Everyone knows Illinois has two seasons, winter and road construction. Loyal Illinois residents know the road construction season never truly ends. Thanks to improvements in construction methods and material technology, much road building can continue throughout the winter. Regardless of the time of year, the debate over weight laws in “construction zones” continues to rage. The article this week will put an end to it.
Before delving into this argument, a couple things must be understood. What might make practical sense is irrelevant. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you understand the letter of the law must first be exposed before discretion can be layered on top. For instance, it might seem better for the taxpayers if trucks run heavy in construction zones as the work will get done faster. Maybe so, but that’s not what the law says.
There’s an interesting argument when it comes to trucks servicing government jobs. If a general contractor is building a new city hall or police station, the regulation surrounding the building trades are highly and tightly regulated. Local, state and federal inspectors are on scene guarantying compliance and safety. Cutting corners is a no-no. The exact opposite occurs with trucking.
The problem is entitlement. It is all too common for truck officers to hear truckers say they do not need to follow weight laws or obtain appropriate oversize/overweight permits when working on government jobs. There is an erroneous belief of exemption, or local politics should restrain the police from enforcing the law equitably.
As a word of caution, every good truck officer should know the lay of the political landscape in their town before hammering away on trucks working directly or indirectly on a government job. To callously enforce the law without due respect to the administrative oversight may bring a premature end to the officers truck enforcement duties.
Road construction is a tricky twist to this tale. The only definition the Illinois Vehicle Code gives for a “construction zone” is under the banner of speeding and use of electronic devices. Never in Chapter 15 (weight and size) are construction zones ever mentioned. Never once are trucks exempted from complying with legal size/weight or relieved of the burden from permits in construction zones.
In the name of reasonableness, the real argument which needs to be had is what constitutes a “construction zone” for purposes of size and weight? Let’s create an imaginary scenario.
Bob’s Road Builders has been granted a $15M contract to rebuild and expand 10 miles of Route 66. The first phase of the job is to excavate the shoulders, remediate the soil and build a new fourth lane of the westernmost five miles. In order to accomplish this, jersey walls are brought in and the current three lanes are reduced to two.
Is the entire five miles a “construction zone”? Yes. Does that mean trucks servicing the job are exempt from the size and weight laws in any lane within this five-mile stretch? No.
The reality is the motoring public is still sharing the roadway which is open. The purpose of size and weight laws are not just about damage to infrastructure, but also public safety. Trucks traveling through this zone which are not part of the job are still under regulation, and so are trucks servicing the jobsite.
The difference is the construction zone behind the jersey wall. This part of the roadway is not open to the motoring public. There is no expectation of safe travel there or else it would not be exclusive to the vehicles working on the job itself.
Trucks traveling on the open highway prior to the segregated jobsite, or leaving the segregated jobsite onto the open highway are required to follow all size and weight laws. Behind that jersey wall or lines of pylons the story is different.
It’s understandable for local government officials to want a hands-off approach to the enforcement of privately owned trucks working for them under contract. However, you would be hard pressed to find a conscientious government official willing to put that in writing. Why? Because it’s against the law and foolishness to memorialize such a directive.
Police officers – please, please, please use good discretion.
Truckers – don’t be entitled. The liability will still be yours when you crash and kill someone.