The More You Know

This past month, local law enforcement officers rose to the challenge and completed the ITEA’s signature Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer training.  This 40-hour training class went above and beyond any basic class they previously encountered.  Curriculum presented included the nitty-gritty of overweight and over-dimension permitting, Illinois Vehicle Code equipment and overweight violations, and Secretary of State Commercial Driver’s License and Registration law.  What these officers may not have picked up on is that their exposure to this knowledge has great ramifications, beyond themselves and their departments.

It can be very easy for police officer to get into a professional rut.  After an officer becomes comfortable in his job, he can come and go without thought and yet possibly be very effective, for a time.

Supervisors see new truck officers as being productive and give the proverbial thumbs up. Co-workers see their ability to be productive (and give another proverbial sign…of disgust), and employers see the same ability to be produce and they make a mental note of the efforts.

And all is well. Or is it?

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones put it well when he said “Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except the books you read and the people you meet.”

The officers who chose to further develop and expose themselves to a larger knowledge base are ensuring they will not be the same person the following week.

They are ensuring their department’s enforcement practices will operate on the cutting edge of new case law, vehicle code and administrative code interpretations by the highest of Illinois State agencies.

The communities where the officers work will benefit by having a local enforcement expert with a broad knowledge base.

Trucking companies traversing the officer’s patrol area can rest assured they are not going to suffer consequences of poor or inaccurate enforcement practices.

Everyone remembers the short NBC public service announcements starting in the early 90s.  Some notable public figure would give a tidbit of enlightening information titled “THE MORE YOU KNOW (dum dum dum dum)” and captivate the viewer until their TV show came back on.

These public service announcements have been parodied in everything from Saturday Night Live to Family Guy, but this idea is not something to be discounted. Exposure to literature, colleagues or instructors, who are more knowledgeable than themselves, is not only good for personal growth but critical for professional growth.

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association could be one of those sources for you, your police department, or your company.

What have you done lately to not be the same person you were 5 years ago?


Give Them an Inch…

Give them and inch and they’ll take a mile, is how the old saying goes. Police officers see this in action every day. The speed limit is 30 mph but the motorists push the limit to see how much faster they can go before they get pulled over. A car pulls up to the white stripe at an intersection, how far over the line until the officer decides the motorist disobeyed the stop sign? Same goes for oversize/overweight permit moves, which are set with very little margin of error. So what are the common errors made by the trucking industry and how many inches do officers give for those mistakes? Read on to find out!

Axle Spacings

With the implementation of automated permits by the Illinois Department of Transportation, it’s more important than ever the trucking industry know the correct axle spacings when requesting a permit. IDOT regulations say the axle minimum axle spacing must be correct or the permit is deemed fraudulent, and the officer can knock the weights back to 80,000 pounds.

What’s important to remember is the greater the axle spacing, the less weight is compressed in one area. In other words, exceeding the minimum axle spacings would not constitute a fraudulent permit. Officers should also be aware the tool they use for measuring axle spacings will have a margin of error. In this instance, the officer should give the trucking industry the inch.


IDOT regulations, the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations explain what is considered a non-divisible load. Compromising the intended use of the load, destroying the value of the load, or taking more than eight hours to dismantle would render a load non-divisible. As such, many companies who regularly participate in permit moves know what can and can’t be transported on the trailer.

IDOT clearly states that tie downs, brooms, shovels, rigging and other dunnage can be carried on the trailer. In other words, minor things that help the workers get the equipment on and off the trailer, and secure it are perfectly legal to have on the trailer. Once again, the officer can give the inch to the trucking industry.

Number of Axles on the Ground

When applying for a permit, the company must state how many axles will be on the ground. So when the huge permit load drives by with five axles on the ground and the permit requires six, one would think this voids the permit. According to IDOT’s permit manual, not enough axles on the ground is a violation punishable by a regular traffic citation for a “Violation of Permit”, not an overweight ticket. When there is not enough axles on the ground, the officer should give the inch.

Off the Assigned Permit Route

The police officer hears it all the time, “I can leave my permitted route for 1-mile for the purposes of loading, unloading, food, fuel rest, or repairs”. Well, not exactly. IDOT regulations state a permitted load can go from one state highway to another state highway for food, fuel, rest, repairs, to return to permitted route after mistakenly getting off route or to comply with regulatory signs to weigh. Often times, the trucking industry believes they can utilize non-state roads for these reasons. They cannot. So in the instance a permitted moves turns onto a local road, the officer gets the inch.

Police officers have great discretion in deciding what the letter of the law is. In some instances, the officer should use their best judgement in deciding when a mistake is a clear violation of the law, or simply a subjective view. Sometimes the trucking company deserves the mile, but sometimes they don’t even get the inch.


Pilot Cars

The average person who sees an oversize/overweight vehicle thinks one thing: big. It’s huge. It’s a massive truck. They only say this because their point of reference is a world full of small cars and SUVs. The truth is many oversize loads really aren’t all that big in the world of oversize loads. The presence of a pilot car is a sure sign to the lay motorist the load ahead is a big one. As in all things trucking, even pilot cars are controversial and their necessity is a point of contention state by state.

The first point of controversy is pilot cars go by two names. The first? Pilot cars, duh. The second name these vehicles are referred to are “escorts”. The Illinois Department of Transportation, in their OPER 993 form, refer to them as escorts. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in an effort to harmonize all things oversize/overweight, the details matter. For this article, they will be referred to as pilot cars so as not to be confused with escorts of a different trade.

The second point of controversy in Illinois is the lack of statutory mandates regarding pilot cars. The Illinois Vehicle Code requires pilot cars for certain oversize movements of implements of husbandry and buildings for agricultural/livestock raising operations. The IVC also gives IDOT the authority to create rules for pilot cars and sets fees for when the Illinois State Police serve in this capacity.

A common misconception among motorists (and sometimes police officers) is pilot cars are required for ALL oversize loads. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the IVC does not mandate is pilot cars for local roads. Each township, municipality and county has the authority to set their own rules regarding the use of civilian pilot cars or local police officers.

The third point regarding pilot cars in Illinois is the lenient standards of IDOT. This is not a bad thing, as for once Illinois is not the most restrictive state in the midwest.  IDOT requires a progressive number of civilian pilot cars based on increasing dimensions of the load.

Illinois State Police troopers are not required until the load is greater than 18’ high, 18’ wide or 200’ long. No pilot cars are needed for legal weight, oversize-only loads, nor are pilot cars needed for overweight-only loads.

Compare this to the State of Missouri. A state trooper is required in the front of the move and a civilian pilot car is required at the read for overweight loads weighing 160,000 pounds or more, even if they are not oversize. These two pilots vehicles are also needed if the load exceeds 16’ wide, 16’ high and 150’ long. The State of Indiana requires four State Police vehicles piloting their superload permits.

Where Illinois is more restrictive with pilot cars is the size of the pilot car itself. Illinois Administrative Rule 554.408 requires the vehicle to have gross weight of 8,000 pounds or less. Some have interpreted this to mean the manufacturers GVWR or the registered weight, but that’s not what the regulation says. It only says “gross weight”.

In Missouri, the law does not specify a weight. It only says the pilot car must be a single vehicle such as an “automobile, pickup truck, utility vehicle, station wagon, or equivalent”. Indiana requires the vehicle must have a minimum four wheels and a gross vehicle weight of 12,000 pounds or less.

The thought process behind the smaller pilot car requirement in Illinois is for a few reasons. First, a smaller car allows greater maneuverability through intersections. Second, the purpose of a pilot car is not to transport freight for the permit load itself. One could reason the bigger the pilot car, the more a person can stuff into it. The smaller pilot car limits this opportunity.

Are these regulations right? Are they wrong? It’s an ongoing debate nationwide as the carrier industry attempts to harmonize regulations across borders and struggles with the idea of civilian pilot car certification. The ITEA encourages the states to continue to discuss this topic, and for local agencies to play ball as well.


Attempted Overweights

If the criminal justice system could bring charges based on the motive of one’s heart, every good (or bad) person would be in jail. Some of the glue which holds our society together is a personal conviction to deny the impulse to commit crimes. Unfortunately, there have been instances where truck officers have written overweight vehicle citations for crimes which had not yet been committed, but because the driver intended to do so. These are informally called “attempted overweights” and they are wrong.

The legal term mens rea is Latin for a “guity mind”. There are some crimes in Illinois which have an attempted version. Murder and kidnapping are two which come to mind quickly. In truth, when an attempt is listed as a statutory element of the offense, it is usually reserved for more serious crimes.

How many times does the word “attempt” appear in the size and weight section (Chapter 15) of the Illinois Vehicle Code? Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nowhere is there a specific statute titled “Attempted Overweight” nor is there language for any violation reads which “a person who operates or attempts to operate”. Not once.

There is however, conditional language. Conditional language means if a driver does X, and then does Y, he is guilty of crime Z. Here are two instances of overweight violations the ITEA has dealt with in recent past, when truck officers have invoked mens rea for overweight vehicles even though the statute does not have such an element of the offense.

IDOT’s one-mile Reasonable Access Rule for Oversize and Overweight Permits

When a vehicle is operating on a state highway owned and maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the vehicle is oversize and overweight, it needs a permit. If the vehicle is appropriately permitted, it enjoys several protections under the law.

One such protection is the ability to go off-route for a distance of one-mile, onto a contiguous state highway, for certain reasons. One of the reasons is he can use the unassigned route (and only the unassigned route) to return to the assigned route.

In this case, the driver, on his assigned permit route from IDOT, made a wrong turn onto another state highway and stopped in less than a mile. He screwed up for sure, but that does not mean he violated the law. Along came the police officer who has the lawful right to investigate. As it turns out, if the driver continued down this wrong route he could arrive at his destination, but this is not the route prescribed by IDOT.

What the police officer cannot do is say “well, you intended (mens rea) to use this unassigned route to get to your destination, therefore your permit is void and you are back to legal size and weight. Here is your ticket.” Nor can he say “since your vehicle is too big to get turned around within the one-mile grace, your permit is void”. It’s a logistical problem, but it’s not a criminal problem. This is an attempted overweight, which remember, is not a crime.

20-mile Tow Truck Weights

Sometimes wreckers have to pickup and tow heavy trucks which have crashed or otherwise become disabled. The law provides some grace for the recovery vehicles to operate overweight, but only for a certain distance.

Here’s the scenario. A 70-ton rotator hooks up to an 80,000 pound semi on a local road where the truck broke down. By law, the rotator gets extra weight above the normal legal weights for twenty miles on all roads. He can also operate unlimited miles beyond the twenty miles, but must remain on state highways only.

In this case, the tow operator was planning to drive five miles on the local road, then fifty miles on the state highway and then five miles onto another local road.

During the first five-mile portion, a truck officer (who had the legal authority to investigate this move) stops the combination. The driver tells the officer his plan to tow this semi across the state. The clever (yet wrong) police officer invoked mens rea and said “well, since you intended to use another local road past the twenty miles at the end of your move, you do not get credit for the extra weight at the beginning of your move. Here’s your overweight ticket.”

This is an attempted overweight, and it’s wrong. The driver had not yet violated the provision. If the police officer in the destination town made stopped this move, he has the driver dead to rights. The police officer in the origination town does not.

Creative reading of the law yields creative interpretations, which is almost always wrong. Truck officers should stick with the crimes of the present, not the supposed crimes of the future.


Exemplary Police Work #11

If a person is riding a bicycle built for two, he is upon a tandem bicycle. If a trucker has a pair of axles which are a minimum 40” and a maximum 96” on center, he has a tandem axle. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Whereas a tandem almost always equals two of something, sometimes it does not. The tale to be told in this article is about a tandem of officers who misunderstood the word “tandem”, the mistake they made and the exemplary job they did fixing it.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a tandem axle is pretty self-explanatory. However many people who are in the carrier industry and law enforcement do not understand the legal definition. If a vehicle has two axles which are apart by 97” on center, it is not a tandem but two single axles. If a vehicle has two physical axles which are so close together the measurement is less than 40” on center, then it’s not a tandem either.  Instead, it’s a single axle. Clear as mud?

Well guess what? It will only get a little more confusing from here out! When the Illinois Department of Transportation issues overweight permits, their permits have their own definition of a tandem. A tandem on a routine or superload IDOT permit does not always mean two axles. It could mean two axles, or it could also mean a group of axles.

For instance, a 3-axle semi-tractor is towing a 3-axle lowboy trailer. The first axle is the steer axle. The second group of axles is usually a true 2-axle tandem. At the end of the lowboy trailer is a group of three axles. On IDOT’s routine and superload permits, a weight will be listed for the steer axle, a weight for the first tandem and a weight for the second tandem.

Wait! The last “tandem” is not really a tandem at all, because it has three axles! Correct. It is not a tandem per the legal definition as described twice above, but it is a “tandem” as it applies to the language of IDOT permits.

So all of that to say this: recently an ITEA certified police officer encountered this situation, became confused and took incorrect enforcement action. How he handled it is what defines a certified ITEA member from non-ITEA truck officers. It’s okay to make mistakes, even the best truck officers do. What stands a certified ITEA apart from the others is his ability to own the mistake and fix it without being defensive or argumentative.

In this instance, the officer stopped a superload permit move after he saw the first axle in a group of three axles up in the air. It was a heavy load, and his experience told him all axles would be needed on the ground. Because the permit only listed a total weight for the “tandem” (a group of three-axles in this case) but not for the true tandem (the two-axles actually on the road), how much weight should the two-axle tandem receive?

The officer was not sure, so he contacted another ITEA officer. Unfortunately this officer was just as confused, so the two of them decided the tandem should only receive 34,000 pounds, or legal weight for a 2-axle tandem per the Illinois Vehicle Code. This was incorrect, as was the massive fine accompanying the ticket which was issued. After the truck was weighed, the citation issued and the bail collected, a third ITEA officer was consulted who explained the mistake.

There was no fight. There were no rationalizations. There was no arrogance.

Quite to the contrary, the officer took a position of humility, acknowledged his mistake and set out to correct it. The officer immediately contacted the trucking company, explained his error, returned the bail and disposed of the case so no one would have to go to court.

That’s what professional policing is supposed to look like.


Friendly Competition

Ask any law enforcement officer, and if they’re willing to be honest, they will admit there’s an endless competition between police officers and fire fighters.  Sometimes this competition is as simple as poking fun at the differences between assignments. Other times it manifests itself through seething disdain for society’s view of each profession.  There is no doubt the public needs law enforcement officers as well as fire fighters.  Each fills their necessary role at the public’s expense, but could the Illinois legislature be favoring fire fighters?

In 1986 the Federal Government passed the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act (UCDLA) which standardized the administration of the Commercial Driver’s License throughout all 50 states.  These regulations laid out who was required and who was exempt from having to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Modern day regulations allow for emergency vehicle drivers to be exempt from CDL requirements while operating an emergency vehicle in the preservation of life or property.  This includes both fire fighters and police personnel when responding to emergency situations.

Cops in commercial motor vehicles?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster though there is a need for officers to respond to emergency scenes in mobile command posts or armored vehicles.

Police are not entirely exempt from the law however. When operating an “emergency vehicle” when there is not an actual emergency, both police and fire personnel are required to hold the proper license class for the vehicle they’re operating, as is the case with all driver’s exempt from the CDL regulations. This most commonly is the Class B, non-CDL license which allows the operation of a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 26,000 lbs.

Farming personnel, recreational vehicle drivers and drivers using a large vehicle for non-commercial purposes fall into the same exemption.  They’re not required to obtain a CDL, but are still required to obtain the proper license class.

The difference is how the license is obtained.  The non-Commercial Driver’s License is much simpler to obtain than the CDL.  The Illinois Secretary of State allows the issuance of a Class B non-CDL license after passing only a written test.  All those seeking to obtain a Class B non-CDL must pass the written test at a Secretary of State facility – everyone except for fire fighters.

Fire departments are allowed to send one of their own to the Secretary of State to become certified instructors. Once certified, these instructors may conduct on-the-job training and issue a certificate which firemen can then take to a SOS facility and obtain the license without taking the written test.

It might be reasonable to say that this is not favoritism toward fire fighters; however, wouldn’t farmers benefit from a similar program? So, why aren’t they?

It’s understandable why police are not able to earn their license in this way simply because fire personnel are much more likely to operate a fire truck in a day than a police officer is to operate an armored vehicle.  Or maybe the police can use this program but have simply not inquired.

In the end, it is not all that difficult to obtain your non-CDL license, but it is a good excuse for the competition between fire fighters and police officers to continue.


Dumb Laws: Fire Truck Weight Limits

There comes a time in the life of a reader when he must ask “who’s the author of this?” Maybe he is reading an opinion piece in the local newspaper. Maybe he is reading comments to a post on social media. Maybe he is reading a blog about trucks. The point to questioning the authority of the author is because something dumb was probably written, something which defies common sense. Unfortunately, this article begs for the author of a new Illinois statute which has limited the weights of certain trucks. In this case, fire trucks. Congratulations Illinois, you have proven your incompetence once again.

Let’s start at the beginning. Each session of Congress in Washington DC typically produces a transportation bill slanted to the political aspirations of the President. In 2015, Congress passed such a bill, better known as the “FAST Act”.

The FAST Act isn’t a bad thing. In a perfect world, new legislation should be an improvement on current legislation. For the most part, the FAST Act is providing good things to the nation. The problem inspiring this article isn’t the FAST Act, it’s the interpretation of it by whoever authored Illinois Public Act 99-0717. This bill was signed into law by Governor Rauner on August 5th, 2016 and immediately became effective.

There’s a lot of changes within the bill, but the biggest failure of common sense is the creation of weight limits on fire trucks. This debacle was broken up into two different parts of the bill.

First, prior to the new law, fire trucks were exempt from all size, weight and load restrictions of the Illinois Vehicle Code. This was found in 625 ILCS 5.0/15-101(b). The new bill struck the language exempting fire apparatus from weight law, but maintained the size and load exemption.

Second, in 15-111(a)(15), the author added fire truck weight limits based on numbers in the FAST Act. In truth, he said fire apparatus can be overweight compared to other vehicles, but they cannot have unlimited weight like before.

Now step back and put on a thinking cap. Try brainstorming reasons why the People of the State of Illinois should be okay with fire trucks being overweight, and why they should not care how heavy the fire trucks are. If you haven’t thought of any reasons yet, you may very well be the author of this law.

Here’s the rub. The FAST Act never required States to put a weight restriction on fire trucks. The FAST Act only said States could not enforce weight limits on fire trucks, unless they exceeded the weight limits listed in FAST Act. Also the FAST Act weight limits only apply to Interstate highways. The point of the FAST Act was to prevent States from implementing weight limits on fire trucks, on Interstates. The Illinois version embraced weight limits on fire trucks, and applied them statewide on ALL roads.

Illinois was already complaint with the FAST Act! There was no weight limit on fire trucks for the State to enforce. Therefore, there was no reason for the State to take any action at all. The author of the Illinois law read the FAST Act completely backwards and erroneously established weight limits for fire apparatus. Now Illinois is stuck with it.

Put the thinking cap back on and ponder some reasons why weight limits on fire trucks are bad. Having a hard time? Here is some Q & A which may clarify things:

Q: Are modern fire trucks really that heavy?
A: Yes. Experienced truck officers know fire trucks are the heaviest trucks in town.

Q: Are fire trucks manufactured prior to this law grandfathered in?
A: Nope. So now all old fire trucks exceeding the new weight limits are illegal. Congratulations taxpayers, you may now have to buy new, lighter fire trucks to replace those which are non-compliant.

Q: Are fire trucks, which exceed the weight limits set forth in this new law, exempt while crossing posted weight structures?
A: No, but under the old law they were exempt. Sorry to the people trapped in the burning building or escapees who are watching their homes burn to ashes before their eyes. The fire truck now has to go the long way around to protect some aging box culvert.

Q: If a fire truck exceeds the new weight limits, could the local unit of government be held civilly liable if it is involved in a crash which results in serious injuries, death or property destruction?
A: Maybe? Probably? Police officers and their employers are held civilly liable when they break traffic laws. Why wouldn’t a fireman and the town he works for be held to the same standard? Read this correctly taxpayer – you pay the bill when the lawsuits come.

Listen, no one is worried about Illinois police officers running loose with ticket books, stopping fire trucks and weighing them. The police officer who makes this stupid decision will probably have stopped his last truck. This is about protecting the taxpayers of Illinois from liability of fire trucks exceeding ridiculous weight limits written by an author who didn’t critically read federal legislation.

Not to fear though, trucks used in snow and ice removal are still exempt from all weight laws. Maybe keep a load of salt handy to extinguish your fire because the first responders may be delayed.


Wives’ Tales & Rumors

In a world where speed and convenience supersedes a person’s desire to ascertain facts through proper outlets, misinformation runs rampant. What is often forgotten is even before Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, information was still very often misrepresented and sometimes flat out incorrect. One of the oldest forms of spreading incorrect information is through “wives’ tales.” When it comes to the world of commercial vehicle enforcement, the topic of truck registration requirements is packed with wives’ tales. The source of the rumors regarding truck registration may never be found, but the record will be set straight in this article.

Remember when mom said making a funny face may get stuck that way? This little lie was her way of scaring kids to not making funny faces for fear of looking incredibly strange for the rest of their life. Children know that probably wasn’t the case, but who were they to question what their own mother stated as fact? More importantly, it wasn’t worth the risk if mom was right.

Kids grow into adults, but still must deal with forms of wives’ tales in their professions.

Registration of commercial vehicles is spelled out in chapter three of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Essentially, registration is a tax which is paid to operate a vehicle on the roadways of this state. Simply put, when it comes to commercial vehicles, the more one pays, the more he can weigh.

Flat weight plates in Illinois start at 8,000 pounds and can cover up to 80,000 pounds, with the respective fees ranging from $101 up to $3191 per year. Those in the carrier industry are familiar with these fees and pay them annually as the cost of doing business.

While this concept seems easy enough, there have been numerous instances when improper enforcement actions have been taken due to incorrect information being disseminated. Below are a few of the truck registration wives’ tales which circulate through both the trucking industry and law enforcement:

Registered weight cannot exceed the GVWR of a vehicle
This is the most common misconception heard around the commercial vehicle enforcement community. The fact is a vehicle can be registered for any weight the owner wishes. For example, the owner of a ½ ton Chevy Silverado could register his truck for 80,000 pounds if he desired to do so. The Illinois Secretary of State will gladly accept the payment for “over-plating” the truck. There is no law on the books which prevents someone from “over-plating.”

It is, however, important to understand that a two axle pickup truck plated with 80,000 pounds registration will not actually be able to carry that much weight. Remember that the gross weight of a vehicle is determined by the Federal Bridge Formula, and is completely independent from registration weights. Again, registration is just a tax to carry weight on the road, not a permit to exceed legal weights.

Not displaying a steel plate makes a vehicle overweight
While operating a commercial vehicle without displaying a proper license plate is a sure-fire way to gain the attention of any truck enforcement officer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle is overweight. If a truck is found to be operating without a plate affixed to it, but registration can be confirmed through the Secretary of State, it is not overweight on its registration. While citations may be issued for improper display of registration, if the proper fees have been paid, the display of the plate is irrelevant to determining an overweight violation.

Not displaying IFTA/safety test/registration sticker makes the vehicle overweight
Again, none of these violations have anything to do with the weight (registration/gross/axle) of a commercial vehicle. While citations will most likely be issued for any of the above offenses, registered weight is determined only by the fees paid to the Secretary of State. If the vehicle is displaying an expired registration sticker, but the plates are returning as valid in the Secretary of State’s database, there is no registration overweight violation.

Having an improper license classification makes the vehicle overweight
Proper licensing of commercial vehicle operators is essential to the overall safety of all motorists on our roadways. Operating a vehicle which requires a Commercial Driver’s License while not properly licensed is a Class-A misdemeanor in the State of Illinois. This means the driver can be arrested and the vehicle towed from the scene. A Class-A misdemeanor carries fines up to $2,500.00 and one-year in jail. These violations are very serious and will not be taken lightly by the courts. With that being said, driver’s license class/status and vehicle registration are mutually exclusive and have no bearing on one another.

The list of these tales is almost endless. About when the ITEA believes all rumors have been quashed, another ridiculous story comes along. The best way to combat these nonsensical anecdotes is to keep educated.

Police officers: attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class and continue your education every year by attending the certification courses.

Truckers: you may contact the ITEA and ask for a certified ITEA instructor to speak with your drivers. Remember  some rumors and wives’ tales may seem logical, but it’s best to seek the advice of experts if ever in question. After all, who still waits an hour after eating to swim?


The Fatal Five

The commercial transportation industry has been struggling for over a decade to backfill the exodus of qualified drivers from its ranks.  A study commissioned by The American Truck Association reported in 2005 a driver shortage of around 20,000.  A great-recession and 11 years later, the number has nearly doubled to 38,000.  Many factors compound to create a complex national problem.  Could you be at risk of joining those numbers and not even know it?

Throughout the great-recession there was no doubt owner-operators felt the squeeze and may have exited the industry all together, never to return.  Once gainful employment was found in another industry, it was hard to break back into what seemed like a financially treacherous trucking industry.

Baby boomers are also exiting the industry to the detriment of the profession.  An entire generation of skilled workers who spent decades with their noses to the grindstone is passing the torch to a generation who expects shorter hours, higher pay and employers who cater to an their needs.

Regardless of the generational divide, long hours and time away from home, trucking wears on driver’s ability to maintain longevity.  Commercial driving is still thankfully one of the remaining industries which can provide a decent wage to a dedicated and skilled driver.

The climate within the commercial transportation industry has undoubtedly changed as well.  Companies must be able to sufficiently navigate the regulation and red-tape associated with local, state and federal regulations in order to ensure compliance.

The quickest way for drivers to get bounced from the industry is failure to comply with the most critical regulations effecting a commercial driver: safe driving.

Commercial motor vehicle drivers are held to a higher standard when it comes to the “Fatal 5 Violations”.  One or multiple of these violations have been found to be present in nearly every serious injury and fatal traffic crash.  The troubling fact is that every one of these violations are completely preventable.

Driving Under the Influence
This is a no-brainer.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200… in fact, pay a few thousand dollars, then find yourself disqualified.
Since the advent of the ‘hardship license’ which gives a DUI suspended driver a license to operate for work related purposes, there’s a common misunderstanding how the licenses can be used.  Simply put, the ‘hardship license’ cannot be issued to operate a commercial motor vehicle which requires a CDL to operate.

Improper lane use
Improper lane usage by commercial vehicles is often a complaint of the motoring public.  Most officers understand keeping an 8-foot 6-inch wide truck within a 10-12 foot wide lane can be difficult at times, but meandering too far from your lane or unsafely passing is inexcusable unless in an emergency situation.

Following too closely
This is risky business.  Undoubtedly, those pesky four-wheelers will pull out in front of a commercial vehicle. If given even the smallest gap, and factoring in brake lag on air braking systems and reduced stopping ability, following too closely is asking for trouble.

Speed kills. Enough said.  Seen those billboards lately?  Commercial motor vehicle drivers convicted of two speeding violations within a three-year period have their CDL disqualified and justifiably so.  Speeding increases stopping distance and potential damage in a crash, because the faster one drives the further he is going to travel during the same time.

Cell phone use
Mobile phones have been unlawful at both the state and federal level for years.  Unless being used hands free, drivers are committing a serious traffic violation when they choose to text or talk on a hand-held phone while driving.  Some debate the merits of these laws, but study after study shows distracted drivers are more prone to traffic crashes.

The trucking industry suffers enough from the exodus of skilled retiring drivers, regulation compliance and retention of Gen-Y drivers. Don’t allow your commercial driver’s license to be the next preventable factor in the growing shortage of experienced drivers.