The Better Way to Interdict CMVs

A show of hands please: whose heart bleeds for the truck driver caught smuggling drugs? Does anyone really lose any sleep over the truck driver caught human trafficking? Anyone? That’s right. Even the biggest and most influential representatives of the carrier industry would love to eliminate the black eye trafficking gives their profession. Unfortunately, in the name of justice, law enforcement has developed systematic training to interdict these criminals, much of which has yielded a fishing expedition into the industry. There is a better way, and it is coming to Illinois in December.

The eradication of these evils is a noble goal for sure. Heck, even if the goal is to find loads of cash belonging to the drug trade, that in and of itself is not a terrible thing. No one is shedding a tear.

The problem is the methodology in which law enforcement employs to interdict commercial motor vehicles. If you leave an acorn out on the sidewalk, even a blind squirrel may find it. If you throw a baited hook in the water enough, eventually a fish will nibble on it.

For many years, law enforcement has been taught an unreliable CMV interdiction methodology. Does it work? Well yes, on occasion, but not without leaving a wake of innocent truck drivers behind it. This method is called “indicator training”. It teaches police officers to look for several different indicators, and if all the stars align, that truck is most likely smuggling drugs, cash or people.

If 100 truckers are stopped, detained and searched, and a police officer finds contraband on one of those trucks, is that really efficient police work? Great job finding that one truck, but what about the 99 other innocent truckers? Their liberty should not be sacrificed in the name of interdiction.

The root issue is those who have historically trained law enforcement have been police officers themselves. They have found intermittent success using the indicator method, but lack the more successful trade knowledge of the industry.

The reality is the best interdiction efforts come from those who work inside the trucking. Why does federal law enforcement hire ex-convict computer hackers to find criminals? Why do large trucking companies hire retired CMV enforcement officers to inspect and audit their fleets? Because those with insider knowledge are the best. They have a unique perspective and skill set.

On December 15-17, 2014, Ray Herndon from Diamondback Specialized CMV Training will be in Illinois teaching a 3-day course on a revolutionary new and effective method to interdict trucks.
A method that will yield a higher percentage of success that typical indicator training.
A method that does not waste the time of the officer or an innocent trucker.
A method which teaches police officers insider info into the trucking world to expose the true criminals.
A method which builds a proper sequence of events that will pass constitutionally muster.
A method which teaches police officers how not to exceed the scope of their authority.
A method which is taught, and demonstrated, using classroom instruction and real trucks.
A method which protects the industry.

This groundbreaking methodology is sound for two reasons:

First, he has been a successful drug interdiction officer for nearly twenty years with the case studies to prove his methods work.  Second, he has owned and operated his own fleet of trucks for and even longer period of time. He is fully police officer and fully trucker. Rarely will you find someone with such intricate knowledge of both professions with such a great respect for both.

A recent article in the Washington Post began to expose police tactics used in interdiction efforts, and the picture does not paint law enforcement in a positive light. The time to tear down and rebuild CMV interdiction efforts has come. Diamondback Specialized CMV stands alone from the any other training institutions. The ITEA has witnessed it firsthand.

Do not miss this class. Seating is limited, so sign up ASAP…you will not regret it.

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Exemplary Police Work #6

It’s unfortunate there are times erroneous police work must be exposed. One of the toughest parts of policing is the policing of the police. Like all professions, most people are good and it’s just the few rotten apples that spoil the bunch. The same is true in truck enforcement world, it’s just the stakes are incredibly high. Couple an immensely complicated law with unparalleled high fines and you have a recipe for disaster. The redeeming beauty is when a truck officer does the right thing, like the story to be told in this article.

Oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits are one of the most complicated parts of truck law. Every jurisdiction, state, county, township and municipal authorities have their own set of rules and regulations. This makes the issue complicated not only from the perspective of the carrier trying to obtain a permit, but also from the police officer trying to understand the enforcement methodology of permits.

When the carrier operating under the authority of OS/OW permits makes a mistake, the penalties can be devastating. Since 2010, when the State of Illinois passed a law doubling the fines of overweight vehicles, it is not uncommon for off-route permit loads to have fines exceeding $30,000. Not all permit load mistakes are that expensive, but many are. In the diverse world of trucking, none are as susceptible to these kind of fines like those in specialized transportation.

When vehicles are operating under the authority of an OS/OW permit issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there is a unique set of rules, or conditions, which must be followed. These are created in the Administrative Rules, which have the force of law. They are more commonly found in the IDOT Permit Manual and listed on the OPER 993 form.

One such IDOT regulation is more commonly known as the “1-mile rule”. Under this rule, IDOT provides grace for the driver who goes off his assigned permit route for one of four reasons. One acceptable reason is because the driver mistakenly got off-route in the first place. The caveat is the vehicle may only travel for 1-mile off-route, and the road travelled on must be a state highway contiguous to the assigned permit route.

Last month, a young truck officer (a rookie with less than one year on the job) who had recently been through the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement course, stopped an OS/OW permit load on a state highway. During this conversation, the officer asked to see the driver’s permit. The driver had page 1 of his IDOT permit, but did not have page 2 which included the routing. Had the driver actually had the routing page of the permit with him, this traffic stop would have been over in minutes.

The driver knowingly admitted he was off-route, and by his description of where he had travelled, he was more than seven miles off-route. On the surface of things, it appeared this officer had the driver dead to rights. Based on the weight of the vehicle, the fine would have exceeded $16,000.
The officer could have written the ticket, the company would have paid the fine and there probably would not have been any fight in court over.

The reality was everyone was in agreement the driver messed up, and messed up bad.

However, this officer knew the red flags he felt going up needed counsel. As an ITEA certified truck officer, he accepted a creed to make an informed decision before making a wrong one.

Truck officers in Illinois have privileged access to the IDOT permit system called ITAP. In this database, police officers can verify and download the actual permit issued by IDOT. Unfortunately, the officer had not yet received permission from his command staff to apply for ITAP access, so he contacted the ITEA who looked up the permit for him.

As it turns out, the driver was indeed off-route, but less than 1-mile from his permitted route and on a contiguous state highway. No overweight citation could be issued. If this officer was suffering from moneylust, he would have issued the citation and no one would have been any wiser.

Thankfully this young man was of noble character and did the right thing.
The ITEA is proud of this officer. He is a fine example of the role police officers are supposed to play in the world of highway transportation.

On October 28, 2014, the ITEA is hosting a free 8-hour certification for current truck officers who have been trained elsewhere. If you are in the carrier industry and desire to see more truck officers like this one, get on the phone and respectfully demand truck officers in Illinois who are not certified attend this class. You can find a list of non-ITEA certified officers and their agencies by clicking HERE. Your voice can make a difffernce.

Fight For Your Right

The youth of today have been described as the “entitlement” generation. The old curmudgeons of the nation just call them “lazy”. Sometimes entitlement is a good thing! The beauty of living in America is there are certain rights and privileges all people are entitled too, and those are cherished. While entitled kids who think they should make executive pay straight out of college is irritating, is it as irritating as enforcement tactics which revoke you of the very laws you are entitled too?

Imagine this scenario: The bills are stacking up. As you are trying your best to keep your head above water financially, you forget about renewing the registration on your car. Later that night, BAM! The alert policeman spots the old sticker and stops you.

After the police officer does his routine and issues you the citation, he informs you that you are under also arrest for not having a driver’s license. What? The officer informs that your license is indeed valid through the Secretary of State, but because the vehicle was unregistered, it should not have been on the road. And because the vehicle should not have been on the road, you should not have been driving. Therefore, you do not have a driver’s license.

Preposterous? Of course it is. This scenario bears a resemblance to a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when a mob is trying to determine if a woman is a witch. Take a question, create all kinds of ridiculous justifications, carve out some rabbit trails and you can get any answer you want to hear.

You broke the law by not renewing your registration. That does not mean that you have inherently violated other laws. Even a convicted felon is entitled to some protections under the law while in prison. If violating one law meant the police could connect the dots from one crime to another, we would all end up in the electric chair.

Expired safety tests, IFTA stickers and overweight vehicles do not void registration. Exceeding the speed limit does not void a driver’s license. Each crime has its own elements of the offense and stands alone. 

Unfortunately, this situation plays itself out in truck enforcement world all too often. Here are the common denominators each time, every time:
1.   The citation has a significant financial penalty.
2.   The officer was poorly trained. 
3.   The officer is not a member of the ITEA and not held accountable to standards.
4.   The officer takes advice from another officer, also poorly trained, unaccountable and not a member of the ITEA.
5.   The officer rationalizes the stop with “I could have done this (insert worse penalty)”.
6.   The officer claims the “state police” affirmed the actions.
7.   The officer claims their local attorneys affirmed the actions. 
8.   The officer claims they have been doing it like this for years without any problems.
9.   The officer refuses to listen to reason.
10.   The officer loses the case in court.

Here is a real life example. In February 2013, and ITEA member trucking company had a driver operating a rubber-tire, articulated bucket loader on a suburban highway. A local officer who had recently been trained in truck enforcement stopped the machine. 

The officer was not sure what to do, so a senior officer who had been to truck school years ago was summoned. The two put their heads together and determined the machine was not allowed to operate on the road, therefore not entitled to the legal gross and axle weights of Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

After forcing the owner to low-boy the machine to the police station to be weighed on portable scales, an $8,000 overweight fine was levied. The machine was held hostage until this was paid. Several other improper citations for driver’s license violations were issued as well.

The ITEA called the arresting officer to get their side of the story. They said they received affirmation from the Illinois State Police (never corroborated), their local prosecutor and even their truck enforcement instructor! They claimed they had done this before and it had never been a problem. They claimed they could have put the driver in handcuffs, but instead chose “discretion”.

The true law was explained, but the officer refused to listen to reason. Months later, the case was predictably lost in court. Unfortunately an attorney had to been retained and paid for, all the while the court hung onto the $8,000 cash bail.

Sometimes you have to fight for your right to operate according to the law. But know that in nearly five years of the ITEA, not a single similar complaint has even been lodged against an ITEA trained and certified truck officer.   

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Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer 2014

A well-rounded and effective truck enforcement officer is like fine wine. It takes time to season them to be proficient in their trade. The best truck enforcement officers in Illinois not only understand the detection and application of law, but they are keenly aware that it’s more than just writing tickets. It’s about compliance. It’s about education. It’s about advocacy. It’s about respect for the most vital industry to our economy…trucking. From September 29th to October 3rd, 2014, fifteen of the best truck officers in Illinois will rise to a new level of performance at the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course. Will you be there?

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association prides itself in not just being a puppy mill for truck officers. The practice of arming multitudes of police officers with nothing but basic training is dangerous to the industry. Even worse it hurts the perception of quality truck enforcement officers. Churning out scores of truck officers with limited knowledge and a ticket book pointed at revenue is nothing short of destructive.
Only the ITEA trains, certifies and holds accountable truck officers with updates, resources and advanced training. The only other advanced training available teaches local police officers to exceed their authority and impersonate the Illinois State Police. The ITEA offers something completely different.

The 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course offered by the ITEA reinforces the basic training and post-training field experience of truck officers. Instead of teaching new ways to try and teach officers to write more tickets, the course teaches truck enforcement disciplines from the perspective of the trucking industry and regulatory officials (whom all the curriculum was built in partnership with).

The lead CVSA instructor from Illinois spends a day teaching about how the international program works. The ISP trooper spends the day going over how they perform an inspection (with the appropriate authority), training and reporting techniques. Officers quickly learn that observance of critical safety violations is important, but enforcement based on unauthoritative instruction is dangerous.

A day is spent teaching the finer points of CDL rules and regulations. The officers then have an opportunity to learn what it takes to get a CDL…just like the industry. The class reports to a Secretary of State CDL facility to take the permit tests, perform a walk-around pre-trip inspection, and then actually drive a semi-tractor trailer combination on the skills course. Officers get to see the world from the trucker perspective, and soon learn the worst truck drivers are better drivers than they are.

Truck registration is a complicated mess. Much like CDLs, a day is spent teaching the details of registration from both an intrastate and interstate point of view. Instruction not only teaches the law, but how the operation of the Secretary of State Commercial & Farm Truck Division works. At the end of the day, the officers learn how to apply for and register an entire fleet of trucks…just like the industry.

The specialized transportation industry relies on oversize/overweight permitting to get the biggest and heaviest loads delivered. The OS/OW permit process is a nightmare of individual state, county and local regulations. A detailed comparison of state law vs. local law is explored and the effect it has on the industry. Students are then given the opportunity to sit in the seat of the permit coordinator and apply for basic permits…just like the industry.

Weight enforcement is an important part of a well-rounded program, but learning what is heavy and what is not takes a lot of trial and error. While this is expected with new truck officers, much time and money is wasted by officers on fishing expeditions. A full day is spent going over different configurations for different commodities and the explaining loading trends. Real life photos from ITEA officers are used to show how to stop and weigh the trucks that are actually overweight, proper weighing procedures and reasonable enforcement discretion.

If you want the best, be the best. Do not miss the opportunity to take this unique course. Please contact the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at 630-942-2295 to register.

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Incompetent Evidence

Want to easily annoy a uniformed police officer? When you see him walking into a store (presumably minding his own business), say “I didn’t do it!” Maybe you could point at your friend and say “He did it!” Worst yet, grab your child by the shoulder and say “Act right or that policeman will take you to jail.” The officer understands what you are doing, but it’s not original and it’s highly irritating. Unfortunately, truck officers hear similar things in court about certain overweight tickets. The article this week focuses on one such excuse heard a whole lot this time of year.

What do December 31st, March 31st and June 30th all have in common? These are the days of the year one set of truck or trailer registration plates expire. At the stroke of midnight the following day, if you as the vehicle owner have not paid your annual registration tax to the Secretary of State, you have a big problem. Your truck or trailer is overweight on registration.

A key concept to understand is that cars are not trucks. A car is a first division vehicle per the Illinois Vehicle Code. It is required to be registered when operated on the highways of this state, but the registration does not have to be weighted. This is why when you forget to renew your registration for your car, the police officer does not drag you off to a scale.

Trucks and trailers are second division vehicles, which by law have to be registered with a maximum weight. On January 1st, Illinois tow-trucks who have not re-upped are overweight on registration. On April 1st, Illinois apportioned plates. July 1st, Illinois flat weight truck and trailer plates.

When a police officer stops a second division vehicle with expired registration, or no registration at all, he may order the driver to follow him to the nearest available scale for weighing. And yes, the officer must actually weigh the vehicle on the scale. There is no wiggle room.

Upon weighing the vehicle, the officer may assess the maximum fine based on the gross weight and the registration plate needed to cover the weight. For instance, if the truck weighs 34,780 pounds, the maximum fine is the cost of a 36,000 pound “L” truck plate, plus court fees.

This is a criminal matter, and it stings the pocketbook for sure. Not only does the driver or owner have to pay the fine, but he still needs to purchase the registration. In essence, he could be paying for the registration twice. The ticket and the fine money do not re-register the vehicle.

So what does this have to do with court and excuses the officers have heard a million times over? Overweight on registration fines for expired plates can exceed $3000. It’s a lot of money, and it is understandable that registered owners who sent their money in are angry when the officer tells them the plates are still expired.

This being mid-August, many overweight on registration citations issued in July for expired Illinois flat-weight plates are coming due in court. Defendants bring in proof that they paid the SOS or a currency exchange for the new plates. They bring in a renewal card instead of the actual renewed registration.

These documents may help mitigate the fine, but they are not defensive evidence. In 625 ILCS 5/3-401(d)(4), the statute is clear:
“Proof of proper Illinois registration issued by the Secretary of State, or the appropriate registration authority from the foreign state, shall be the only competent evidence of payment.”

ITEA truck officers understand registration is expensive, especially for a fleet of trucks, and this is a competitive market. Every dollar counts and sometimes it is tough to get all the cash together by the last day of the registration year.

However, the responsibility still falls on the carrier. Just because some applies for a mortgage doesn’t mean they can move into the house. Just because applied and paid for a concealed carry permit does not mean he can carry concealed. 

A person can move into their new house at turnkey. A citizen can pack heat when the Illinois State Police issue the carry permit. A truck owner can lawfully put his truck back on the road once the SOS has issued the valid registration.

It’s a relatively black and white issue. The ITEA greatly encourages our truck officers to do right by the truckers in these incidents. This does not mean dismiss the ticket because of late compliance, but for sure reduce the charges and give the owner some money back.

That’s the competent and reasonable thing to do.

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Illinois Rail Safety Week 2014

There’s a reason every red-blooded American boy wants to be a train conductor or a truck driver: big powerful machines made of iron and steel are cool. Many kids grow out of this stage, the rest either become truck cops, train conductors or truck drivers. It’s no secret the trucking and rail industry do not always see eye-to-eye, but there are times when both industries need to come together for the greater good. One such instance is Illinois Rail Safety Week 2014. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association is proudly co-sponsoring this event because trucks play a vital role in rail safety. The article this week will explain why.

September 14th-20th, 2014 marks the inaugural year for Illinois Rail Safety Week. The driving force behind the event is the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee, on which several ITEA board members serve as well.

Rail safety may seem rather intuitive, but sadly the numbers prove different. Every year, lives are lost, including those of truckers, for failure to follow simple rules at rail crossings. 

Time is money. The boss wants it done yesterday. The phone is ringing. That train is moving slow. I got plenty of time. Bam. Tragedy…again.

State Law vs Federal Law
There are truck specific laws at both the state and federal level. Those truckers who operate with CDLs need to be concerned with both! While some laws are similar at both levels, others are specific to their own code. Some state law violations may not be in the federal law, but CDL status could be affected anyhow. 

Heavy Equipment
State law requires that any vehicle moving heavy equipment have proper clearance before crossing the railroad tracks. Because much heavy equipment is transported on lowboy trailers, a nine-inch minimum is required before crossing the rails. What is interesting is the definition of “heavy equipment”.

The statute gives several examples: crawler-type tractor, power shovel, derrick or roller. However, it also gives a catchall. If the equipment being operated or moved is designed to travel less than 10mph, the driver must stop the truck between 15 and 50 feet of the crossing to make sure it is clear. 

While most minds will immediately think this statute applies exclusively to oversize/overweight permit loads, it does not say that. What about legal weight skid steers, pavers or excavators? Many of these machines do not exceed 10mph and are moved over trucks.

Permit Loads
Speaking of permit loads, the Illinois Department of Transportation has something to say about this topic in the 2012 Permit Manual. If you are operating on a valid IDOT permit on an IDOT road, you assume all liability if a problem arises because you did not stop and inspect the rail crossing prior to crossing. The permit may very well route you over the tracks, but you are still responsible. A violation of permit citation could be issued.

Passenger Vehicles
Federal law requires all “buses” to stop and look prior to crossing. The Illinois state law is more restrictive. It not only requires all buses, but any second-division vehicle, carrying passengers for-hire, to stop. This includes vehicles designed to carry ten or more people like some stretch limousines, party buses and 15-passenger vans in ride-sharing agreements.

Hazardous Materials
in Part 392.10, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations delineate a host of hazardous materials which would require the driver to stop the vehicle at a rail crossing. The Illinois state law defers to this list as well. The key here is enforcement scope.

The truck actually has to being carrying the material, not just displaying placards. While a local police officer can just as easily look at a placard and compare it to the list, the proof of the violation rests with the presence of the material. Illinois State Police troopers can inspect a commercial vehicle without cause, but local Illinois officers are limited by procedural case law. Just crossing the tracks without stopping, while displaying placards, is not enough for a search.

Shifting Gears
Even with automatic transmissions rapidly gaining popularity in commercial vehicles, the standard transmission is still king. If a truck is of the type which is required to stop at railroad crossings, the driver may not shift gears once the approach to the tracks and has begun. He also cannot shift until the entire vehicle has cleared the tracks. This is for good reason. Even the best drivers sometimes miss gears when shifting. If the trucks stalls on the tracks, bad things could happen.

Illinois needs goods shipped by rail and highway transport, and we need it delivered in one piece by alert drivers. Illinois Rail Safety Week 
2014 is all about both industries and law enforcement working together for safety. 

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Getting Tarped

Tell the truth…you know you love it when a rock falls off a truck and cracks your windshield. You know what else you love? When sand blows of the pile inside a truck and you can feel it scratching against the clear coat. If you indeed love these things, you must either be nuts or drive a beater car you really don’t care about. There’s a common myth in Illinois truck enforcement circles that “all loads of aggregate must be tarped”. Guess what? Not true.

Pick and industry and there is always a hot topic. In trucking world, fatigued driving and highway funding are all the rage these days. Dial the clock back a couple years and load securement was the talk of the town.

Even if this article is narrowly focusing on tarps and aggregates, it’s in the family of load securement. Because load securement is the big picture, a foundational background needs to be laid.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations speak in volumes about load securement. Pick a commodity like steel coils, heavy machinery or roof trusses and there are specific rules about how that load is too be secured. After that, the securement devices themselves have a set of regulations. Chains, load straps and binders have ratings and integrity specifications.

It’s been said before and now it will be said again. Local truck enforcement officers in Illinois should have a working knowledge of the FMCSR and be able to spot a critical safety violation for a lawfully stopped truck.

This does not mean the officer has the right to stop a truck for an FMCSR violation. This does not mean the officer has the right to inspect the truck for other FMCSR violations. This does not mean the officer can write any sort of citation for the FMCSR or shoehorn it into the unsafe vehicle statue of the Illinois Vehicle Code. This does not mean the officer has the authority to play pretend “out of service”. These are exclusive enforcement tasks of the Illinois State Police.

Whereas the FMCSR has scores of detailed regulations regarding load securement, Illinois has three statutes. Yeah that’s right…three and they are not very commodity or device specific.

The first is 625 ILCS 5/15-106 that says any protruding members of the load must be secured.

The second is 625 ILCS 5/15-109 that says loads cannot be spilled on the highway or come loose and be a hazard to other motorists. There is also a subsection about steel coil securement, but it defers to the FMCSR, so no local enforcement.

The third, and case in point, is 625 ILCS 5/15-109.1. This statute talks about when tarps are required:

“(a) No person shall operate or cause to be operated, on a highway, any second division vehicle loaded with dirt, aggregate, garbage, refuse, or other similar material, when any portion of the load is falling, sifting, blowing, dropping or in any way escaping from the vehicle.”

Notice the law speaks about second division vehicles, which could be trucks or trailers. The law also speaks directly to aggregates. The term aggregate is defined in subsection (d):

“(d) For the purpose of this Section “aggregate” shall include all ores, minerals, sand, gravel, shale, coal, clay, limestone or any other ore or mineral which may be mined.”

The most important words are the verbs. Falling. Sifting. Blowing. Dropping. Escaping. In other words, the load has to be leaving the truck in order for there to be a violation. That’s it plain and simple. Any police officer sitting on the side of the road waiting for a load of untarped aggregate to pass by has not met his burden to write a citation.

If the officer gets behind the vehicle, and the stones are falling out of the tailgate, ticket. If the sand is blowing off the top of the pile, ticket. Otherwise, there is not a load securement violation. Of course officers may exercise discretion in issuing citations. Interestingly, much like overweight vehicles, the statute actually requires the load to be secure before moving on.

The worst rationalization is a load must be tarped in the event the truck rolls over. Check out the picture used for this post. Tarps don’t hold back 20 tons of aggregates.

Myth busted.

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Mileage Plates

Who doesn’t like a discount? Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or are flush with cash, there’s something satisfying about finding the lower price for a product. It’s just part of the American dream. There’s an inherent gamble in deals though. Occasionally the seemingly same product is not all that it was cracked up to be. Illinois truck registration is no different. It’s expensive, but there is a discount version…until it creeps up and bites back you in the pocketbook.

Here’s a quick comparison to get your attention. If you purchase the flat weight tax 80,000 pound Z-plate, the cost is $3191. However, the same 80,000 plate in mileage tax form is $1415! That’s a 56% discount. These costs do not include other administrative fees like the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, the Special Hauling Vehicle permit or title/transfer fees. 

THE FACTS
Mileage plates are available for both trucks and trailers. The premise is simple. While you receive a fee discount, you have a limited amount of miles the vehicle may operate each year on the registration, as opposed to unlimited miles on flat weight tax. The authority and classification options for mileage plates is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-818 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. 

Interestingly, there are a few aberrations compared to their flat-weight tax cousins:
•   Mileage truck plates have a 20,000 pound “MG”plate. There is no “G” flat weight truck plate.
•   The flat weight “H” truck plate has a maximum capacity of 26,000 pounds. The “MH” mileage plate is only 24,000 pounds.
•   Regular truck plate have a “Q” plate for 50,000 pounds, but there is no “MQ” mileage plate. 
•   A flat weight “TG” trailer plate is good for 20,000 pounds, and there is no flat weight “TF” trailer plate. There is a mileage “MF” trailer plate, and it is good for 20,000 pounds instead.
•   Flat weight trailers have a “TN” plate for 40,000 pounds, mileage trailers have a “MM” plate for 40,000 pounds.

Those who elect to pay the mileage tax instead of the flat weight tax must have working odometers for the vehicle, including both trucks and trailers. This requirement is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-701. Odometers for a trailer are found in the hub of an axle. Records for the mileage of each vehicle must be kept.

Also, anyone who opts for mileage tax must post a $500 bond in event they exceed the limited number of miles allowed for that particular plate. If the truck exceeds the mileage, the $500 bond is used to make up the cost.

THE PROS
Obviously a discounted rate is a pro. Mileage plates are great for seasonal jobs with trucks dedicated to seasonal operation only.  Snow plowing and tree removal operations are perfect examples of this. This concludes the pros of mileage plates.

THE CONS
Here is where you pay the piper. While the mileage tax has a purpose, so does honesty and enforcement. After years of abuse, the 
Illinois Secretary of State Police now sends investigators out to do surprise audits. If the records are inaccurate, prepare to pay. If the odometer is broken, disconnected or otherwise not spinning at the appropriate rate, prepare to pay. Cheating on mileage plates is like not having plates at all. You may very well be force registered to pay the full rate for the fiscal year.

While most enforcement authority rests solely with the Illinois Secretary of State Police, local police officers have a hand in this too. There is nothing local police officers can do about a truck exceeding its mileage, or checking record books. However, if a local police officer lawfully stops a vehicle with mileage plates and finds the odometer not operable, the truck has no registration. That means no registered weight, which means overweight on registration, which means expensive citations. 

This is not license for a police officer to stop a mileage plated truck for any traffic violation, just to have it run a course to check mileage. Or to inspect record books. That is fruit of the poisonous tree.

Local police authority is limited. If a police officer has independent reason to believe the vehicle is overweight (axles/gross/registration) he can most certainly measure the mileage from the point of the traffic stop to the weigh station to guarantee odometer accuracy.

All that glitters is definitely not gold.

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Recreational Vehicles

“It’s all about revenue.” “Money money money.” “You guys are only trying to pad the City coffers on the backs of the working man.” These are very common statements heard from the drivers, owners and managers in the trucking industry when police officers write overweight citations. Unfortunately, many times they are spot on. The article this week will discuss a practice in truck enforcement that serves to prove this point: recreational vehicles.

If have been following the Illinois Truce Enforcement Association for any length of time, you probably have quickly learned there is little tolerance for enforcement that strays or bends rules for the sake of revenue. Unlike a basic truck enforcement course offered by another training institution where the instructor opens with a shameful “welcome to revenue 101”, the ITEA is the exact opposite.

Any police department which facilitates a truck enforcement program fueled by moneylust is a disaster waiting to happen. Laws have a purpose, as do fines. The revenue generated by truck enforcement should only be the byproduct of quality police work, not the catalyst for it. 

When a police agency demands or expects officers to perform truck enforcement duties solely to create income, they are encouraging police officers to find creative interpretations of the law. There are dozens of examples of this, but this week recreational vehicles have the spotlight. 

The foundation is simple. Registration and commercial driver’s license are under the regulatory authority of the Illinois Secretary of State. The Illinois General Assembly, for right or wrong, creates statutes which the SOS must enforce. Where the statute is silent to procedure, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) fills in the gap.

Truck registration in Illinois is expensive. There’s no doubt about it. Given the high price, there is incentive for truck owners to try and cheat the system to purchase registration of a lower price. This is the case with RV plates.

Many second division vehicles are RVs. In those times when the trucks are indeed RVs, they may be appropriately plated as such for a substantially lower fee. In the times when the truck is not an RV, they must secure the exponentially higher base plate fee.

The problem police officers run into is when they try to ascertain who is cheating and who is not. The police officer who focuses on the purpose of the truck quickly finds he may very well be stepping on the authoritative toes of the SOS. 

The purpose for the truck being used as RV, whether lawfully or unlawfully, is incredibly complex and quite subjective. To say there are perfect, clean cut rules to this topic is faulty thinking. 

The reason police officers will attempt to use creative interpretation of statutes in regards to determining RV purpose harkens back to first few paragraphs of this article. Follow these breadcrumbs: 
•   If the truck officer believes there is cheating going on, then he can say the truck is improperly registered as an RV. 
•   If the truck is improperly registered as an RV, then it needs flat weight truck plates. 
•   If the truck needs flat weight truck plates and it does not have them, then an overweight on registration citation may be issued. 

Cha-ching.

The most common rationalization an officer uses to make this determination is that the RV is being operated for business purposes. This is correct in simplistic terms…a business may not use RV plates to circumvent regular truck registration or exercise a CDL exemption.

The creative, moneylusting police officer will attempt to find easy rationalizations to make the RV operation a business purpose. However there is no easy way to do this. It takes an extreme amount of investigation into tax filings and other regulatory paperwork to make a proper determination. The work required far exceeds what a patrol officer can accomplish on a traffic stop.

What’s worse is the police officer who detains a driver far beyond customary traffic stop time limits, set by the United States Supreme Court, to play Elliot Ness. What’s even more disconcerting is the police officer who employs his own low-standard rules and issues the citation, leaving the driver to prove his innocence in court.

This is bad police work. The burden of proof is on the officer. If the officer cannot rightly meet his lawful burden, he must send the vehicle on its way and continue his investigation. There are other administrative ways to bring the registration or CDL cheat to justice. 

To counter this problematic enforcement, the ITEA recently ratified a Standard of Practice (SOP 38) to provide guidance to our member police officers. 

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CDL Arrest Policy

On the road to maturity as a police officer, one quickly learns to quit taking things personally. Some take longer than others, but the sooner a police officer learns to judge the actions of a violator and not the actor himself, the easier life becomes. The reality is sometimes mistakes are made, but sometimes the consequences exceed the reasonableness of the offense. This can readily be seen in commercial driver’s license violations. The ITEA has a solution though…read on!

Earlier this year, under federal mandate, the Illinois Secretary of State began canceling CDLs for those who had not complied with the medical merge process. No fault can be attributed to SOS. Illinois went above and beyond the call of duty.

In the end, Illinois had one of the earliest and highest compliance rates in the nation because of this effort. Even still, just under 20,000 Illinois CDL holders still had their CDL cancelled for not certifying. Many of these CDL holders probably were not using their CDL anymore, but many probably just did not get it done.

There’s another wrinkle to this issue. Of the 400,000+ CDL holders in Illinois, 46% are certified as non-excepted interstate (NI). This means they had to submit a valid medical card at the time of certification. As interstate certified drivers, they are required to provide the SOS a new, and valid, medical card every two years before the date it expires. If not, the CDL will be cancelled.

Just to add some more regulation to the process, as of May 21st, 2014 all driver physicals have to go through a specific set of doctors called “the registry”. No more “doc-in-the-box” offices writing out bogus medical cards for obviously unfit drivers. While the number of qualified doctors has surprisingly met expectations, it will still slow down the ability for CDL holders to get their physicals done in time.

Once the CDL is cancelled for any of these reasons, the driver has thirty days and then the CDL will cease to exist. The driver will have to start from scratch to obtain a new CDL. Permit tests, pre-trip inspections, skills course and road course…just like he never had a CDL in the first place.

The medical merge regulation is just one way to be in violation of CDL laws. How about these situations?
•   With the new CDL criterion, the driver who did not need a CDL June 30th based on GVWR may need one simply because he weighed one pound more on the scale July 1st.
•   The driver who did not know about a new regulation which says the aggregate total of 119 gallon tanks exceeding 1000 gallons needs a tanker endorsement.
•   The driver who received bad CDL advice from a police officer who was trained in an unauthoritative truck enforcement class, is now stopped by a well-trained police officer.

All that to say this: there’s a lot of new ways to have your CDL yanked for nothing but paperwork issues. There’s also a lot of ways to be in violation of a CDL. Yes, the medical merge process is important to weed out medically unfit drivers. Yes, the responsibility to be compliant with all rules and regulations falls on the CDL holder themselves.

However, many good drivers may lose or have their CDL cancelled solely because relatively minor issues, not necessarily because they are unqualified drivers. If the CDL is their livelihood, they will continue to drive regardless. Others will continue to drive, ignorant to the complexities of CDL law. And yes, that is on them too.

The question is not whether or not the operator should be held accountable for the decision to drive without the CDL when required, the question is whether or not the penalties for all CDL violations fit the crime. As mentioned in previous blog posts, driving without the proper CDL when required is a Class-A misdemeanor. Outside the various state police agencies, the vast majority of local police departments require misdemeanor traffic arrests to be custodial.

Handcuffs. Towed trucks (exponentially more expensive than towed cars). Fingerprints. Mug shots. FBI and state ID numbers. Maximum one year in jail. Maximum fine $2500.

As an alternative, local police agencies could adopt a model policy brought forth by the ITEA last month which provides police officers discretion. A model policy which allows police officers to still do their job, but not make a custodial arrest of every CDL violator. A model policy which attempts to harmonize state and local methodologies. A model policy already adopted by many ITEA member police agencies.

Click HERE to download ITEA Resolution 2014-02. Police officers, start the conversation with your administration. Truckers, make the phone call to your local police agency and respectfully demand they adopt a policy which allows for non-custodial arrests of CDL violators.

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