Full Reciprocity Plan

If you live in Illinois and pay any attention to the news media, there is a battle brewing between promoting private industry and reducing the size of government. Regardless of where you stand politically, government does get things right sometimes! Beginning April 1st, a revolution in the world of apportioned registration takes place which has been thirty years in the making. Read on to see what the fuss is all about!

Interstate truckers domiciled in Illinois – the shadow of April 1st is darkening your doorway. If you have not renewed your IRP, you are running out of time. There are only two business days left to get it done. The early bird gets the worm, and the late bird, well, gets an expensive overweight on registration ticket.

The irony of truck enforcement officers being out in force on April 1st looking for expired apportioned plates isn’t a joke at all. There’s no April fool’s day laugh here. If your vehicles are not properly registered and you are stopped by police officer, the vehicle is overweight from pound zero.

The officer has full authority to take you to the scale for weighing. The entire gross weight for the vehicle or combination of vehicles will be measured, and the fine is based on the full annual cost of the registration which covers the weight. The maximum possible fine is $3191.00 plus court costs…it can get expensive.

New this year is the FRP, which is an acronym for the “Full Reciprocity Plan”. In 2014, the International Registration Plan members voted to incorporate this for all member jurisdictions in 2015. This means all the lower 48 states and all Canadian provinces.

Prior to the FRP, a carrier would individually select which jurisdiction they wished to register weight, and how much weight they wished to carry in each jurisdiction. For instance, the carrier could choose to carry 80,000 pounds in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, but only 77,000 in Wisconsin and Iowa.

This caused a few problems. First, it made mileage calculations much more complex for both the carriers and the base jurisdiction.

Second, some honest carriers may not have realized they had registered for lower weights in one jurisdiction and then sent a truck into it heavy. Or maybe they forgot to register in that state at all!

Third, unscrupulous carriers would exploit the system to pay lower mileage rates hoping to not get caught roadside.

Well, those days are a distant memory. When police officers see new cab cards from all member jurisdictions, including the 2016 Illinois version, the maximum weight requested by the carrier will be assigned across all jurisdictions.

If the carrier wants 80,000 pounds in Illinois, he will also be receiving 80,000 pounds in Washington, Maine and Florida even if he never travels there. What hasn’t changed is the carrier must still track the miles traveled in each state or province and report them to the base jurisdiction.

Things have come a long ways since the days of regulated trucking when trucks had dozens of license plates stuck all over the grill. This gave way to the pro-rate bingo plates, then single state IRP plates, and now the FRP.

Government may move slow, but a landmark in interstate trucking has finally been reached.2013-Avatars-insert

 

Village of Moneylust

The article this week will showcase a real Illinois town affectionately renamed as the “Village of Moneylust”. Even by its real name, most people have probably never heard of this Chicago suburb. It’s a bedroom community with no industry or retail tax base. Just a sleepy little hamlet with a state highway cutting through it. However, the nightmare of truck enforcement is haunting the diesel dreams of anyone passing through.

Quality truck enforcement is like a two-lane highway with a cliff on either side. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association strives to see local law enforcement walk the center line…the perfect balance between protecting the public/infrastructure and protecting the industry. Ninety-nine point nine percent of towns stay between the guardrails, but every once in a while a town gets catawampus and plummets over the ledge.

What’s not quality? Truck enforcement performed unlawfully, with zero accountability, solely in the name of revenue enhancement. It’s embarrassing to the profession. It mocks civil liberty. It spits in the face of justice. It’s moneylust.

The best (and most truthful) truck cops in Illinois will tell you plenty of fine revenue can be generated simply by doing the job right. A police officer can make nothing but legitimate stops of trucks, use reasonable enforcement methodologies and best practices, and more than cover the manpower expense.

Corners do not need to be cut. Laws do not need to creatively interpreted or twisted out of all logical context. Unfortunately, only a very few desperate police departments trying to justify their own existence choose the low road, under the color of law, to soak the trucking industry for fines. It’s disgusting.

What is an example of moneylust? Here is a sampling (from the town mentioned in the first paragraph) which the ITEA had the sickening displeasure of reviewing this past fall.

Creating ordinances with excessive penalties not concurrent with the Illinois Vehicle Code, when the municipality does not have home rule authority, is moneylust.

Prosecuting traffic offenses through administrative adjudication, when clearly prohibited to do so by state law and binding opinions of the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Court, is moneylust.

Issuing adjudication/ordinance citations with no language on how to contest the citation or obtain a hearing date violates due process, is moneylust. Doing so in contradiction to the very ordinance (which ironically does not authorize truck citations) is egregious.

Arresting truckers for CDL violations when they clearly do not need a CDL, is moneylust.

Improperly classifying bogus misdemeanor CDL arrests as “no valid driver’s license” in an effort to assess $500 administrative tow fees, is moneylust.

Stopping trucks for “reason to believe” they exceed a local weight restriction is one thing. Fining them $500 when the statute clearly says a maximum fine of $50, is moneylust. Making it a $1000 fine after 10 days is perversion.

Requiring oversize or overweight permits for local weight restrictions (when the law clearly only authorizes locals to do so for weights exceeding the state law), is moneylust.

Failing to combine registered weights of a combination of vehicles, and citing only one of the vehicles for overweight on registration, is moneylust.

Weighing trucks on scales which are not certified by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, is moneylust.

Writing a sworn report saying the same scale is certified by the IDOA, when in fact it is not, is moneylust.

Prosecuting a trucker under misdemeanor state law for one charge, and under an (unlawful) ordinance for a second charge (to locally collect hundreds of dollars), when both charges arise from the same traffic stop, is moneylust.

Stopping a truck not displaying a company name (because it may be personally owned), and then asking questions in an attempt to classify the driver as a “commercial truck” (which has no definition…read HERE) is fruit of the poisonous tree. Fining them $200, or $400 after 10 days, is moneylust.

Writing overweight on gross weight citations in 2014 for exceeding the “non-designated” gross weight limits repealed in 2010, is moneylust.

It goes on. And on. And on. Dozens and dozens of drivers, sucked into a ruse with no way to fight back. Citations issued with the assumption the defendants do not know well enough to fight back.

Who’s training these officers? Who’s holding them accountable? The answer is “not the ITEA”.

The question which begs to be answered is this: if the enforcement of this town is so heinous, why are they not being mentioned by their real name?

The reason is because these are police officers. The ITEA will gladly welcome with them with open arms if they choose to humble themselves, acknowledge their wrongs, stop the racket and be accountable for their actions.

Otherwise they are just actors facing a certain judgment.

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Rookie Truckers

Remember the excitement of turning 16 years old and pining for your driver’s license? Those of you who came of age in Illinois may still remember the infamous “blue card” that never seemed to show up in the mailbox from the Secretary of State. For those men and women of Illinois who want to join the ranks of commercial driver’s license holders, there is still a permit and card to obtain. It’s just the card is not blue, and the permit is not a piece of paper. The world of CDLs is once again in flux!

January 30, 2014, was the final date the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave the states to be in compliance with the Medical Merge program. Illinois was a national leader in this effort, with nearly 95% of all CDL holders certifying on time. This was one of several steps to a revamping of the entire CDL process nationally.

Some other federally mandated deadlines included:
•   October 28, 2013: States had to begin enforcing the texting prohibition final rule
•   May 21, 2014: Drivers had to using only medical examiners who are on the National Medical Registry
•   January 3, 2015: States had to begin enforcing the cell phone prohibition/restrictions final rule

Now, effective July 8, 2015, another deadline looms over the head CDL regulation…the all new “CIP”. What does that stand for, you ask? Well, it stands for “Commercial Instruction Permit”. Even though the mandate is not until this summer, once again Illinois is ahead of the curve and will begin issuing the new CIPs effective March 2, 2015. Illinois will be in full compliance with all new CDL rules two days ahead of schedule on July 6.

The FMCSA and the Illinois Vehicle Code refer to it as a “CLP” for “commercial learner’s permit”. It’s all the same thing though. It is a document obtained by future truck drivers to learn how to operate trucks and trailers. There are some noticeable differences compared to the old learner’s permit:

First, the price went down $10! Before you get all excited that Illinois is throwing you a bone, the reduction from $60 to $50 also includes a shorter life span. Previous CDL permits were good for 1-year, but new CIP permit is only good for 180 days. Any paper permits issued prior to March 2, 2015 are still valid until the expiration date listed on the permit.

The second, and most major change is that the new CIP is a solid plastic hard card instead of paper. It very closely resembles a typical Illinois driver’s license. The big catch here is that in the top right corner it will say “PERMIT-CIP” instead of “CDL”, “DRIVER’S LICENSE” or “TVDL”. Once a CIP is obtained, the driver must wait a minimum 14 days before he can go test for his CDL.

The CIP will not list any endorsements. However, if a driver needs the School Bus (S), Tanker (N) or Passenger (P) endorsements so he can learn how to drive in representative vehicles, those can be added after the fact. No other endorsements may be added, and a paper copy of the endorsement must accompany the driver when operating with a CIP. The catch is the tanker endorsement is only permitted with an empty tank, and the school bus/passenger endorsements are only good sans passengers.

And there is more. A whole host of new restrictions will be added to the current menu of restrictions. All of the restrictions apply to the CIP, and many of them apply to issued CDLs as well. There will be future articles about this prior to July 2015.

Here’s one piece of old news though. Just because a driver has a cool new hard card CIP which somewhat purports itself to be a real license, does not give him license to drive alone. The CIP holder must have a passenger with him who is properly classified and endorsed to operate the vehicle. Without this person, the driver is considered operating without a CDL when required.

That’s a Class-A misdemeanor offense. Depending on the agency’s arrest policy, this could mean handcuffs, mug shot, fingerprints and a towed truck (no administrative tow fees though!).

Oh yeah…one more change on July 6, 2015: you must be a documented United States citizen or lawful permanent resident to obtain a CIP.

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Jeeps

When a typical American hears the word “jeep”, they immediately think of the iconic 4-wheel drive utility vehicle. These stalwarts represent the golden era of ingenuity which encompassed the United States before and during the Second World War. The article this week is not about sport utility vehicle jeeps, but rather a different kind of jeep used by the specialized transportation industry.

A couple weeks ago, the ITEA published an article titled Axle Folly. In narrative was an explanation about how increased numbers of axles protect the integrity of road surfaces with increasing weight. Physics is physics, and a single vehicle (truck or trailer) can only have so many axles on the ground before it will be unable to turn at all.

The most customary vehicle configuration in the heavy haul industry is the semi-tractor semi-trailer. It is not uncommon to find 4-axle tractors towing a 4 or 5-axle semi-trailer to accommodate a heavy load. The problem is what to do when the load weight exceeds that which can be safely and lawfully carried on 8 or 9 axles?

Jeeps. That’s the answer! Sometimes jeeps are also referred to as “jo-dogs” or “dollies”, but in truth they are all auxiliary load dividing axles. Jeeps are vehicles in and of themselves, and added inline to a string of vehicles to spread the load out.

What makes jeeps so invaluable to the heavy hauler is that not only do they increase axles, but they also provide another point of articulation. This makes cornering easier for the driver.

Sometimes carriers will pin extra axles on the back of trailers to also spread the load out, but what makes jeeps interesting is how they are coupled. Each jeep has a kingpin which locks into the 5th wheel of the vehicle ahead of it. The jeep extends the length of the vehicle with one, two, three or sometimes four extra axles. At the rear of the jeep is another 5th wheel which the next trailer locks into.

There are typically two questions law enforcement or truckers in Illinois have about jeeps…so here are the answers:

Question: Does the driver operating a combination of vehicles with jeeps required the double/triple trailers endorsement on their CDL?

Answer: Yes. This is plainly spelled out in the guidance section of Part 383 in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Jeeps are vehicles, and more specifically trailers. When a truck or tractor is towing two or more trailers (there are exceptions of course), the driver must have the double/triple trailers endorsement on their CDL. This endorsement is represented by the letter “T”. In order to obtain a “T” endorsement, the CDL holder must pass a written knowledge test with the Secretary of State.

Question: Do jeeps make a load “divisible” thereby voiding an overweight permit?

Answer: No. This is a really great question though! If one reads the definition of a non-divisible load in 625 ILCS 5/1-148.8, a jeep wholly fits the definition:
1.   By not having the jeep, the intended load is not compromised.
2.   By not having a jeep, the load is not destroyed or unable to be used.
3.   It definitely does not take more than eight hours to disconnect it.

Here’s the rub to that argument. Many times combinations of vehicles involving a jeep, or multiple jeeps, are overweight without a load. The combination delivers an overweight load and returns empty on an overweight permit.

If the combination could be considered divisible when it’s unladen, would it not stand to reason the combination was divisible when laden as well? Would not that void the permit, allowing the vehicles legal weight only, laden or unladen?

If this argument was valid, then there would be a ceiling as to the maximum number of axles which could fit on one tractor and one trailer. This would then create a maximum weight of any load, far less than what is carried now using jeeps.

Jeeps are standard and customary vehicles designed to protect the infrastructure when the heaviest of loads are carried. They are non-divisible.

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Trucks & TVDLs

Remember 2010? The immigration debate was a top story nationwide. The topic held news headlines longer than most political arguments, but eventually it cycled out. It’s alive and kicking again in Congress today, but Illinois threw its hat in the ring in 2013 with the new Temporary Visitors Driver’s License (TVDL) program. Does the TVDL apply to trucks? It sure does, the article this week will explain why.

First things first. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is not taking a political stance on the issue of immigration. Our members are more than welcome to hold to whatever ideology they want. The purpose of the ITEA is to make sure proper enforcement occurs based on the laws our elected leaders require regardless of an individual opinion. That’s it.

When it comes to TVDLs, in late 2013 the Illinois General Assembly provided a way for people who do not have a social security number to obtain a temporary driver’s license. This does not mean anyone residing in Illinois illegally can obtain a TVDL.

The applicant may not be eligible for a social security number, but he is required to have federal authority from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to lawfully be in the United States. It may be a lesser standard than card carrying citizens, but it debunks the myth that any illegal immigrant can obtain a driver’s license in Illinois.

TVDLs are pretty much are only good for driving. They can’t be used as identification to cash checks at a bank. They cannot be used for identification to board an airplane. They can’t be used as identification to vote in an election.

There are limitations on driving however, and this is where understanding driver’s license classification is important. There is no statute that says a TVDL may only be used in a personal vehicle, and not in a work vehicle. The size of the work vehicle is the qualification.

A TVDL is only valid in vehicles which require a Class-D driver’s license in Illinois. Class-D licenses may only be used to operate vehicles with a manufacturer’s GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less. Generally speaking, this means cars and smaller trucks.

Here’s some common questions being asked about trucks and TVDLs:

Question: Is the TVDL invalid if the power unit has a GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less, but weighs more than 16,001 pounds or more on the scale?

Answer: No. Actual weight only applies to classification when it comes to determining if the driver needs a CDL or not. A vehicle in Illinois which weighs 25,999 pounds on the scale does not require a CDL, therefore the manufacturer’s GVWR takes precedent. In this case, the TVDL would be okay.

Question: Can the TVDL holder operate a power unit with a GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less and tow a trailer if the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) is 16,001 pounds or more?

Answer: To answer this question, more questions must be asked:

  1. Does the trailer have a manufacturer’s GVWR, or an actual weight on the scale, of 10,001 pounds or more? If no, the TVDL is okay. If yes, then…
  2. Is the manufacturer’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR) or actual gross combined weight on the scale 26,001 pounds or more?
    If the answer to both questions 1 and 2 (not one or the other…BOTH) are “yes”, then not only is the TVDL being improperly used, the driver is required to have a Class-A CDL!

Question: If the TVDL holder is operating a power unit with a GVWR of 16,001 or more, but 26,000 pounds or less, should he be charged with the misdemeanor No Valid Driver’s License statute under 625 ILCS 5/6-101?

Answer: No. It is a violation of classification only and should be charged under 625 ILCS 5/6-104(a) for not possessing a Class-C non-CDL when required. This violation carries a mandatory court date and is eligible for sign and drive as bail.

Question: If the driver cannot provide proof of mandatory vehicle liability insurance as required in Illinois, can he be charged with the misdemeanor No Valid Driver’s License statute under 625 ILCS 5/6-101?

Answer: Yes. This is clearly spelled out in 625 ILCS 5/6-105.1(d-5).

Police officers should always keep in mind the political hotbed immigration is when taking enforcement action on a TVDL holder. It would be wise to make sure all the ducks are in a row.

Whose Fine Is It Anyway?

If improvisation exposes the true talent of a comedian, then the short-lived Whose Line is it Anyway? should have been the king of all TV comedies. In truck world, it is not uncommon to find improvisational interpretation of law. One of the worst make-it-up-as-you-go-along legal interpretations (by enforcement and industry alike) is who is responsible for fines when truckers get overweight tickets. The article this week will help dispel some common myths about who foots the bill.

This article can be made real short if you can live with one answer to one question:
Q: Who is responsible for paying truck overweight fines…the company or the driver?
A: It depends.

If you are not satisfied with this, read on. But the question above is the truth. There is no absolute.

So what does the law actually say about who pays the fine? Two times in the Illinois Vehicle Code the legislature provides guidance:

625 ILCS 5/15-101(a):
“It is unlawful for any person to drive or move on, upon or across or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved on, upon or across any highway any vehicle or vehicles of a size and weight exceeding the limitations stated in this Chapter…”

625 ILCS 5/15-113(a):
“Whenever any vehicle is operated in violation of the provisions of Section 15-111 or subsection (d) of Section 3-401, the owner or driver of such vehicle shall be deemed guilty of such violation and either the owner or the driver of such vehicle may be prosecuted for such violation.”

The key word here is “or”. Both excerpts from the statutes say either driver or the owner shall be cited by the police officer. Not driver “and” owner. This is left to the discretion of the officer and refers to who is prosecuted, not who is responsible for the fine.

Who has to pay the fine is an internal issue within the trucking company itself. Multiple factors must be considered: Who loaded the truck? Who routed the truck? Did the driver know he was heavy? Did the dispatcher obtain the appropriate permits? Did the fleet manager register the truck for enough weight?

These are a few of the policy decisions trucking professionals must make, but it is not the job of the police officer to sort through them. His job is to stop, weigh and cite the truck. Does the police officer have discretion? Absolutely, and the ITEA will gladly encourage police officers to use good judgment when deciding who to cite and what form of bail to collect.

However, truckers, you are wrong to assume that police officer must cite the owner or your boss based on your interpretation of the law. It’s the officer’s call.

One of the difficulties a police officer has in citing an owner is figuring out who the owner actually is. An owner is not the immediate supervisor, manager, dispatcher or the grown child who is now running the shop for his retiring father.

When trucks are owned, titled and financed in the name of a company, obtaining owner information is difficult. Depending on how a company is organized, it may prove impossible to locate the actual “owner” as there may be several partners in the corporation.

Is it possible to cite a corporation for an overweight? Probably, but it not something which occurs at roadside or should be documented on a uniform traffic citation. This is an intense investigative effort which will need coordination with the State’s Attorney, and reserved for the most serious of overweight offenses.

At the end of the day, the police officer must write a name, address, driver’s license number, birthdate and other personal information on the face of the traffic complaint. It’s a lot easier to cite the driver in this case when his license, with all the pertinent information, is in front of him.

Drivers, make sure you know have solid assurances from your employers about who is going to pay for overweight bails and fines. You are the one who will most likely receiving the citation, which means you could very well be on the hook for the rest as well.

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Axle Folly

In 1984, the blockbuster comedy Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy was released. Murphy played the character Axel Foley, a Detroit cop investigating crimes in Beverly Hills. In truck world, we have axles (not axels) and follies (not Foley’s) when it comes to understanding the maximum number of axles certain trucks can have in Illinois. The article this week will dispel a common myth heard by truckers and cops alike…and it has nothing to do with bananas in a tailpipe.

To understand the maximum number of axles allowed on trucks and trailers in Illinois, one must first understand the Federal Bridge Formula (FBF). The FBF is a tiered system of increasing gross weights based on an increasing number of axles.

Pretend there is a bog of quicksand up ahead. Step in it with your boot, and you will sink. That is because all your weight is concentrated in a small area. The way to defeat the quicksand is to throw a sheet of plywood over it. Then when you step on it, your weight is distributed over a greater distance, reducing the opportunity for a slow, painful death.

A loose analogy? Yes, but the principle is sound. When it comes to truck weight law, the axles serve as the plywood distributing the weight over the road, or quicksand. The greater the number of axles spread over the greater distance, the less stress is placed upon the road surface causing less damage.

Illinois adopted the FBF in 1986 on a host of highways, primarily the Tollway and interstates. Other larger state highways which received federal funding were also included. Over time, more and more roads were considered “designated” by both the Illinois Department of Transportation and local units of government.

In 2010, all highways in Illinois became “designated” in regards to weight, meaning the FBF applied everywhere. Not surprising, Illinois was the last state in the Union to allow these weights.

No matter how many axles a truck has, gross weight can never exceed 80,000 pounds. That is the limit in Illinois. The FBF is technically a never-ending formula, and some states allow truck weights to exceed the Illinois limits of the FBF.

Here’s where truckers get confused, and unfortunately sometimes this line of thinking is fed by misinformed enforcement agents.

There is no law limiting the number of physical axles a truck may have in Illinois. None. This is a free country, and you are welcome in Illinois with as many axles as you want. There is no crime, no statute or citation that says after a certain number of axles, you are forbidden from crossing the border into the sovereign State of Illinois.

For instance, in the sovereign State of Wisconsin, it is not uncommon to see 5-axle straight trucks. These vehicles usually have a configuration consisting of a steer axle, two tag axles in the middle, then two fixed drive axles. The same trucks are seen in Illinois, but are missing the two tag axles in the middle. It’s also not uncommon to see 5-axle cement mixers in Wisconsin, but only 4-axle mixers in Illinois.

Does this mean those 5-axle straight trucks in Wisconsin are illegal in Illinois? Absolutely not! As long as they pay their fair share in fuel tax and registration, they are more than welcome to travel across the Land of Lincoln.
However, those trucks which may receive credit for five axles under the FBF in Wisconsin are only given credit for four axles in Illinois. In other words, the same truck will receive less weight in Illinois as oppose to it’s northerly neighbor.

Let’s say a 5-axle straight truck comes into Illinois from Wisconsin and has a wheelbase of 21’. Under the FBF, the maximum gross weight is 61,000 pounds. In Illinois though, the law says to use the same 21’ measurement, but only gives credit for four axles, yielding a maximum gross weight of 56,000 pounds.

The number of axles isn’t what is illegal, there is just a limitation on the FBF. While straight trucks (single vehicles) are only allowed four axles under the FBF, combinations of vehicles (truck and trailer) are only given credit for six axles. You do not need a permit for extra axles, unless of course, the vehicle is overweight and non-divisible.

So bring them extra axles trucks into Illinois! Just remember that after a certain number, those extra axles are dead weight reducing the actual load which can be carried.

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Deflategate

Now that Super Bowl XLIX (and the halftime show) is done, America can also get busy forgetting the buzzword of January 2015 “deflate-gate”. Was it intentional? Was it not? Does it matter either way? The jury is out. There are plenty of football blogs to read about on that topic, but what this blog will inflate this week is what the law says about tires in Illinois, and what that means for enforcement of trucks.

First things first. There are two sets of laws regarding tires. First being the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). In Illinois, this set of laws is enforceable by the Illinois State Police only. The second is the Illinois Vehicle Code. The two codes are very similar in language about what makes a tire safe or unsafe, but they are not identical.

There are several reasons a tire could be considered “bad” or better yet, “unsafe”. Here are the common reasons why a tire could be found unfit to be on the roads of this great state:

  1. The ply or cord is exposed – this is not the same as a retread tire beginning to come apart.
  2. Cuts or cracks in the tread which exposes the ply or cord
  3. Cuts or cracks in the sidewall
  4. Insufficient tread depth within statutory intervals. 4/32” on the steer tires, 2/32” on everything else.
  5. Bulges or knots
  6. Deflated tires

While the regulations are very close in scope, how an officer stops and discovers the violations are an entirely different story.

When it comes to a motor carrier inspection by the Illinois State Police, troopers have the authority to stop any commercial vehicle (10,001 pounds or more) just to inspect it, which includes tires. If they find two bad tires next to each other, they have the authority to place the vehicle out of service.

Can local police officers do the same? No. Local police officers in Illinois do not have the authority to stop and detain trucks for the purpose of an inspection for any equipment violation. Local police officers must have probable cause to stop a truck. They are limited to enforcing the violation within the scope of the original reason for the stop, and then can only expand based on volumes of case law regarding search and seizure.

Is it possible for a police officer to see a worn out tire in plain view and use that as probable cause to stop a vehicle? Absolutely. If a police officer pulls alongside a truck at a red light, looks at the tires and sees it is totally bald, has bulges or knots or is deflated, that is probable cause. The law has been broken.

What that does not mean is the police officer then has cause to further his inquest into all other sorts of equipment violations. He can ask the driver for his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. He can check the tires which appeared to be bad. He can probably even make a quick walk around the truck and look at all the tires. That is within the scope of the stop and not unnecessarily detaining the driver for an unconstitutional amount of time.

He can’t check brakes, log books, medical cards, wheel lash, frame or suspension integrity, and so on. These are laws under the exclusive enforcement authority of the Illinois State Police.

So what does the local police officer do when he finds bad tires if he does not have the authority to put the vehicle out of service? The IVC, in 625 ILCS 5/12-405(f), provides a small remedy.

If a local police officer has “reasonable cause to believe” the vehicle is in violation of this section, he can order it off the road to inspect the tires. Just the tires, only the tires. Not anything else. Ordering it off the road is not the same as placing it out of service.

Conversely, a police officer who finds a truck with bad tires cannot lawfully tell a driver it is okay to continue driving with them. The job of law enforcement is never to enable further breaking of the law. Whether or not a police officer chooses to cite the driver or not is irrelevant.

The officer should advise the driver to get the problem fixed before traveling down the road. He should also admonish the driver that if he proceeds with unsafe tires and gets in a crash and kills someone, that is on him, not the officer. Or if he continues to drive, gets stopped in the next town and receives a ticket, that is his responsibility too.

Well maintained tires are paramount to safe trucking and good mileage. Proper enforcement is just as important.

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The Lone Wolf

The lone wolf. Every occupation has them. The guy who wants to be out there, on his own, with no accountability. The concern isn’t for people who thrive on working independently. The concern is for those who chose to disconnect from their peers. It’s the truck officer who has the exceptional authority to enforce truck laws, but no community of accountability to make sure it is done with excellence. Sometimes it blows up, and the article this week describes just such a situation.

While there is no joy in writing this article, bad situations need to be examined so one police officer can learn from the mistakes of another. The article this week focuses on a truck officer who was not trained by the ITEA, not a member of the ITEA and not certified by the ITEA. You choose which model of lawman you want performing truck enforcement in Illinois…the officer from last week’s article, or the officer from this one?

This past fall, a trucking member of the ITEA was towing an RV trailer from the manufacturer in Indiana to their dealership in Wisconsin on the hitch of a pickup truck. The truck was bearing 10,000 pound Wisconsin base plates. To their own shame, the company forgot to put the Wisconsin dealer plate on the trailer, and were stopped by the police.

Was this a legitimate reason for a traffic stop? Yes. Was there a violation of registration which could be cited? Yes. However, what occurred next was highly unfortunate.

First, after the driver showed the officer the dealer plate (which was in the truck instead of displayed on the trailer), the officer refused to allow him to mount it. Poor discretion.

Second, the officer told the driver that neither the Wisconsin base plate nor the dealer plate were allowed to be displayed in Illinois, therefore the entire combination was overweight on registration from pound zero. The fine assessed was in excess of $700. Poor interpretation of the law.

Third, after weighing the truck, the officer impounded the trailer until the company came and paid the overweight fine (and impoundment fees) weeks later. Poor police methodology…the law does not allow for this.

So what does the law say? When it comes to registered weight, foreign (meaning out of state) base plates may be operated in Illinois unless three things occur:
1.   The power unit has 3 or more axles. In this instance, the power unit had two.
2.   The gross combined weight on the scale is greater than 26,000 pounds. In this case, it was not as the officer weighed the vehicles and it was less.
3.   The vehicle is making an “intrastate” move with the load. In this situation, it was entirely interstate.

The only registration violation which should have been cited was for improper display of registration for not displaying the dealer plate on the RV trailer. Can a Wisconsin dealer plate be lawfully displayed on a vehicle in Illinois? Yes. These are called “restricted plates”(625 ILCS 5/3-400) which require the Wisconsin dealer to be using the plate appropriately as if it was an Illinois dealer plate…and it was. See Administrative Rule 1010.450.

After weighing the truck, the officer had the RV trailer towed by their municipal towing contractor and it was impounded. The officer informed the driver of the fine and told him when the fine was paid, they would release the trailer.

When the ITEA contacted the officer to get his side of the story, he immediately became defensive. He stated he was a certified truck officer by the State of Illinois. He said he had been doing it this way for years without any problems.

In regards to the impoundment, the officer even went so far as to say the trucking company voluntarily had the trailer impounded for safekeeping. However, when asked if he would release the trailer when the company brought appropriate registration, he said it could not leave. This action tacked on several weeks of impoundment fees in addition to the overweight fine. Insult added to injury.

Then came the deflection. He said his boss told him what he did was okay and that he needed to impound the trailer. He even offered to have the ITEA speak to his supervisor.

So the ITEA representative did just that. Turns out the supervisor was not fully apprised of the situation, did not understand the truck laws and did not authorize the officer to impound the trailer. However, like a standup boss, she blindly defended her officer.

In the end, the police refused to let the trailer go until the bail (and impoundment fees) were paid. Think how different this would have turned out had the officer humbly listened to reason like the officer in last week’s article. Or like countless other class act police officers in Illinois have done when they made mistakes like all humans do.

While these situations do not happen every day, they carry a huge ripple effect. The image of Illinois police officers is now tarnished in the eyes of a legitimate company from Wisconsin. They see Illinois truck officers as revenue bullies.

Exceptional authority demands exceptional accountability. It dangerous when the second part is lacking.

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Exemplary Police Work #7

Do you want a refund from the IRS this year? As you patiently wait for your W-2 form to get the process going, you have to ask yourself the annual question: do I save some money and try to do my taxes alone, or do I hire an accountant? The tax code is quagmire of laws, rules and regulations, and one wrong move, intentional or not, spells trouble. Truck laws are similar in the vehicle code. They’re complicated, and sometimes police officers make mistakes. The best truck officers, however, own their mistakes.

This week the article will look at a recent incident involving a mistake made by a certified member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. Next week, the article will show the stark contrast of a mistake made by a non-member, non-certified member of the ITEA. You choose which model of truck enforcement officer should be working the street.

There are three ways a truck enforcement officer can be certified by the ITEA:
1.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer course
2.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course
3.   Attend the ITEA 8-hour Certification Course, designed especially for those not originally trained by the ITEA.

An ITEA certified truck officer is not an “expert”. Where there are humans involved, there are mistakes. Police officers need not apologize for doing their jobs, but a humble spirit will take responsibility for an error…especially errors with pricetags in the thousands of dollars.

There is the law, and then there are exceptions to the law. With each exception comes more exceptions with limitations and qualifications. One such set of exceptions are those known as “Special Hauling Vehicles”, or “SHVs”. This blog has discussed SHVs many times before.

The trucking industry uses politics to lobby for exceptions to weight law. This article is not making a qualitative argument for or against SHVs, but as more exceptions are added to the law, the more complicated it gets. The more complicated it gets, the more mistakes will be made.

Currently there are five vehicle configurations of vehicles with SHV status, and there are several other configurations of vehicles with exceptions to the law which are not SHVs. Most of these configurations, SHV or not, do not receive their exemptions of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. These are the interstates and tollroads of Illinois.

However, there is one configuration that does receive the exemption on the defense highways: certain 5-axle combinations called “shorty dumps”, or “bombers” in days gone by. These vehicles are the exception to the exception.

Given all these rabbit trails, it is reasonable to believe a police officer may make a mistake? Absolutely. It happened just recently when a certified ITEA officer failed to honor the SHV exception for a 5-axle shorty dump which was operating on a defense highway.

After issuing an overweight citation with a fine north of $3,000, the trucking company contacted the ITEA. As it turns out, the trucking company was an ITEA member as well. Within a matter of hours, the issue was settled.

The officer acknowledged the error. He did not take offense to being asked what happened. He was open to correction. He immediately corrected the problem so there would be no prosecution. He even contacted the trucking company directly to explain himself. He humbly owned it. He protected the industry.

In a day when police officers are taking a beating in the media and social networks, it is encouraging to see professionals like this officer defeating the stereotype. He was not originally trained by the ITEA, but he joined and elected to be held to a higher standard. His exceptional authority (the ability to levy enormous fines) was voluntarily kept in check because he chose to have exceptional accountability (ITEA certification).

This system of checks and balances has worked every single time in the four years the ITEA has being certifying truck officers. Unfortunately, there are just as many times when police officers, who were not trained or certified by the ITEA, do the exact opposite. Read more about that next week.

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