Put on the Brakes

Spring has officially sprung, according to the 2017 calendar! As one season ends and another begins, certain configurations of trucks and trailers come out of hibernation when the warmer begins. While semi-tractor trailers stay busy all year long, the arrival of spring welcomes the rebirthing of construction and landscaping trucks, and the trailers they tow. Similar to the trucks, these trailers need brakes to stop.  Most truckers who are put out-of-service roadside can attribute their status to bad brakes. Let this article serve as a reminder to put the brakes on bad brakes.

All vehicles needs brakes to stop, and most trailers needs brakes as well with a few exceptions. The larger trailers pulled by semi tractors operate on air brakes. It’s a great system because it is designed to be fail safe. If the brake line is severed or the air compressor fails, air is released from within the braking system and the spring brakes ‘pop’ bringing the trailer to a stop.

Air brakes are a great thing to have in case a trailer separates from the tractor while driving down the road. Smaller trailers generally do not operate on air brakes, but rather electricity.  If the trailer being towed has a gross weight (on the scale) exceeding 5,000 pounds, three different braking components are required.

Service Brakes

When the driver of a semi-tractor trailer, or a truck trailer combination applies the brakes, the service brakes on the trailer must automatically activate as well.  This is required under law in the Illinois Vehicle Code which reads:

625 ILCS 5/12-301(a):

Every motor vehicle, expanded-use antique vehicle, trailer, pole trailer or semitrailer, sold in this State or operated upon the highways shall be equipped with service brakes upon all wheels of every such vehicle, except any motor-driven cycle, and except that any trailer, pole trailer or semitrailer 3,000 pounds gross weight or less need not be equipped with brakes, and except that any trailer or semitrailer with gross weight over 3,000 pounds but under 5,001 pounds need be equipped with brakes on only one wheel on each side of the vehicle.

 If a truck is towing a trailer with a gross weight greater than 5,000 pounds, the trailer must have full service brakes on every wheel.

Independent Braking Control

Every trailer or semitrailer of a gross weight of over 3,000 pounds, when operated upon a highway must be equipped with brakes adequate to control the movement of, to stop and to hold such vehicle, and designed so as to be operable by the driver of the towing vehicle from its cab.

In semi-tractor trailers this braking control is commonly referred to as a “johnny bar”, or “trolley bar”.  It is a lever inside the cab on the steering column which gives the driver the ability to independently control the brakes of the trailer without using the service brakes of the tractor. In smaller truck trailer combinations, this control is built into a proportional trailer brake controller. This control box allows the driver to manually set the intensity of the brakes, and to engage the trailer brake without activating the truck’s service brakes.

Emergency Breakaway System

As mentioned previously, most semi-tractor trailers operate on air brakes. If the braking system fails, the trailer brakes automatically engage as there is inadequate air pressure to compress the spring brakes. In trailers which operate on electric brakes, the breakaway system operates differently.

Such brakes must be so designed and connected that in case of an accidental breakaway of a towed vehicle over 5,000 pounds, the brakes are automatically applied.

And;

The brakes must be designed to ensure that, in case of an accidental breakaway of a towed boat trailer over 5,000 pounds, the brakes are automatically applied.

For the electric braking trailers, a battery is installed on the trailer which serves as a power source to activate the trailer brakes and prevent the trailer from running wild in the event of a breakaway. A cable is connected to the braking apparatus of the trailer and the other end is connected to the power unit.  During a breakaway event, the cable pulls the pin away from the trailer, which completes the circuit, allowing energy from the battery to automatically apply the brakes.

Faulty brakes can be costly. As the construction and landscaping season begins, take the time to make sure a driver can apply the brakes should an emergency arise.

Ahead of the Curve

For residents of Illinois, it seems there are very few opportunities to brag about their State. Specifically, when it comes to government and programs, there is often a great deal left to be desired. While it would be easy to craft a list of complaints the Illinois taxpayer has, it is not the purpose nor the spirit of what is preached from the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. Instead, the ITEA instills in its members the desire to think critically, bridge gaps and work together to develop fair and sensible enforcement practices. Progress and innovation is at the forefront of everything the ITEA attempts to do.

This past month, ITEA members attended the Specialized Transportation Symposium hosted by the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association in Orlando, Florida. While at the Symposium, attendees had the opportunity to hear from permitting officials from many states around this great nation.

Carriers who specialize in oversize and overweight movements were also in attendance during the four day event. Much like the ITEA, the SC&RA has strived to bring together trucking companies, state DOT agencies and law enforcement. The goal is to develop comprehensive policies in an effort to harmonize permitting throughout the United States. The SC&RA has been extremely successful in facilitating these conversations, and many state agencies have responded to those conversations by taking actions to better their permitting protocol.

It was clear during the Symposium one state was leaps and bounds ahead of others when it came to permitting on state highways. The Illinois Department of Transportation and its Permit Chief, Geno Koehler, were recognized repeatedly as leading the way in the evolution of online, automated permitting.

The Illinois Transportation Automated Permitting (ITAP) program was also praised in its overall effectiveness and efficiency. ITAP is an online system which allows carriers to login, apply for a permit, obtain routing and receive permission to move over state highways in minutes.

Over the past several years some amazing steps have been taken in regards to the ITAP program. Geno and his staff have worked tirelessly to phase in new technology and make the program more user friendly.

In 2016, more than 230,000 permits were issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, with 98.75% of those permits being fully automated. This astounding percentage means almost every person who logs into ITAP can obtain permission to move an oversize/overweight vehicle without talking to a single person, faxing a single sheet of paper or even getting up from their desk.

This is an amazing accomplishment which Geno and his staff should all be extremely proud of. The ITEA would certainly like to commend them for their efforts.

While IDOT is a leader among states when it comes to permitting, local government is also helping to revolutionize the way that permits are processed on local highways in Illinois. Many municipalities, townships and counties have begun to utilize Oxcart Permit Systems as a means of issuing local permits. Oxcart essentially takes the ease of the ITAP system and brings it to locals.

Oxcart’s one-stop-shop allows companies to easily apply for and obtain local permits, a task which has historically been an exhausting and confusing process. Currently, more than forty local governments are utilizing the program.

Oxcart is free to local units of government and can be used to issue permits with each individual agencies’ ordinances and regulations. Oxcart staff also offers free consultation to local government in the development of new permitting ordinances or the modification of existing ordinances.

While Illinois clearly owns bragging rights when it comes to permitting, there is one more thing to add to the list. Illinois is the home of the only known association which brings the trucking industry, regulatory agencies, attorneys and law enforcement together to keep the public safe and industry profitable.

That’s right, the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is the only organization of its kind. As evidence of this success, the ITEA hosted its 6th Annual Conference in Carol Stream on February 22nd. A record one-hundred and sixty-seven individuals signed up for the conference with almost 40% being from the trucking industry.

This event gave attendees the chance to network with those on both side of the spectrum. All participants attended educational breakout sessions where they learned valuable information pertinent to how they perform their jobs on a daily basis. While those attending the conference may not have realized it, they were part of an event which cannot be found anywhere outside of Illinois.

The ITEA is proud to work with each of the nearly six-hundred members, and those who follow this blog and the ITEA Facebook and Twitter feeds. Regardless of what happens in the future, when it comes to the relationship between trucking and law enforcement, Illinois is ahead of the curve.

Exemplary Police Work #12

In 1989 a movie was made which will forever be ingrained in American movie culture. This sequel was about four individuals who started their own business to capture and eradicate the supernatural and unwanted ectoplasmic entities of New York City. In Ghostbusters 2, New York City is overcome by psychomagnotheric slime that is created from all the negativity within the city. In the end, the residents join forces to create enough positive energy to overwhelm the negativity, and the movie happily ends.

It seems the law enforcement community of this country is also overcome by never-ending negativity, and positive reflection is needed now more than ever. The ITEA will take any chance to share a positive moment when trucking and law enforcement cross paths, and one of these moments happened last month.

In late January 2017, an ITEA certified truck officer was on routine patrol when he stopped a two-axle truck showing signs of being overweight. The officer told the driver what he observed. From the truck officer’s perspective, there was nothing special or unique about this truck compared to the hundreds of others he had stopped during the first few years of his truck enforcement career.

The officer escorted the truck to the scale, obtained the axle weights, checked the driver’s CDL, insurance/registration paperwork and certificate of safety. Everything appeared to be in order and up to date.

However, the officer learned two things during his investigation. First, the truck was overweight on its rear axle by 3,450 pounds, and second, it was overweight on registration by 3,100 pounds. Both citations combined carried a fine of more than $1,000. In the world of overweight vehicles, these are relatively low amounts, but still a hefty sum for any trucker.

The officer issued the driver a citation for being overweight on the rear axle, and a citation for being overweight on the registration. To keep business moving, the officer released the driver on nothing more than a signature and told him he was free to drive away once the load was legalized.

At the end of his tour, the officer handed his tickets and paperwork into his supervisor. The supervisor, whom is also a member of the ITEA, was reviewing the paperwork and recognized the name of the company cited as a local business in a nearby town.

The supervisor and officer discussed the traffic stop, the nomenclature of the truck and the citations that were issued. During this discussion, it was learned the truck was a ‘rendering vehicle,’ and not an ordinary truck.  The supervisor showed the officer the Illinois Vehicle Code and an ITEA Resource Document titled the Hamilton Weight Chart that shows two-axle rendering vehicles in Illinois receive an extra 2,000 pounds on an individual axle.

Without being prompted by his supervisor, the truck officer began taking steps to correct the mistake he made. He immediately contacted the company and confessed his error. He explained to the company why their vehicle receives an extra weight allowance, and told them the citation will be cancelled without any prosecution.

The company was extremely impressed with how the officer took the initiative to correct the problem, and even admitted to the officer that they were unaware their own vehicle received an extra weight allowance.

Police officers make mistakes. It is reasonable to believe officers assigned to enforce a complex area of policing which has special guidelines, unique restrictions, temporary exemptions and rules which change from season to season, will make mistakes. Making mistakes is only an issue when the officer who made it does not have the conviction to fix it.

This situation involved a small dollar mistake. Unfortunately, other truck officers have made mistakes which cost the industry much more. The dollar amount of the mistake is not of the highest concern. It’s what takes place after the mistake is discovered which makes an officer’s actions relevant.

This officer did not fix this problem because he feared it would be discovered, he fixed it because he had integrity. His actions protected the trucking industry. Protecting the trucking industry through proper enforcement is the prime directive of the ITEA.

Avoid the Fine with Stickers on Time

Taxes are a way of life in the great United States. We pay taxes on our income, taxes on our food, and soon taxes on the bags we put the food in. The trucking industry is used to taxes as their way of doing business. One tax that interstate truckers are used to is the International Fuel Tax Agreement, or IFTA.  What is IFTA and what purpose does this agreement serve in the world of taxes for the trucker industry? This week will help understand IFTA and how it is enforced in Illinois…

The International Fuel Tax Agreement started in the 1980’s to evenly distribute fuel taxes across the lower 48 states and Canada. Originally each state required a commercial vehicle to purchase a fuel sticker as it entered the state. This was time consuming and cumbersome.  The United States and Canada agreed to utilize a non-profit organization to oversee fuel taxes.

Although it simplifies the process, anyone who is involved in paying IFTA fees would agree it is still confusing. The goal is to ensure that a state with higher fuel taxes gets its fair share when a truck operates on its roadways.

For example, if a truck fills up in Wisconsin and then drives straight south through Illinois, the company would have to pay the difference in tax to Illinois. And if the reverse occurred, then money would be owed back to the company as the rates in Wisconsin are less than Illinois. The drivers are required to document how many miles are travelled in each state with the fuel purchased in a different state in order to correctly reimburse the states for their share of fuel taxes.

Lost? Well don’t forget about Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. Those states keep some of the fuel tax as a surcharge no matter where its used. And Oregon doesn’t participate in IFTA at all. These are some of the confusing ways states work to even the taxing playing field in the world of interstate commerce.

Without IFTA, companies near the border of a state with lower fuel taxes would fill up in that state regardless of where they operate. This means that a state would receive no fuel tax revenue even though a company operated within their state.

For law enforcement, they are out there looking for that sticker on the sides of the cab. The one that shows the vehicle is current in the IFTA program when it operates in more than one state. Officers can check the status of an IFTA license to ensure compliance.

If the IFTA sticker is suspended or not valid, the officer will issue traffic citations and notify the Department of Revenue which means more fines. An astute truck officer looks at the side of the cab for that current sticker every time an apportioned semi drives by him.

Of course, IFTA allows for a delay in displaying the stickers. Because trucks that run across the country can’t always get to the mailbox on January 1 to get the stickers and display them, IFTA allows until March 1 to display them.

Police will be out there in March looking at those cabs, so truckers make sure you are proudly displaying that IFTA sticker with your home state outlined on it. Avoid the fine, stick it on in time!

On Demand Trucking

A few weeks ago the ITEA published an article regarding the future technology of autonomous vehicles and how recent developments will impact the world of trucking. The 2016 acquisition of autonomous truck startup Otto by the Uber corporation gave a glimpse into future of on demand trucking. The article this week will explore how load-hailing services may impact the carrier industry and public safety.

Since the onset of a marketplace, there has been competition. Disruptive business models put the status quo on their heels. This is what makes America great and promotes a free market, better pricing for consumers and hopefully jobs.

As it pertains to the carriers, this is no different. As with other industries, competition can rise and fall depending on the level of government regulation. Every company with a new idea loves regulation which benefits them, and loathes any regulation which stifles their profitability.

Nearly 40 years ago, the United State de-regulated trucking. Carriers who had monopolies on routes and commodities saw government play a role in how businesses succeed. Whether or not de-regulation was a good thing is not the question. The question is did it promote public safety?

There’s no doubt the glory days of trucking had advantages. Career drivers and legacies were established. The conditions of vehicles and the fleets they represented were a source of pride. De-regulation chipped away at these things.

There’s no love lost from old school truckers as some brokers and fly-by-night drivers with little experience have entered the free market of trucking. Trucks and trailers are not maintained as well. Drivers come and go. When the lowest bidder always wins, public safety is sacrificed in the name of profits. Who exactly is profiting is still the unknown.

If the pendulum of the regulated market place prior to the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was too far one way, de-regulation has swung the pendulum too far the other. It’s out of balance, and it’s unknown if onset of on demand carriers will center the industry.

Load boards are nothing new, and they are an excellent tool for quality carriers to find work. However, they are a product of de-regulation and have given opportunity to people and vehicles who have no business being carriers.

Reality television has displayed this first hand as there have been shows dedicated to the rat-race of load board drivers. Drivers who have no idea how to secure loads. Drivers who have no ideas how to read maps. Drivers who have no idea how to spot a vertical clearance sign.

These drivers are the scourge of the industry, propped up by de-regulation and made convenient by the mobility of the internet. As companies like Uber begin to dip their toes into the world of commercial vehicles, what guarantees will there be drivers and their vehicles will increase safety?

If the on demand service of transportation network companies (TNCs) in the small passenger vehicle market are any benchmark, there is reason to fear. Companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi and livery market, and that is okay. But their ability to manage driver behavior and vehicle safety continues to decline.

Much like the trucking industry, the taxi industry was once a source of pride for companies and their drivers. The free market has eroded this, and public safety is now on the line. TNCs will tell you they adequately screen their drivers and demand vehicle safety compliance, but the complaints are growing exponentially.

Where state and federal government have failed to provide appropriate regulation of TNCs, the patchwork of local regulation is taking hold, and for good reason. But these quilts of local laws also stifle the free market, the very impetus for de-regulation in the first place.

A few years into companies like Uber and Lyft, and the negatives are beginning to outweigh the positives in terms of public safety. Everybody can now be a cab driver, because driving cars is a relatively common skill.

Trucks are not. Trucks are heavy, tall, wide and long. The de-regulation of trucking began the descending percentage of qualified drivers and vehicles versus non-qualified. Load boards have further exasperated the issue.

If the Uber model of passenger transportation is to be overlayed upon the carrier industry, great concern is appropriate. The crucial need for public safety relies on professionalism drives, vehicles and companies. It’s not a game won by who has the sexiest cell phone app to provide on demand trucking services.

A Reason to Believe

For those readers looking for spiritual or emotional guidance based on title of this article, sorry to disappoint. This blog will not offer motivational sentiments to change lives or the way one views the world. Instead, it will discuss an officer’s burden of proof for initiating a traffic stop to investigate a possible overweight vehicle violation.

In a courtroom, the term “burden of proof” can have very different meanings depending on the type of case which is being prosecuted. Most people are familiar with the phrase “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Usually only heard on television or in movies, people usually do not understand the true meaning or when it’s applicable in a court setting.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of which can be achieved in criminal court. This means exactly what it sounds like – the evidence presented has removed any reasonable doubt of a person’s innocence in the minds of the judge or jurors.

The next highest burden of proof is called “preponderance of the evidence.” This threshold is used in civil cases such as ordinance violations or TV shows like “Judge Judy.” Because there is no chance of incarceration, the burden is significantly lower than that of a criminal case. Many would describe preponderance of the evidence as 51%, or more likely than not that the person committed the violation.

Both phrases are used in court to decide the outcome of a case, but these are not what is required of an officer taking enforcement action on the street. While most officers attempt to build the strongest case possible, they are under no obligation to meet the aforementioned burdens of proof.

Before issuing a citation or making an arrest, an officer must meet a burden of proof called “probable cause.” This means an offense has been committed based on the circumstances, physical evidence and the officer’s observations, training and experience also know as the totality of the circumstances.

Many times, officers will wait until they have met this burden of proof before initiating a traffic stop. For example, an officer may witness a vehicle making a lane change without signaling. Through his training and experience, the officer knows this is a violation of the law.

Based on his observation, there is probable cause a violation has been committed. The officer has the authority to make a traffic stop and issue a citation. Probable cause, however, is a much higher burden than what is needed to stop a person (or vehicle).

To make a stop, an officer only needs what is called “reasonable suspicion.” The officer only needs to prove a reasonable person would believe a crime has been, is currently being or is about to be committed.

An officer must have reasonable and articulable suspicion of the above circumstances to temporarily detain any person. This applies to traffic stops and pedestrian stops. It is a very low burden, however, it is all which is needed to initiate an investigation. Every case is unique and the amount of evidence needed always depends on the totality of the circumstances.

Finally, at the very bottom of the burden of proof totem pole is what an officer needs to stop a vehicle he believes to be overweight. This is called “reason to believe.”

It sounds like “reasonable suspicion”, but is far from it! Reason to believe is spelled out in 625 ILCS 5/15-112 and is only applicable to an officer investigating an overweight violation. The officer must be able to explain why he believed the vehicle was overweight.

This articulation can be based on a variety of things. The longer an officer is active in overweight vehicle enforcement and the more experience he obtains, the more reasons the officer will be able to explain as to why he thought the vehicle was overweight.
While “reason to believe” is enough to stop a truck to initiative a weight investigation, more evidence will be needed to rise to the level of probable cause to issue a citation.

With such a low burden of proof being needed, there is a potential for statutory abuse. ITEA certified officers understand this high responsibility. The criminal justice system and the trucking industry rely on officers using their police powers in lawful ways to protect those traveling on the roads.

The court system is a confusing labyrinth of rules, statutes and overzealous individuals who are quick to point a finger of fault. Officers do their absolute best to navigate through that labyrinth with honor and integrity while protecting those who they have been sworn to serve.

If stopped by an officer for an overweight investigation, please realize the officer has already evaluated the circumstances several times in the few moments prior to initiating the traffic stop. He has decided there is reason to believe that the vehicle is overweight. It’s okay to disagree, but the roadside or scalehouse is not the venue to argue the case. There will be an opportunity to enter the labyrinth and argue appropriate levels of burdens.

Light the Way

As January comes to an end, the ITEA hopes the first few weeks of 2017 have been enlightening.  As January gives way to February, the days grow longer and life-giving sunlight shines longer each day. When darkness approaches, humans must rely on artificial light to navigate their way through the fray.  Vehicles traveling at night are required to use headlamps, but there are many other types of lights available on trucks. Tow truck or snow plow operators with amber lights which rotate or flash must enlighten themselves before turning them on.

Last month the ITEA wrote an article that mentioned some of the rules governing weight and size limits for snow plows (you can read the article HERE). The article this week will explain the rules and limitations governing the use of amber lighting on both snow plows and tow trucks.

Snow Plows

The Illinois Vehicle Code states under 625 ILCS 5/12-215(b)(6.1):

The use of amber oscillating, rotating or flashing lights, whether lighted or unlighted, is prohibited except on:

“Vehicles that are not owned by the State of Illinois or any political subdivision of the State, are designed and used for removal of snow and ice from highways and parking lots, and are equipped with a snow plow that is 12 feet in width.”

Simply put, the use of amber lighting is allowed on privately owned vehicles specifically designed for snow and ice removal, as long as the vehicle has a 12-foot-wide snow plow blade. However, this is Illinois, so this exemption comes with restrictions!

Under the same section of law the Illinois Vehicle Code provides this restriction:

“These lights may not be lighted except when the motorized equipment or vehicle is actually being used for those purposes on behalf of a unit of government.”

To clarify (or complicate) what is written above, these trucks may have amber lighting. However, unless they are operating under a governmental contract to remove snow and ice from a public highway, these lights can never be used unless it is on private property. So, for all the snow plow drivers out there, do not use amber flashing or rotating lights while on a public highway unless operating under a governmental contract.

However, this is one exemption in the vehicle code that does allow snow plows to use their rotating or flashing lights upon a public highway without being under a governmental contract. If the privately-owned snow plow has blade greater than 102 inches in width, and the blade has an 18-inch flag on the driver’s side, and the vehicle is no more than 12 feet in width, it is required to have and use a flashing or rotating amber light visible at no less than 500 feet.

Tow Trucks

The ITEA considers tow truck law so important that a large portion of the 6th Annual Conference next month is dedicated to tow truck owners and drivers. The ITEA has written two Standards of Practice about tow truck law which are available free to members. Tow trucks, like other specialty trucks in Illinois, have exemptions which come with limitations and restrictions regarding the use of flashing or rotating amber lighting.

The Illinois Vehicle Code states under 625 ILCS 5/12-215(b)(1):

The use of amber oscillating, rotating or flashing lights, whether lighted or unlighted, is prohibited except on:

“Second division vehicles designed and used for towing or hoisting vehicles.”

The above excerpt is what gives tow trucks the legal authority to have (not use) rotating or flashing amber lighting. The next sections states:

“Such lights shall be lighted when such vehicles are actually being used at the scene of an accident or disablement.”

The above is what requires tow trucks to use amber lighting while at the scene of an accident or disablement. The next section states:

“If the towing vehicle is equipped with a flatbed that supports all wheels of the vehicle being transported, the lights shall not be lighted while the vehicle is engaged in towing on a highway.”

This means if the tow truck is carrying a vehicle on its flatbed and not towing behind, the use of amber lighting is prohibited – at all times! No exceptions, no exclusions, but keep reading:

“If the towing vehicle is not equipped with a flatbed that supports all wheels of a vehicle being transported, the lights shall be lighted while the towing vehicle is engaged in towing on a highway during all times when the use of headlights is required.”

This means the use of the amber lighting during a tow operation is restricted and only allowed when the use of headlights is required. If the operator is driving at night, or using windshield wipers in the rain, he is required to use headlights. Therefore, the use of amber lighting is permitted and required.

It is easy to become lost in the quagmire of Illinois vehicle laws. These laws come with restrictions, limitations, changing requirements, time constraints and so on. Don’t forget Illinois has a history of adding, modifying and striking laws every year. The ITEA is all too familiar with these practices. Join other police officers and trucking industry professionals at the 6th Annual Conference next month to learn how to navigate through the truck laws of Illinois. It all starts at http://illinoistruckcops.org/?page_id=7689.

Autonomous Trucking

Imagine driving down the expressway and pulling alongside an eighteen-wheeler. You look up at the driver’s seat what do you see? Maybe the stereotypical trucker with his John Deere hat and flannel shirt? What if you looked up and saw no one sitting there? What will a world of autonomous trucks look like and how will the police enforce violations on a truck with no driver?

In 2016, Anheuser-Busch partnered with Otto, a subsidiary of Uber, to transport 50,000 cans of beer from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, Colorado with a computer responsible for driving on the interstate. The test was successful and trucks driving themselves has become a full-fledged reality. Regardless of whether this is a good idea or not, the question the ITEA asks is “how will these trucks handle enforcement efforts?”

Forget the common traffic violations humans commit but a computer can correct, such as speeding or not using a turn signal. How will a truck handle a restricted route if there is no human to obey the signs? Some GPS units are designed for the trucking industry, but even those are not totally accurate all the time. Local roads have restrictions, and these GPS systems may not be aware of this constantly changing landscape.

How will a truck know it is being stopped by the police or needs to move over to the right to let an emergency vehicle pass? What happens when a truck is stopped for a weight violation? Will the computer system recognize the need to go to a scale and be weighed?

What about motor carrier inspection? Will these trucks be able to understand what a trooper may require at roadside? Who is the citation issued to? How will an out-of-service order work?

As with all things new, questions will be asked for every possible scenario. It would be impossible to eliminate the human element from trucking operations in order to ensure safety and compliance with traffic laws. Someone must be responsible for the decisions made in regards to safely loading the truck and ensuring it is routed safely to its destination.

Currently, some carriers pass through weigh stations and tolls utilizing a “prepass” system. This reduces congestion and saves time, fuel and money for the industry. As autonomous trucks become commonplace, these systems will make the movement of goods over the interstates even more efficient. If the technology is able to load a truck at point A and send it on its way to point B in a safe and efficient manner, this could be a win for everyone.

Technology is advancing and has shown to be a benefit to everyday life. However, all aspects of the advancement must be taken into account, including the enforcement of traffic laws. The ITEA is excited about this future, but it watching carefully too see what this future brings.

Spoilers

No, the title of this article is not about aftermarket products added to the trunks of modified foreign cars. No, this article is not about those people who leave comments on website reviews of movies which ruin the suspense. The article this week is about loads which have a shelf life, can spoil or even die. To illustrate the message, please join the ITEA on an epic journey of one man (Jim Harris) and his quest to balance the law with police officer discretion.

The rise of James Harris Trucking Inc began in 1985 when James (aka “Jim”) signed on as a dispatcher for a local trucking company. In 1989, knowing his potential was far greater than sitting behind a desk, he hung out his own shingle and incorporated his own carrier business. His wife Juanita couldn’t have been more proud.

Little did Jim know the troubles he would face as he strived for success hauling various commodities. “Not all loads are created equal, bubb” was a common quip Jim was known for mumbling throughout the years.

Early in his trucking career, Jim learned there was a peculiar law on the books in Illinois. In 625 ILCS 5/15-112(b), police officers are required to “legalize” an overweight truck. Jim was convinced if he was ever caught operating an overweight truck, the police officer would probably exercise his mandated authority.

One day, while sitting around at the MacDonalds (as Jim’s fave day of the week was “Macs Monday”), Jim had a conversation with himself.

“Would a police officer tell me to keep speeding after a citation? No way.” surmised Jim.

“Would a police officer allow a drunk driver to get back in his car and drive drunk again after arresting him? Nope.”

This potential scenario kept the big man awake many nights, as his first venture in the trucking industry was hauling garbage. What would happen is a police officer found his compactor overweight and required him to legalize? Jim knew no one, not even him, wanted to smell garbage dumped on the street.

Lo and behold, Jim got weighed. He truck was heavy, and he was prepared to make a mess on the street. The officer (who Jim later described as a “pretty good dude”), still wrote the ticket, but gave Jim a firm, yet unexpected admonishment.

“I’m not telling you its okay to drive this garbage truck overweight,” the officer said, “and it’s your duty to legalize the load before traveling again. If you get caught, or end up in a crash, I told you not to drive. Now I have a very important meeting to get to.”

Jim never described himself as the brightest bulb, but he was able to read between the lines. He saw the wink and understood the nod.

After a few years, Jim had enough hauling other people’s waste, so he moved into the ready mix concrete business. “Ah ha” said Jim (aka “Tony” to his closest friends), “the law says I can only be made to legalize if the truck is more than 4,000 pounds overweight.”

Jim was correct, but he was concerned. “Hmmmmm,” he pondered, “if a police officer made me legalize, it could not only spoil the load of concrete, but it could ruin my drum. Hmmmm.”

Well wouldn’t you know it, the same policeman who stopped Jim with an heavy load of garbage all those years ago stopped him again with an overweight load of concrete.

Interestingly, Jim got the same admonishing speech and the policeman conveniently had another meeting to get to. Jim was impressed with the deportment of the now-balding officer (who was wearing an “ITEA Certified Truck Officer” pin). So impressed was Jim that he offered the officer a Jim Harris Trucking company jacket and side-job as a driver. Wisely, the police officer politely declined both.

Little adventures such as this proved too much for Jim to remain in the concrete business, so he began a livestock transportation business. There is no way the fuzz would require a truck load of turgid pigs to legalize, especially during the summer months.

Now many years had passed inbetween these instances, and Jim (sometimes referred to as “Meat” by his even closer friends) was driving his GMC Jimmy haulin’ hogs when he ran into some bear on I-90. He was expecting to see his old flatfoot friend with the keen commonsense.

Wrong. The superstar policeman he once knew had been promoted and shipped off to midnights. The swine were not only overweight, but the smell of them hogs was getting intense.

As it turns out, Jim had only been operating with a Class-B (B for “bushleague”) CDL all these years. The policeman made Jim phone a friend (who Jim referred to as a “confidant” who always “bailed him out”) with the Class-A (A for “awesome”) CDL and another truck.

“By golly”, the officer told Jim in a robotic voice, “there’s a law for a reason and my video camera and microphone require me to be accountable to the public in the event of a FOIA request. I have taken an oath to uphold the law and will enforce said law with zero discretion. Sir, you shall remove your pigs this instant and obey my statutory authority.”

While they waited in the summer heat to off-load the extra weight, Jim lit up a menthol ciggy-butt (code for cigarette) and stewed. Several razorbacks died and Jim decided it was time to get out of owning a trucking business altogether. The letter-of-the-law spoiled a good thing.

Jim recently announed he would be retiring from truck company ownership, effective March 1st, 2017. He CHose to raise  fainting goats in Kentucky after he completes a brief stint hauling mulch for another company.

Godspeed in your retirement Jim. You’re one of the best and will be sorely missed.

A Letter from the Incoming Director

Dear ITEA Members and other blog readers:

I would like to personally wish you all a very Happy New Year! My hope is the holidays brought you the same amount of joy as I experienced with my family and friends. Like many of you, my past year was filled with many memorable moments, some good, yet others not so pleasant. With the beginning of a new year brings the opportunity to move forward with an open mind and a renewed energy.

Many of you may not be aware, but the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has been undergoing a great deal of change behind the scenes. One of the most notable changes is with the position of Executive Director.

For those who have followed the ITEA for many years, you have come to know Bryce Baker as an amazing leader, teacher and overall person. Bryce has been the face of the ITEA since its inception and has continued to instill his beliefs of unifying law enforcement and the trucking industry in every member the ITEA has gathered throughout his tenure.

Bryce has worked tirelessly to provide unrivaled education to both police officers and trucking industry members, while developing relationships with regulatory agencies, trucking associations and others who impact the day-to-day operations of the trucking industry.  He has also worked diligently to surround himself with a Board of Directors who serve and function at the highest level to better serve all members.

Most of the ITEA’s successes can be attributed to the hard work and leadership of Bryce Baker. Because of him, the ITEA is 565 members strong and carries a professional reputation of bridging the gap between two professions which have never worked as closely together as the way they do now. Bryce will continue to serve as an invaluable resource and will still play an active role in the ITEA.

I would like to personally thank Bryce for being an amazing leader, advocate, mentor and most importantly, friend. Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to work with Bryce in many capacities and I am now proud to be his successor. I feel that Bryce has prepared me for the challenges which lie ahead with the ITEA. I would like to assure you the core values the ITEA holds dear will not change under my leadership. Much like Bryce, I am surrounded by a supportive and talented Board of Directors who will be vital in continuing the mission of the ITEA.

The Board of Directors has undergone some changes with new officers being voted in. I have had the opportunity to work with the new President (Marc Fisher, McHenry City PD), Vice President (Jeff Moos, West Chicago PD) and Secretary (Chris Maxwell, Warrenville PD) very closely over the past few years. I am confident in their abilities to lead this organization with the same efficiency and professionalism expected of the ITEA.

Each one of these leaders has fresh ideas and a passion for commercial vehicle enforcement and the trucking industry. The Board has also taken significant steps to offer our members greater service by appointing Jeff Moos as the Director of Industry Relations and Chris Maxwell as the Director of Public Information and Outreach. These two positions will help create better communication between our members and the Board.

Finally, I would like you all to know a little bit about me. I have been a member of the ITEA since January of 2011 and have sat on the Board of Directors while serving as the DuPage County Chapter Leader. I am a Sergeant with the Carol Stream Police Department and function as the supervisor of the Traffic Investigations Unit. Prior to my appointment as a Sergeant, I served as the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer in the CSPD Traffic Unit for seven years. A majority of my career has been dedicated to traffic safety and it is a passion which I attempt to instill in every officer I come into contact with.

Although I come from a law enforcement background, the trucking industry is near and dear to my heart, as my father-in-law is the owner of a trucking company in western Illinois. He is a 40-year member of the Mid-west Truckers Association and has been an amazing mentor in helping me develop a heart for industry advocacy. My relationship with him has absolutely impacted the conduct of my truck enforcement and falls in line with the ITEA value system and beliefs.

I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this amazing organization and hope you all join in my excitement as we move forward into 2017. I am confident the ITEA will continue to deliver the same valuable product it has been producing for the past eight years. I have been afforded the privilege of taking the reins of a highly functional and well run organization. I look forward to working diligently for each and every one of you, and fulfilling the expectations of this position.

Sincerely,

Brian Cluever