There is no denying it, and there is no hiding from it. Old Man Winter has arrived and he plans to stay for a while. While winter can bring headaches, it also brings something special to everyone who lives in Illinois. For adults, winter brings Christmas, New Year’s celebrations, extended vacations from work, hockey and visiting family members from around the globe. Winter brings children a chance to go sledding, to make snowmen and have a break from school. Winter however never fails to deliver the same thing year after year – snow. For trucks, snow has it’s own set of rules.
As snow adds enjoyment to the holiday season, it also must be removed, along with the stalled and crashed cars it victimizes. The two greatest tools to remove snow and cars from the roads are snow plows and tow trucks. Talk of snow plows and tow trucks is nothing new to the ITEA. Browse through the hundreds of articles the ITEA has written and you will find countless articles mentioning the likes of these trucks. The laws pertaining to these trucks are an ever-changing quagmire of rules and regulations that seem to change as often as the seasons. Tow truck law is so complicated the ITEA has two Standards of Practice dedicated to tow truck law which is available to its members.
When driving down the highway on the eve of a winter snow storm, one may see dozens of snow plows fully loaded and patiently waiting on the side of the road ready to take on the upcoming snow. It’s a powerful sight and motorists would be powerless without them. Open the Illinois Vehicle Code to Chapter 15 which governs weight and size, and the very first page grants special privileges and exemptions to equipment used for snow and ice removal.
The IVC separates these exemptions into two categories: equipment owned and operated by a governmental body, and privately owned and operated equipment. As most would expect, government owned and operated equipment is not bound by the rules of size and weight law. It would be counterproductive if they were. Under certain circumstances, privately owned and operated equipment is also exempt from the rules governing size and weight. But like all things truck law, these exemptions have restrictions.
In order to receive the exemptions the IVC provides while driving private vehicles a snow plow blade greater than 102″ in width, certain criteria must be met.
• The vehicle AND the blade must not exceed twelve feet in width.
• The snow plow blade must have an 18 inch flag on the driver’s side, and the vehicle must be equipped with an amber flashing light that is visible at 500 feet.
• If the amber light is blocked by the load (road salt), then the vehicle must have an amber light mounted to the rear of the vehicle that is visible at 500 feet.
If these criteria are met, then according to Illinois law (625 ILCS 5/15-101(c)) these vehicles are exempt from the width law up to 12′ wide and are exempt from weight law. See below.
625 ILCS 5/15-101(c) – The provisions of this Chapter governing size, weight, and load do not apply to any snow and ice removal equipment that is no more than 12 feet in width, if the equipment displays flags at least 18 inches square mounted on the driver’s side of the snow plow.
There is one law however these vehicles are not exempt from – the laws of registration.
While Chapter 15 in the IVC allows a snow removal vehicle an exemption to the axle and gross weight limitations, there are no exemptions in Chapter 3 which allow the vehicle to exceed its registered weight. A driver can theoretically load a two-axle pickup truck to 40,000 pounds (although the would would break in half). But if the pickup truck has only paid tax for a B-plate, it is required to weigh 8,000 pounds or less. No tickets will be issued for being overweight on the gross or axles, but tickets can be issued for being overweight on registration. While overweight on registration tickets are not as expensive as overweight on gross, certain overweight on registration tickets can lawfully exceed $3,000.00.
Snow plows cannot do their job unless tow trucks do theirs. In most cities and suburbs in Illinois, residential parking bans usually take place when there is two or more inches of snow. If vehicles are left parked in the street, snow plows can’t do their job. When vehicles crash on the slippery highways and become disabled on the roadways and shoulders, snow plows can’t do their job. When these events happen, the mighty fleet of tow trucks come clear the way.
Members of the ITEA most likely have read through the two Standards of Practice published some time ago. The SOPs lay out tow truck laws and the many exemptions and limitations which go with these vehicles. While this article will not cover all of the Illinois tow truck laws, it will make a few points to prepare drivers for the winter at hand. If towing from the scene of a wintry crash:
• A two-axle tow truck can weigh 24,000 pounds on the rear axle during a tow operation.
• If the wrecker has two rear axles (drive axles), it can weigh 44,000 pounds on those axles during a tow operation.
• There is no limitation on gross weight, but too much weight may push the driver into CDL criteria.
• If the tow truck is carrying a vehicle (not towing behind), there are no extra weight allowances.
The most important thing one can do is join the ITEA and head straight to SOP 14 and SOP 18! Let this article serve as a reminder all Illinois tow-truck flat weight registration plates expire at the end of the month.
There is always time to talk about tow trucks. The ITEA considers tow-truck education such an important topic that the upcoming ITEA Conference in February 2017 has an entire block of training dedicated to tow-truck education for the industry.
Tow-truck laws are complicated and confusing. To add to the confusion there are new laws about tow trucks recently introduced in the FAST Act. The ITEA wrote an article about it last month which can be read HERE. The FAST Act will also be covered in its entirety during the 2017 ITEA Annual Conference.
Until then, prepare for what winter always delivers. Drive safe, arrive safe.