introduced to repeal the CDF altogether.

The statute says the CDF is to be used “for the use of the public highways, State infrastructure, and State services”. Regardless of where you fall in your opinion of the CDF, this language is quite vague as to where the funds are actually deposited and used after having been collected by the Secretary of State.

In a recent publication released from the Transportation for Illinois Coalition (TFIC), the group claims revenue from the CDF “currently goes to the General Revenue Fund (GRF)”. Because of this, the CDF in and of itself is reviled by the local carriers. It’s a tax imposed exclusively on their industry which could be used for generic state spending which does not benefit their industry.

The State, however, has come to rely on this revenue boost as part of their budgeting during the horrid financial state in which the Illinois economy wallows.

So what’s the answer to the CDF and how does this impact truck enforcement? Well the answer is beyond the scope of the ITEA, but how the CDF is applied by enforcement is not.

In 2011, Governor Quinn signed legislation written in partnership between the ITEA, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Secretary of State and Mid-west Truckers Association. Part of this bill included new language called “appropriate registration” in 625 ILCS 5/3-401(d)(2).

It is not uncommon for truck enforcement officers to cite trucks for being overweight on registration. There are two separate fine charts which could apply, but the fine is never to exceed the cost of “appropriate registration”.

Included in the cost of the fine based on “appropriate registration” is the statutory cost of the registration as listed in 625 ILCS 5/3-815(a), and the CDF in 5/3-815.1. These two things make up “the full annual cost of the required registration and its associated fees” in 5/3-401(d)(2). Other figures such as court costs may be line-itemed in the total bail amount, but the fine amount is only “appropriate registration”.

This is nothing more than a formula for the police officer to use in the calculation of the fine. The different statutes used to tabulate the fine does not mean the truck is receiving new registration from the officer. Nor does it mean the circuit clerk has to redistribute the fine money to the Secretary of State. It’s as simple as a whole dollar amount equal to what the Secretary of State lists as the 1st quarter truck registration fees on its website.

The purpose behind the “appropriate registration” definition was eliminate questions about whether or not to include the CDF in the fine total. Or to use the differing quarterly fees assessed by the SOS when they are actually selling truck plates. The CDF should be like an app running in the background of fines.

The law provides uniformity as to how the fine is to be calculated. The Supreme Court Rules direct the circuit clerks how the fine is to be distributed. No one else has a voice in the matter, yet certain voices in truck enforcement world make unnecessary noise about the CDF.

Except there is state sponsored, unauthoritative instruction out there teaching police officers to break down the fine amount into the cost of the plate and the CDF. This same instruction gives hard copy resources to officers depicting the faulty practice. All this does is create confusion.

There is also software being sold to law enforcement agencies to automate citation processing. The programmers left off the CDF in the fine total because they do not feel it is “right” since the circuit clerks do not redistribute the CDF to the Secretary of State. That thought process is well outside their authority and in direct contradiction with statute and the Supreme Court Rules.

In the end, you have confused police officers collecting various fine amounts when they all should be collecting the same. The only variation should be in the total bail amount, and that is because of differing county court fees.

Never fear, the ITEA is here.



Separation of Truckers and Stereotypes

Cruising down the highway with your baby by your side is as American as apple pie. So why would a national police publication tell officers that a passenger in a commercial vehicle is an automatic red flag to delay a trucker for a minor traffic offense? And why would a trucker purposely try to intimidate an officer with mounds of neatly organized paperwork they are required to carry and provide when asked? Read on to find out why.

This type of article is an example of an “industry second” mindset the Illinois Truck Enforcement is working hard to correct. ITEA certified officers know to put industry first…it is who they serve. Police work is not the same for all types of activity an officer may encounter. Publishing generic information on truck enforcement without consulting those who specialize in truck enforcement creates poor practices among police officers.

For instance, under federal law, passengers are allowed in commercial motor vehicles in certain situations, but the documentation is only required to be held at the company office, not in the truck. It’s important for a police officer to find out who the passenger is and why the they are there, but it does not automatically give them the ability to keep a driver longer than need be on a mere hunch.

The author tells readers that a well-dressed truck driver is probably hiding something in his trailer, and to see if “the story matches the person”. What is the “story” for a driver wearing comfortable clothing who likes to look nice, or even one who doesn’t? People come in all shapes and sizes and deciding a certain type of person, or their attire, does not fit within a stereotype is not a good standard for police work.

The best truck drivers often keep their paperwork neatly organized in a three ring binder. The ITEA encourages drivers to maintain binders, and officers to utilize the binders to conduct a safe and efficient traffic stop. This binder contains everything needed conduct basic traffic enforcement. It is not a tactic used by truckers to intimidate and confuse a police officer.

When an officer hands the binder back to the driver explaining he only wants insurance and registration, and then tells the driver that failing to comply will result in his truck being towed, that’s intimidation. If the officer does not have the time to look through the documents himself, as the author suggests, then maybe the officer shouldn’t be wasting the driver’s time either.

The author suggests officers should ask for things like medical cards, logbooks and bills of lading, which are way outside the scope of a stop for nothing more than a driver with a lead foot. Medical cards are now being processed through the state licensing agency. In Illinois, a local officer may only enforce the status of a CDL, which can be impacted by a driver failing to update his medical certificate. Only a CVSA certified inspector has a legitimate purpose for inspecting the physical medical certificate.

Log books are more often being maintained on electronic logging devices (ELDs) as technology moves the industry into the future. There are exceptions to having a logbook, and an officer not trained to inspect paper logs or access electronic logs would have no use for them anyway. There are many other clues and questions an officer can use to determine if a truck driver is smuggling contraband in their truck. Simply delaying the stop by collecting paperwork without any other evidence is not a practice that should be preached.

Those officers who have questions about the paperwork should ask the driver or a trained truck enforcement officer to help them through the traffic stop. A driver who has nothing to hide will gladly help the officer navigate the paperwork so that they can get back to work faster. An officer investigating a truck for criminal activity should use the same methods they would as if it was a car.

The author does provide some useful officer safety tips for stopping trucks. Their large size creates a traffic hazard and it is critical for the officer to preplan where to stop the truck. Understanding that the driver may be trying to find a suitable spot to pull over is important for an officer to remember.

A driver knows his truck and how long it takes for him to merge back into traffic. Trucks are not only large, they are slow, and a police officer should be considerate at the conclusion of the traffic stop. Help the truck back into traffic. This basic principle of enforcement was left out of the article.

No police officer should conduct truck enforcement based on proving truck drivers are criminals. Truck enforcement is complex and those interested in conducting truck enforcement need to be trained and constantly updated to changing laws.

Keeping our roads safe when a commercial vehicle breaks a traffic law is every patrol officer’s responsibility. Encouraging enforcement beyond what an officer is legally allowed to enforce and based on flimsy stereotypes should never be published in respected police magazine. Isn’t that right, overweight doughnut eating cops? :)


A Tale of Two Phone Calls: Part 2

Is the goal of truck enforcement to protect the public and infrastructure from unsafe vehicles, or is it simply a revenue generator for local government? This is a never ending debate, but there is one truth which no one can argue: high fines are (or at least should be) a deterrent to carriers to operate illegally. Conversely, high fines should also motivate police officers to make sure their enforcement is above board at all times. When police officers take shortcuts in order to rake in a massive overweight ticket fine, it justifies the argument that enforcement is only about revenue. Read on to learn how one ITEA police officer did the exact opposite.

Last week, the blog article told the story of a phone call which came to the ITEA about a police officer who made a critical enforcement error. A $41,000 error which could easily have been avoided had the officer been a member of the ITEA and utilized the resources available to him. This week the story of a second phone call will be told. The two phone calls were very similar in content, but with very different outcomes.

Phone Call #2 – March 2014
On a cold Friday afternoon at about 4:30pm, the phone rang. On the other end was a certified ITEA member police officer who had stopped an off-route, overweight permit load. Much like the previous story, this officer had the carrier dead to rights.

The driver had been operating on his assigned state permit route when he turned left instead of right. He continued on a state highway for nearly seven miles off-route before he was stopped by the ITEA officer.

Similar to the officer in Phone Call #1, weighing the truck was going to be a challenge, but this officer knew there were only two choices. Either find a method to weigh it lawfully, or let it go. Because this officer was a certified member of the ITEA, he had learned what not to do in these situations.

To further complicate the situation, this eleven-axle vehicle was permitted for 196,000 pounds. There was no place to turn the vehicle around to get to a nearby scale. The IDOT permit office was nearly closed for the weekend, and the officer knew better than to risk moving the vehicle without authoritative route review. The Friday afternoon rush hour had begun. Snow was on the way. The officer did not have access to his portable scales because like many other ITEA officers, his portable scales were in a trailer bound for annual recertification in Springfield.

The officer called the ITEA looking for help. After some quick planning, the IDOT permit office was contacted at the last minute and superload routing was approved to a state scale twenty miles away.

An off-duty ITEA member police officer with access to the scale, was called to help. He responded from home to assist his fellow ITEA member. After the truck was weighed, it was determined the fine would total $37,000.

If you are in trucking, you may very well be thinking this is still a hose-job. However, the real question is which kind of enforcement would you rather have? Enforcement that is well-trained, resourced and lawful, or enforcement that is violates the simplest tenants of the law in order to make a quick buck?

If in your mind enforcement is only about the fine money, then there is no reason to finish reading the story. The officer, in this case, gave the driver a recognizance bond (signature, not cash) for the full amount. He had the full authority of the law to make the driver or carrier post the $37,000 cash bail, but he chose not to.

After weighing, the officer was able to park the vehicle in a safe place off the road to wait out the oncoming inclement weather. Even if the officer had chosen to not weigh the truck at all, the approaching darkness would have prevented the vehicle from reaching its destination that night.

On behalf of the member police officer, the ITEA contacted the carrier to let them know what was going on. The circumstances of the stop, weighing and disposition were explained in detail. This gave the carrier the opportunity to start working on new permits to get the truck to its final destination the next business day.

No one was happy about the circumstances or the high fine, but the carrier was appreciative of the professional way things were handled. They thanked the officer for his discretion and wise decision making choices. There will still be a price tag for the error, but the officer pledged to work with the carrier on a fine reduction.

In the end, the law was upheld, the job got done, the carrier was treated well, and professionalism abounded on both sides. This is a better way to do police work.

Which phone call do you want to answer?



A Tale of Two Phone Calls: Part 1

Everyone loves a coincidence! When two independent events mimic each other completely in their own universe, it brings a smile to people’s faces. That is unless the circumstances are not positive. The article this week will discuss two very similar situations which happened recently in Illinois truck enforcement.  Coincidental in scope, yet with very different outcomes.

The ITEA works hard to bring balance between professional truck enforcement and profitable industry. The people demand protective enforcement. The industry demands fair and quality enforcement. Regardless of political and social views, police work is here to stay. Qualify polcing, if you must, as necessary or unnecessary, evil or good, but the police are not going away anytime soon. The goal is to make sure all enforcement, favorable or unfavorable, is done with excellence.

Phone Call #1 – October 2013
The ITEA receives a call regarding an overweight citation that has been received by a heavy hauler. In this incident, the truck was on a county road and did not have a county permit. Weighing in excess of 190,000 pounds gross weight, the police officer had the driver dead to rights. All that needed to happen was to weigh the vehicle pursuant to the law, sometimes easier said than done with large and heavy vehicles like this one.

The Illinois Vehicle Code mandates if a police officer has reason to believe a vehicle is overweight, he “shall” weigh it on a scale(s). This did not happen. There’s no doubt an 11-axle, 190,000 pound load simply cannot be driven over any scale. It takes either a high capacity fixed scale or many portable wheel load weigher scales in order to lawfully weigh this combination.

The ITEA has these resources at its disposal, but the officer (who is not a member of the ITEA) did not utilize them. It was mid-morning in the middle of the week. There were a lot of options available.

Instead, the officer took the shortcut. He chose to not weigh the vehicle and based his evidence from a private scale weigh ticket the driver handed him from the day before. Total fine? $41,000.

The weigh ticket reflected a scale reading which was not witnessed by the officer, also known as hearsay evidence. Unfortunately, there has been (ill-advised) instruction by a leader in law enforcement that in situations like these, it’s ok to not follow the plain language of the law and use whatever means are available. 

To think law enforcement leadership would advocate such a blatant abrogation of constitutional rights to issue an overweight citation should consternate us all. So wrong in fact the very first Standard of Practice (SOP-01) written by the ITEA nearly four years ago spoke to this very topic. The end does not justify the means, no matter how wrong this truck driver was by operating overweight without the correct permit.

The carrier cited contacted a local trucking association, who in turn referred the case to an attorney. A nearly five-month court process ensued with the officer losing the citation in court during a stipulated bench trial. Why? Because the officer did not follow the law.

What good came of this? Well, if you are the carrier, you just successfully beat a $41,000 citation! How much did the attorney cost? How much lost time and wages were spent fighting the ticket in court? The reality is the highest fine was avoided, but poor enforcement methods still cost the carrier a lot of money.

Some police officers may say that is just desserts. Hey – they did wrong and they had to pay something, so be it. It is attitudes like this which have led to decades of scrutiny of the police. It is never appropriate for the police to take improper enforcement action (under the color of law), based on the perceived rights and wrongs of the actor. Never. If the case can be proven with the best, legitimate evidence, prosecute it. If the case cannot be made, let it go.

Had this officer been a member of the ITEA, things could have gone a lot better. Want to hear how? Check back in next week to hear about phone call #2.



Apportioned Plate Procedure

There are two days every year when Illinois truck enforcement officers are out, en masse, scouring the road for easy overweight tickets. The first occurrence is April 1st. Why? Because all the apportioned plates that have not been renewed by the end of the business on Monday, March 31st, will be overweight on registration. Truckers – if you are an interstate carrier running on apportioned plates, best get the job done ASAP! Police officers – if you are going to be doing this enforcement in a few weeks, best to brush up on procedure by reading the rest of this article.

Here’s the ground rules for apportioned plate enforcement:

1.   Illinois and Quebec are kin
What the heck? If you didn’t know, the lower 48 states and the Canadian provinces are members of the International Registration Plan (IRP). Illinois and Quebec are the only two units which validate IRP entirely on a fiscal year of April 1st – March 30th. Several other jurisdictions validate quarterly, but the vast majority stagger monthly.

2.   There is no grace period
Several states (KS,LA,WY,TX,OR,OK,NC,NE,MS,CO) have grace periods to extend enforcement protections past their expiration dates. These grace periods must be honored by Illinois law enforcement, but Illinois does not have a grace period of its own. At 12:01am on April 1st, the plates are expired.

3.   Apportioned plates are not “expired”
Okay, technically the plates are not expired. When a police officer runs a check of the Illinois apportioned plates through the LEADS system, the return will come back “no record on file”. This means the registration has been purged from the system altogether. In contrast, flat weight registration will remain in the system as “expired”.

4.   Check and re-check
Illinois apportioned plates are deceptive. Regular apportioned plates start with the letter “P” and are usually followed by six numbers. Apportioned tow truck plates atart with “W5″. There are no spaces between the “P” or any numbers. It is totally understandable that an officer may run a check of “P319139” when in fact the plate was “P319319”. Even though the truck may be moving at highway speeds, double check the plate if you can to avoid a false positive. It will save you from pulling out into traffic and chasing down the wrong truck.

5.   Run the truck by VIN through LEADS, with a title search
Just because you may have found a legitimate “no record on file” apportioned plate does not mean the truck does not have registration. The investigation does not stop there. Quality truck enforcement officers will do everything they can to prove the truck has registration, not revel in the “ah-ha” moment of proving they do not.

A truck may very well have had Illinois apportioned plates the year before, but maybe this new year they opted to go back to flat weight plates. Or maybe they have domiciled in another jurisdiction. A check of nearby states or a title search may yield crucial information if the truck has another form of registration.

6.   Run the VIN through CVIEW
If you are a truck officer in Illinois and do not have access to CVIEW, please do not waste the time of the trucking industry and the Secretary of State by doing apportioned plate enforcement. It is not uncommon for a lag in LEADS to be updated. The information in CVIEW will be current from the end of the last business day prior.

7.   Make the phone call
Drivers love to tell police officers they have registration and there must be something wrong in the paperwork. Maybe they are lying, maybe they are not. In these situations, the quality truck officer will call the owner, fleet supervisor or safety manager and ask if they have received their 2015 IRP even though it is not coming up in the system. If they say yes, have them scan/email or fax it to you. If they are telling the truth, let them go.

8.   You must weigh the truck
Read the articles coming to this blog the next two weeks. There is no shortcut here. You cannot base your ticket from the registered weight for the previous years registration. You cannot base your ticket off the manufacturers GVWR. You cannot base your ticket off a scale ticket from a weight you did not witness being taken. If you are going to do apportioned plate enforcement, you are going to have to do the hard work of dragging the truck to the scale.

9.   The cost of the necessary plate is the bail/fine. Cite under 5/3-401D
It’s easy to spot an uninformed truck officer on April 1st. There’s a myth that floats around in truck enforcement circles that if a truck does not have valid registration, the truck is not entitled to gross or axle weights in Chapter 15. This is completely absurd. The truck could independently be overweight on gross or axle, but that is totally exclusive from registration.

If the truck does not have registration, the bail/fine is the cost of the registration to cover the gross weight of vehicle(s). It is not overweight on gross. It is not a violation of 15-111(a).

10.   When in doubt, issue a recognizance bond
The fact is mistakes happen. If you could be in Springfield at the Commercial & Farm Truck Division headquarters of the Secretary of State between now and April 1st, it is utter chaos. Everyone and their uncle is waiting until the last minute to renew their fleet. This is not a simple credit card swipe like regular plates. It is cumbersome paperwork process.

It takes time to get all the paperwork entered. Computers fail. Humans fail. If all the checks mentioned above yield no registration, a little red flag may go up that something is amiss. If you must write the ticket, give them an I-bond or notice to appear and let them prove their innocence in court without having to post an extraordinary cash bail.

After all, it’s not about revenue, right?



Double Nonsense

Remember the Doublemint Gum commercials of the 1980s? How scary is it to think there are brave men and women old enough to be police officers that were not alive when those commercials originally aired? The basic premise of the ads was this…two is better than one. In the decadent culture of America, quantity will beat out quality nine times out of ten. However, when it comes to tickets in truck enforcement world, sometimes it is just plain old wrong to be writing two tickets.

Consider this scenario: You are a police officer and notice a car speeding. The radar locks the vehicle in at 65 in a 45 mph zone. After you pull out into traffic and chase down the violator, the speed limit where you catch up is now 40 mph, but the car is still doing 65 mph.

Show of hands – who thinks it would be entirely appropriate to write the driver two speeding tickets? The first being for 20mph in excess of the speed limit, the second for being 25 mph in excess of the speed limit. That’s right…no one.

Let’s take a moment to talk about things that are unique to truck law. First, there is no other faction of traffic or criminal law with as many rules and regulations. And then there is an exception for every rule. And there is another exception, qualification, or restriction for the previous exception. It’s mind-boggling.

Second, truck enforcement also has a unique characteristic in that police officers may stop trucks they have reason to believe are overweight. This burden of proof is way further south than probable clause and just a tad north of a mere hunch. You can read more about that HERE.

Third, tickets for overweights are unique in that the fine may be collected as cash bail. All other offenses have a static bail assigned.

Other than these few truck-specific oddities, all other traditional aspects of police procedure apply. The simple fact there are some unique things about truck enforcement does not throw the entire Constitution baby out with the bathwater.

One such doctrine of police procedure is called “one act, one crime”. Case law has been established stating police officers cannot charge a sole defendant with two violations of the same crime arising from the same act. It’s like charging a defendant with battery for each punch he threw during a fight instead of just charging for one count of battery. Or it’s like charging him with one count of regular battery for the beating and another count of aggravated battery because the victim was elderly.

Conversely, if a defendant goes out and beats up one person, then subsequently beats up a second person, two counts of battery may be filed.

For police officer members of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association, there is a Standard of Practice addressing this issue, SOP-07. Here are two situations where it is not uncommon to find truck officers violating the “one act, one crime” doctrine.

625 ILCS 5/15-111  |  OVERWEIGHT
There are several subsections on 15-111 in which a vehicle can be overweight. A truck may be over on its gross weight, its axle weight, its federal bridge formula weight, elevated structure weight, or overweight on a permit.  The vehicle may be overweight on any and all combinations of each of these resulting from a single traffic stop.
The police officer may only choose one violation from 15-111 to charge with though.

625 ILCS 5/15-301(j)   |   VIOLATION OF PERMIT
When an oversize or overweight vehicle is operating on a valid permit on its assigned permit route, some things can still go wrong which do not void out the permit. For instance, the truck does not have the correct registration plate number, is operating on the wrong number of axles or operating during curfew. Even though multiple things may be wrong, only one violation citation may be issued.

Does this mean police officers cannot cite multiple violations arising from the same incident? Not at all. If a drunk driver is speeding in a overweight truck while talking on the cell phone and not wearing a seat belt, five separate acts have occurred.  Each has its own evidence and its own burden of proof.

It’s not good police work to charge multiple violations of the same offense arising from the same occurrence. Police officers do not this to those driving cars, so they should not do it to truck drivers just because truck law is “unique”.

Double fresh? No. Double smooth? Hardly.



The Fuel Taxman

It’s that time of year again…IFTA. This FLA (aka “four letter acronym”) stands for the International Fuel Tax Agreement. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but nobody likes to pay taxes when others are not paying their fair share. To that end, enforcement of fuel tax violations could be viewed as a noble cause (…maybe…), unless of course you are the cheater.  What is critical, as in all things truck enforcement, is appropriate application of IFTA law.

For the truckers, the good news is IFTA enforcement begins on March 1st, which is a Saturday, and many truck officers are off on the weekends. Come Monday March 3rd though, best be in compliance as the police will be out in force.

For those members of the ITEA, truckers and officers alike, there is a Standard of Practice (SOP-33) regarding proper enforcement of IFTA violations.  There is also a flow-chart resource document to help understand which vehicles are required to have IFTA paperwork filed with the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR). Both of these documents have been reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory agency.

Like most authorities involved in the regulation of trucks, the IDOR has its own definition of what a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is. The definition is very similar to that of a CMV which requires a CDL, but it is not exactly the same.  One glaring difference is IFTA may be required based on the registration of vehicle. IDOR also refers to them as “qualifying motor vehicles”.

This is somewhat unique to see the product of one regulatory agency being used to define the product of another. Whereas a truck registered from more than 26,000 pounds has absolutely nothing to do with CDL classification, it has everything to do with IFTA.

Another unique characteristic of IFTA is that it only applies to interstate operations.  Trucks that never leave the State of Illinois (based on operating authority) are not subject to IFTA because all their fuel tax is already being paid in Illinois. Are there cheaters out there on the border? Probably. It will be an expensive day when they are caught.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) allows applies to interstate operations, but Illinois adopted the FMCSR for intrastate operations as well.  Not so for IFTA or else local trucking businesses could be taxed twice.

A common question the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is asked is “who is responsible for the enforcement of IFTA”?  At the end of the day, the IDOR is. However, certain regulations of IFTA are written into the Illinois Vehicle Code with no exclusive authority.  This means all police officers in Illinois have the authority to cite for IFTA violations listed in the IVC. This is not the same as the FMCSR which also resides in the IVC, but exclusive enforcement authority is granted to the Illinois State Police.

The IDOR has its own police force as well.  Agents from the IDOR investigate many tax issues, but the two main things involving trucks are IFTA and dyed diesel fuel. IFTA may be enforceable by all police officers, but dyed diesel fuel enforcement is reserved for IDOR agents.

So which violations which may be enforced by all Illinois police officers? Here is a list with brief descriptions:

625 ILCS 5/11-1419.01   |   Operating Without a Single-trip Permit
Sometimes a local truck from another state must make a rare trip into Illinois, and that vehicle may qualify to pay fuel tax.  In these instances, a fuel permit can be purchased from one of many 3rd party permit services for the power unit coming into Illinois.

625 ILCS 5/11-1419.02   |   Failure to Display Motor Fuel Tax License
A fuel tax license in Illinois is a full sheet of paper that must be carried in the power unit. It describes the carriers account with IDOR and year of validity.

625 ILCS 5/11-1419.03   |   Failure to Display Motor Fuel Tax Decals
Motor fuel tax decals are the colorful square stickers seen on the side of trucks. Officers should use great discretion in enforcement of this violation if the stickers are in hand but not displayed, or only displayed on one side.

625 ILCS 5/11-1419.05   |   Operating With a Revoked Motor Fuel Tax License
The word revoked usually means “arrest” in law enforcement, but in this case the violation is a petty offense like any other unspecified violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code. How does a police officer check the status of an IFTA account to find out if it’s revoked? The officer must have access to CVIEW or call the IDOR directly.

It’s a day of reckoning with the taxman truckers…make sure you are all paid up.



A Truck is a Truck, of Course, of Course

We Americans love to generically assign popular brand names to common items. The really smart people of the world call these “proprietary eponyms”. All facial tissue is Kleenex. Dark colas are Coke. Go make a Xerox copy. Need to clean your ears? Use a Q-tip. The average person can visualize what a generic “truck” looks like, but how does one know if a law regarding a truck applies to the very truck they are operating?  For instance, think about signs that say“TRUCKS RIGHT TWO LANES ONLY” or “ALL TRUCKS MUST WEIGH”. Do these laws apply to the truck you are driving? Not sure? Better read on.

Let’s get one thing clear: the noun “truck” is simply the easiest way to talk about these types of vehicles. When the ITEA began, not one vote was cast to name the group the “Illinois Second Division Vehicle Enforcement Association” or the “Illinois Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Association”. It makes for a mouthful of words and extended acronyms.

The reality is truck enforcement is a genre of police work dedicated to enforcing laws that pertain to vehicles which are designed to carry property or transport passengers.  This could be a vehicle with power (“truck”) or a vehicle with no power (trailers).

A future article will discuss the many, many definitions of “commercial motor vehicle”. Illinois has a definition for the word “truck” which is found in 625 ILCS 5/1-211:
“Every motor vehicle designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”

Illinois also has a definition of a second division vehicle found in 625 ILCS 5/1-217:
“Those vehicles which are designed for carrying more than 10 persons, those designed or used for living quarters and those vehicles which are designed for pulling or carrying property, freight or cargo.”

Are these two definitions the same? No. Similar? Yes. A truck by definition is just a power unit. Trucks are second division vehicles, but a second division vehicle also includes trailers and passenger vehicles like buses.

An important thing to notice here is neither definition mentions registration requirements or commercial purposes. The Illinois Secretary of State has its own interpretation of when certain license plates belong on certain trucks, but just because the SOS may not consider a vehicle a truck for registration purposes, a vehicle may still very well be a truck.

A truck does not mean it has to be used for a business or commercial purpose either. Most laws pertaining to trucks (registration, size, weight, safety tests) under the Illinois Vehicle Code apply to trucks regardless if the purpose of the vehicle is personal or business related. In contrast, the CDL and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are almost solely applicable to vehicles used in commerce.

The confusion usually comes when the discussion turns to smaller trucks. No one has to stretch their mind all that far to see a semi-tractor trailer combination and generically call it a truck. Most people will refer to their pick-up or large SUV as truck too.

But most people with pick-up do not consider themselves trucks for truck specific laws. Let’s discuss the two examples mentioned in the first paragraph. The goal here is not discuss the merits of discretionary enforcement, but lay out the strict letter of the law.

On the interstates and tollroads of Illinois, it is not uncommon to find signs prohibiting trucks in left lane. Who does this apply to? Many pickups today are more like glorified cars that transport four to six people. But guess what? It is a truck and it is prohibited. These regulatory signs are official traffic control devices. It doens not matter if the truck is big or small. It does not matter which license plates the vehicle displays. It does not matter if it is a personal vehicle or a business name is on the side.

Most truck enforcement officers prefer to write overweight tickets to drivers operating company vehicles. This is because if someone has to pay, a company paying a large fine is an easier pill to swallow. When the signs are up, all trucks must weigh. B-plate pickups. Personal or company owned trucks. Empty or loaded. If you are a truck, you must weigh. If the officers wave you off, then it’s your lucky day.

Just like a pony, bronco or colt is a horse, a truck is a truck. Of course, of course.



Exemplary Police Work #4

There are vicious rumors floating around about Illinois. Once such rumor is that truck registration in the Land of Lincoln is super expensive…way more expensive than surrounding states. Is this true? Well, unfortunately, yes. The purpose of this article is not to argue the rights and wrongs of registration pricing, but to show why solid enforcement of registration laws by solid police officers makes a world difference on how the trucking industry perceives the police.

Registration is a tax plain and simple. Make no bones about. When it comes to trucks and trailers (aka “second division vehicles”), the tax is proportionate to the amount of weight to be carried on the vehicle.

Because Illinois sells expensive registration for trucks and trailers, sometimes trucking companies domiciled in other states (aka “foreign states”) choose to operate within Illinois without paying a tax to Illinois. Do trucking companies do this on purpose? Most likely some do. Do some screw up and work within Illinois on foreign plates by accident? Probably. If a truck is making an intrastate move, meaning the load (not the truck itself) has a point of origin and a destination within Illinois, a tax must be paid. As always, there are some exceptions to this requirement.

Many blog posts could be spent discussing the finer point of intrastate registration requirements, but the ITEA has several resource documents and Standards of Practice available for our members to review. Even if the law is the law, police officers always have the right to use discretion, which brings us to the story being told today.

On a cold night this past January, an ITEA certified police officer was out patrolling when he noticed a truck bearing foreign registration. After making a lawful traffic stop based on probable cause (not solely because the truck had foreign plates), the officer spoke with the driver and determined the vehicle was making an intrastate move.

Based on this evidence, the officer had him dead to rights. He had all authority to weigh the truck and issue an overweight on registration citation. The fine for the ticket would have been cost of the license plate necessary to cover the gross weight of the truck. It would have been quite expensive.

Even though this officer had been certified after attending the ITEA Advanced Truck Officer class, he had never dealt with this issue before. He was trained in it, but because truck law is so voluminous and complicated, he did not know if he was on sure footing.

A lesser officer would have weighed the truck, written the ticket and hoped for the best in court…but not this officer. What he had learned through his instruction with the ITEA that is it better to take no enforcement action at all than to take bad enforcement action. It is better to make an informed decision than to make a wrong one.

So that is what he did. He cut the driver loose and gave up a legitimate overweight. The decision to let the driver go and then do his homework was a mature decision. Afterwards, he looked up the ITEA Standards of Practice that speak to this issue. He went on the ITEA member discussion forum and found some similar incidents in other towns. He emailed the ITEA and was connected with the resident expert on all things registration.

The ITEA is proud of this officer. So proud a letter was sent to his Chief explaining he had a quality truck officer in his ranks! He let a big fish go, but there are more fish in the sea. It is not the job of the police to write questionable tickets and then let the courts and a judge sort them out.

On April 10th, 2014, the ITEA is hosting it’s 8-hour Certification class for truck officers. The goal is to raise up more industry conscientious officers like this one.

If you are truck officer not yet certified by the ITEA, this is your chance to show your quality. It’s free for members. Membership is $25.

If you are trucker or trucking company official, make the phone calls and respectfully demand your local truck officers attend this class. Put your mouth where your money is.