Officer Down

Illinois was dealt a crippling blow on Tuesday, September 1st 2015 when Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz of the Fox Lake Police Department was savagely murdered at the end of his midnight tour of duty. Lieutenant Gliniewicz was the first municipal police officer killed by gunfire in Illinois since 2011. In the wake of a spree of police killings nationwide which has left eight officers dead in less than two weeks, it is time to sound off.

You wouldn’t believe this by reading anything in the media, but the people of America truly support the police. The criminal element does not support the police. Certain extremes of the political spectrum do not support the police.

However, the general public supports the police. They do not like the police when they step out of bounds, but they understand the need for law enforcement. The lukewarm appreciate the need for order even though they may not fully endorse the method.

In particular, the trucking industry is a huge supporter of the police. Any truck officer who has been involved with industry for a length of time knows this all too well. Truck drivers slow down for officers on the side of the road. They put their four-ways on to slow down cars. They block lanes. They may question citations, but more often than not are professional in their disagreement. There are scores of occupational comparisons between the two professions which is why the ITEA and industry have formed such incredible working relationships.

Since the national spotlight begin focusing on the events surrounding Ferguson, MO in August 2014, the anti-police sentiment has ramped up to heights never seen before. The liberal press and social media outlets have provided platforms for voices to be heard. But let’s be clear, these are not real voices. These are a very small group of cowards cleverly using the internet to create a false impression of our culture. They hide behind screens while blood spills on the streets of America.

Never in the history of this nation can opinion be swung quite as quickly as it does now. For example, in 2008, 145 million people used Facebook. In 2013, 1.2 billion! The instant information provided through social media integration into handheld devices is astonishing. The most current trend and hashtag will exploit reality to influence culture.

Pick a 180-degree social or cultural shift in the United States during the last seven years, and ask yourself if it could have happened as quickly ten, twenty or fifty years ago. Without the internet, most likely not. Unfortunately the anti-police agenda has been the most recent and bloody culture trend yet.

In the midst of all this hostility, something incredible is stirring. As the brazen few desperately try to incite anarchy, the stalwart majority is pushing back. People are tweeting, posting, tagging and commenting their appreciation for police using the very same platform the enemies are using to tear them down. It’s a revival.

In turn, citizens are lovingly approaching police officers as never before. They thank them for their service. They express sympathies for lost comrades. They show remorse for the sins of their own society. They are opening their wallets to support the fallen. They are praying.

Ask any police officer in the northeast part of Illinois how many communications they have received from friends and family in the days following the Lt. Gliniewicz murder. It’s unprecedented. When reality strikes close to home, people can taste the bitter sacrifices being made. The heart speaks louder than mouth.

This is happening nationwide in all locations where police officers are being hunted, killed or otherwise dying in the performance of their duties. There is hope yet still.

How should good Americans and the police community respond? Turn off the news and spend time with real humans. Ignore those who post negative items about the police – unfriend and unfollow them. To engage them in debate is to give them a voice. Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him yourself.

Every police officer killed in the line of duty is a tragedy, but not all are victims of this social phenomenon. This is a fallen world and unfortunately more police officers will pay the ultimate price to protect others.

But they will press on. They will continue to keep order. They will root out evil. They will not surrender.


Exemplary Police Work #9

Turn on your favorite news service and watch the turf wars. Pakistan and India are at peace, but Kashmir is still disputed. For millennia, the middle-east has waged war over Israel. Wisconsin continues to battle for rights to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Okay, the last one isn’t true, but turf wars are nothing new. The article this week will describe a common turf war found in Illinois truck enforcement and the exemplary way a local police officer dealt with it.

Want another turf war example? Arsenal Road belongs to the Will County Division of Transportation, however it once belonged to the Illinois Department of Transportation. After a nearby municipal rail crossing was closed by the Illinois Commerce Commission, a massive amount of trucks carrying overweight intermodal containers were forced onto Arsenal Road. Predictably, the county did not want to be responsible for overweight permitting and repairs to Arsenal Road, so jurisdiction is being transferred back to IDOT! This example may be a high profile, but the truth is IDOT and local government transfer road jurisdiction quite often.

The challenge to the industry, particularly those involved in specialized oversize/overweight (OS/OW) transportation, is determining the correct jurisdictional authority so appropriate permits may be purchased. With tens of thousands of centerline miles in Illinois, it’s not unreasonable to believe the paperwork for a block here, or a half-mile, there may be in dispute.

Technology and mapping systems have greatly improved efforts, but humans are still required to input data. Where there are humans, there are errors. When there are errors, there may be trucks off route. When there are trucks off route, there may be enforcement.

During the first week of August 2015, a local truck enforcement officer observed an eight-axle crane traveling on a local road. It was fairly uncommon to find OS/OW loads on this highway, and the officer made a lawful traffic stop because he had reason to believe it was overweight without a local permit. After being stopped, the driver produced an OS/OW from the IDOT.

Much to the surprise of the officer, the state permit claimed the local road was actually a state highway. He believed the jurisdiction of the road had transferred many years ago from IDOT to the municipality.  A cursory check with some other local officials led to the same belief. Over the years, this town had created a local weight restriction, plowed, fixed and maintained the roadway it as if it was their own. Turns out they were wrong.

Was the officer wrong for making the stop? No. Was he wrong for believing the highway belonged to his municipality? No. This left the officer with two choices:
1.   Weigh the crane, write the $40,000 overweight and leave the driver to defend himself in court.
2.   Let the crane go and do nothing.

The officer chose option #3: Let the crane go, but go the extra mile. Why, because it was not the fault of the crane company. Even if the highway was truly under the jurisdiction of his municipality, what was the carrier to do? They applied for a state permit and the state said the road was theirs.

The officer began an exhaustive search of local records to determine who the road truly belonged to. He also contacted the IDOT permit office in Springfield and spoke with the local roads division. The IDOT workers dropped what they were doing and immediately began combing through their records and the local officials did the same. All parties came to the same conclusion: it was indeed a state highway. No jurisdictional transfer had ever occurred.

The officer could have used his authority to write a very expensive overweight, but he chose reasonableness. He could have left the carrier to mount an expensive defense, but he chose compassion. He could have done nothing afterwards to sort out the confusion, but he honored his office and launched a thorough investigation.

The exemplary conduct of this ITEA certified officer is to be commended. Instead of igniting a turf war and driving more wedges between enforcement and industry, he proved how police, carriers and regulatory officials can work together. This is what the ITEA is all about.


Special Olympics Truck Convoy 2015

When two parties have opposing viewpoints, it’s not uncommon for the two parties to move further apart as differences go unresolved. The angst, the presumptions, the speculation only serve to make compromise more difficult. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has worked hard the last six years to find ways for law enforcement and the trucking industry to work together, and the Special Olympics World’s Largest Truck Convoy is one of the best venues for inter-occupation partnership!

This Saturday, August 29th 2015, the ITEA is partnering with the Mid-west Truckers Association, the Illinois State Police and several local police agencies to bring the Convoy to the northern part of the suburban Chicago area.

For many years, the Convoy has taken place in south suburban Tinley Park, IL. The participation there has been a fantastic success. However, the demographics of the convoy have always favored law enforcement and industry domiciled in that region. This year, the south suburban convoy will take place on October 10th.

But what about all those police departments and trucking companies located in northern DuPage & Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties?

For these truckers desiring to participate in the south convoy costs more than just the tax-deductible entry fee. Fuel, tolls, wear’n’tear and extra time (usually overtime) for drivers make participation less attractive. As the economy has slowly began to improve, many companies are back to working on Saturdays, making it even more inconvenient.

In an effort to involve more trucks and police officers, a second convoy was added this year. Kicking off at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, the convoy will head west to on I-90 to the RT47 interchange in Huntley, then turn around and return eastbound to RT59. The whole way being escorted by police officers who will open truck lanes and block intersections for continuous traffic flow.

Here’s the deal – it costs $100 to enter a truck. In the scheme of most businesses every dollar counts, but if $100 bankrupts your company, it was probably about to collapse anyhow. It’s a small price to pay to help a truly awesome group of people compete in athletics. If you have never had an opportunity to be part of a Special Olympics event, you are missing out.

The Illinois Special Olympics is more than just the Law Enforcement Torch Run. This umbrella covers many other events involving police departments such as the Polar Plunge, the Plane Pull, Cop on Top of the Doughnut Shop and more. If swimming in icy water, proving your strength or enjoying a morning pastry is your thing, would you consider participating in one of those events?

Since you are reading this blog today, you are most likely in trucking or a police officer involved in truck enforcement. This is the time to be a part of something bigger using the gifts and resources bestowed upon you. Just as important, it’s a great way to spend time face to face with those in an occupation who are normally at odds.

If you are police officer, please encourage truckers in your town to sign up for the convoy. Let your local public works department, park district and school district know their trucks and buses are welcome too. If you cannot participate in your official capacity, offer to sponsor a truck yourself!

If you are trucker, dig deep and enter a truck. Come and meet the police officers who are regularly involved in truck enforcement efforts and get a new perspective.

Most importantly, come be a part of something that provides opportunities to those who have physical disadvantages in life. It’s easy to take for granted the ease of climbing into a squad car or a CMV each day.


Diverse Programs Command Respect

A common theme heard among police officers is the reason why they wanted to be police officers in the first place – variety. For most officers, the idea of a traditional job sitting behind a desk was not very attractive. However, it’s easy for people to get stuck in a rut doing the same monotonous job over and over and over again. Nothing could be truer for truck officers who only concentrate on vehicle weight enforcement.

Truck enforcement programs which focus on weight enforcement only are synonymous with the damaging reputation of revenue enhancement. Truck enforcement programs which empower a police officer to diversify his efforts, strengthen the reputation and perception of a police department.

There has never been a time in modern policing quite like today as it pertains to diversity. While the social and mainstream media outlets paint the diversity of police work on a cultural canvass, truck officers can do themselves a favor by not being weight-only enforcers.

Within the enforcement of laws, there is a lot more truck officers can do besides weight. They can enforce size laws, commercial driver’s license violations, safety tests and fuel tax. What local police officers in Illinois cannot do is stop and inspect trucks under federal law (which is reserved for the Illinois State Police) or creatively shoehorn a truck inspection into the Illinois Vehicle Code.

Weight laws are complex in and of themselves, but each discipline of truck laws is just, if not more, complicated than weight laws. Sometimes it’s easier to take the easy road, but those who do rarely last more than a couple years doing trucks.

It’s human nature to want to learn and be challenged. The thrill and excitement of overweight tickets can pass fairly quick. If truck officers want to build a reputable program for the long haul, they will need to learn to do more than just use scales.

The ITEA offers a 40-hour Advanced Truck Officer course every fall, and in 2015 it is being held October 5th to the 9th at the College of DuPage. The purpose for this class is two-fold. First, to go deep into truck law with the best and brightest in the craft. The second reason is to show them there is way more to do with trucks than just weight.

Good truck enforcement is not only about law enforcement. Truck officers, especially those assigned full-time, need to embrace the components of community policing and apply it to trucks. Any police officer can learn to write tickets. Becoming a true student of the industry means investing themselves into education, training and regulatory authority.

Truck officers should regularly train fellow officers on basic truck law, officer safety around trucks, and truck crash reporting. They should be actively involved in local permitting. Local businesses and trucking companies appreciate a pro-active and educational relationship with truck officers. They should be assigned to handle complaints from citizens about trucks, and complaints from truckers about citizens!

Truckers and trucking companies should not settle for mediocre, ticket writing truck enforcement programs. Being a taxpayer does not mean you always get your way, but a good taxpayer should be involved.

The trucking industry professionals who work constructively and cooperatively with local government can expect the same in return. There is nothing wrong with asking your local truck officer to sit down and discuss ideas on how you two can work together. There is nothing wrong with engaging local officials in a meaningful conversation about the diversity of their truck enforcement program.

Offer to help promote a day where the officer can be at your shop so other local truckers can stop by to meet, greet and ask questions. Offer to help the officer learn how to drive trucks so he can get a CDL. Offer to be eyes and ears for the officer when he knows companies are breaking the rules.

The trucker-police officer relationship surely does not need to be adversarial. Much like society as a whole, the more diverse things are, the better everyone gets along.


Officer Isolation Yields Officer Intervention

Three O’Clock High. The 80s cult classic comedy about the loner new-kid-in-school, Buddy Revell. In the movie, the character Buddy represents a lot of stereotypes, but the most important is isolation. He is out there alone, no peers, doing his own thing with no accountability. Truth be told, law enforcement has raised up truck officers like Buddy Revell. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there are easy solutions to prevent isolated truck officers.

A basic human need is community. Families, friends, churches and the workplace provide critical social support for police officers. As police officers mature, and their careers lead them into specialized areas, it is wholly appropriate for them to join groups or associations specific to their calling. This is what the ITEA provides for truck enforcement officers.

Each sect of police work has their own group to join. The Chiefs of Police have an association. The tactical officers have an association. The crime prevention officers have an association. The purpose of these groups is not just fraternity, but a place to learn and perfect their trade.

Here is a typical scenario which plays itself out time and time again:

1.   The officer receives basic truck enforcement training and graduates with no follow-up resources, peer support or third-party accountability.

A binder full of paper is outdated the moment the officer leaves the class. The modern police officer needs digital resources, a website and a phone number to call which will be answered in a timely manner. Ultimately, he needs a network of other officers nearby he can call for help.

2.   The officer becomes systematic in the use of improper enforcement techniques.

Truck enforcement is not for the faint of heart. Given the complicated and voluminous nature of truck law, it’s not hard to dream up difficult “what if” situations. It’s also not hard for a new truck officer to find himself on a stop with a truck and have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

However, the best guess is not good enough when commerce is being impeded or fines are being levied in the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars. The officer’s supervisors and administration do not know when a mistake has been made. The prosecuting attorney and judge have no clue about truck law, so all assume the truck officer is right.

Because many truckers would rather cut their losses than engage in a costly trial, the officer’s improper enforcement actions become unofficially “justified”. The same garbage will happen again and again until point #3 is reached. When you hear a truck officer say, “I have been doing it this way a long time and there has never been a problem” the next question should be “who are the other truck officers are doing it that way?

3.   The trucking industry responds with complaints, defensive trials, lawsuits or even legislation – aka “intervention”.

The unscrupulous officers (who thankfully are in the vast minority) know full well the “little guys” won’t fight back. The driver just puts his head down and pays the fines. It’s disgusting and an embarrassment to professional law enforcement.

Sometimes the industry does fight back though. They complain until a supervisor reaches out for authoritative information, only to find out their officer was in the wrong. The industry hires a lawyer to wage a trial. Maybe the lawyer even files a civil lawsuit. On the broader spectrum, the industry fights for statutory change to fix laws because of bad police work.

These are all unnecessary situations which could have been avoided had the officer not been working in isolation. The same problems are rarely found with officers who are active in the truck enforcement community.

For a mere $25/year, a police officer can be part of the larger community of truck enforcement officers in Illinois. Nearly 500 officers from 175 agencies have chosen to step up and be part of the solution.

If you are a police officer, honestly ask yourself if you want to be the Buddy Revell of Illinois truck enforcement. If not, come alongside others who can help you be the best.

If you are the trucker, put your mouth where you money is and start calling the police department where you live or work and respectfully demand their truck officers join the ITEA.


The Goal is Never Revenue Enhancement

It’s week three in the five part series on what makes a successful local truck enforcement program, and it’s going to get a little touchy. Why? Because the topic is about revenue enhancement. In a day when government agencies are under the microscope of accountability and transparency, it’s time to call a spade a spade.

Yes, there is revenue in local truck enforcement programs, however the revenue should only be the by-product of quality and reasonable enforcement programs. If there was ever a mantra which should be emblazoned on the office doors of police administrators, it should be this.

The tension between the police and the carrier industry is not about the law being broken and the need for  justice to be served. Common sense tells you overweight vehicles are unsafe and damage roads. For those carriers who play by the rules and find themselves at a disadvantage to competitors undercutting them by breaking the law, the police serve a true purpose.

The tension is not about the fact fines must be levied to encourage compliance. Without the threat of a penalty, the maintenance of order (why real policing exists) would be impossible to obtain. The rub is the disproportionally high fines unique to “crimes” involving trucks compared to cars. The consternation is the motive behind the enforcement in order to generate fine revenue.

The reality is overweight truck enforcement does not produce nearly the amount of revenue for local government as readily believed. Read more about that by clicking HERE. Yet an overweight fine does produce more than other traffic citations, therefore quantities of violations do yield a larger bounty.

Here’s another truth: The trucking industry appreciates local law enforcement. This can be illustrated by unparalleled support the ITEA has garnered from major trucking associations within Illinois and around the nation. What the trucking industry does not appreciate are local police agencies that see them as deep pockets to plug their budgetary holes.

So here’s a list of questions to consider to determine if a truck enforcement program is revenue driven or quality driven:

1.   Is the local truck officer expected to issue a certain dollar amount of overweight citations each year or risk losing his assignment?

Whether or not there is a written dollar quota (incredibly, this is not illegal) or a presumed one, if the officer feels threatened, he will use whatever tactics to keep his position intact. Revenue driven.

2.   Does the local truck officer always seek the highest possible fines in court for “regular” traffic violations just because a truck is involved?

In Illinois, petty offenses can be fined up to $1000. Are car drivers being fined hundreds of dollars for petty car violations? Look out for an agency using maximum fines (or leveraging a lesser yet still ridiculously high fine) for a petty truck violations like “no company name on vehicle”. Revenue driven.

3.   Does the local agency use alternative prosecution venues to increase the percentage of overweight fines or other truck specific offenses?

Any agency using administrative adjudication for overweights, or any Illinois Vehicle Code violation involving a CDL holder, is breaking the law even if they are a home-rule community. Revenue driven.

4.   Does the truck officer or police administrator harbor an opinion or belief the trucking industry is lucrative and can afford whatever fines are levied?

Yes, the trucking industry, as a whole, generates billions every year in revenue. That does not mean each trucker or company is living in the black. The trucking industry struggles to generate a profit like every other business in America. Oh yeah, and they do it as the second most regulated profession after the banking industry. Revenue driven.

5.   Does the local town make oversize/overweight vehicle permits difficult to obtain, thereby reducing the opportunity for compliance?

The ITEA maintains a webpage for local towns to list their OS/OW permit information, for free, as a good-faith effort to help carriers be compliant. This does not mean a town not listed is trying to hoodwink the industry. Some don’t know about it and others can’t cut through their bureaucratic red tape. The irony is the towns who have adamantly refused to post their information on this page are the ones most complained about. Lack of compliance is more lucrative than compliance. Revenue driven.

If you are the truck enforcement officer, honestly ask yourself if these questions describe you. If you are the police administrator, honestly ask yourself if you encourage or facilitate these behaviors. If you are the trucker, seek out the right answers to these questions and then formulate an honest opinion.


External Accountability is Everything

Thanks to the blend of email and smartphones, work has become portable. Unfortunately, it has also created more work! In the high-paced environment of the modern workplace, it’s easy for police administrators to bypass accountability for rank-and-file officers when the inbox is overflowing. When truck officers lack accountability, bad things happen.

Nobody, regardless of profession, appreciates a micromanaging boss. Micromanagers are either power hungry, lack self-confidence or both. Conversely, most people appreciate a boss who stays out of their hair…right up until the time the employee screws something up and both are in trouble. The absentee supervisor is rarely the first person to take the bullet for their employee.

The lazy boss and the micromanaging boss don’t understand what true accountability is. Leaders who hold their people accountable aren’t nosy. They trust their workers. However, they care enough about the success of their people to not bury their head in the sand either.

The accountability of truck enforcement officers is a tricky thing though. The reality is very few front-line supervisors understand the intricacies of truck law. Management is even more in the dark. Even worse, the vast majority of local prosecutors, assistant state’s attorneys and sadly even judges, have the slightest clue about truck law.

It’s not uncommon to find supervisors who are quick to say “I don’t understand all these crazy truck laws, that’s why we sent Officer X to truck school and he is our expert”. Support of the employee? A+. Wise supervision? F.

With all due respect to the command staff reading this article, rank does not equal understanding. The mere fact you are the traffic sergeant does not make you an authority in truck law. Just because you are the Chief of Police, and a truck officer 20 years ago, you are not equipped to understand the truck laws of today.

Truck law is perishable knowledge. If degeneration of the human mind is not enough, trucks laws are constantly in flux as industry standards adapt to consumer expectations. Blink your eyes and everything changes, again.

If a police supervisor is routinely taking complaints about a truck officer from the public, who is he calling to make sure the officer’s explanation of the law is authoritative? Maybe the officer unintentionally made a mistake, or maybe not. The truth is the boss probably cannot prove the officer right or wrong.

If a police officer is going to have the exceptional authority described in the article last week, then he must have exceptional accountability as well. The ITEA published an article on this topic several years ago.

The key to a police department is external accountability for truck officers. Seeing as how the internal administration of an agency is not setup to adequately provide this protection, the ITEA serves as a resource to provide this service.

Almost all truck officers are good people trying to do a good job. There a few rotten apples out there and the ITEA knows who they are.
The good ones share common traits of being highly motivated, goal-oriented and independent workers. They are human and make mistakes.

After six years in operation, the ITEA has fielded dozens upon dozens of phone calls from industry and police management regarding actions taken by truck officers. In most instances, the officers acted correctly. In times where they made mistakes, which is perfectly acceptable, they humbly own it and correct it. That’s what being a professional is all about. That is true accountability.

On rare occasions, there is a police officer who refuses to listen to logic or counsel, and proudly acts alone. Without fail, the case is lost in court and the relationship between industry and law enforcement is tarnished. It does not need to be this way.

Today many people believe video, photographs and audio recordings will hold police officers accountable for their actions. To an extent these tools work, but real accountability comes from within the ranks. It comes from peers willing to stand up say they care enough about the reputation of their co-worker and agency to do what is right.



Truck Enforcement is not Traffic Enforcement

Earlier this year, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police published an article in their Command magazine written by the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. The article discussed how a local town can implement a successful truck enforcement program. For the next several weeks, this blog will expand on each of the five points necessary to accomplish this task.

Imagine this: a police officer from an agency 150 sworn officers graduates from the police academy. After dressing for his first day on the street, the investigations supervisor informs the officer he will be the lead investigator for a recent murder case. Ludicrous? You better believe it.

Not to pour cold water on the aspirations of a rookie police officer, but these are not realistic expectations in his career. Why? Because being the lead homicide investigator requires a certain set of skills not possessed by green policemen.

The goal is not to compare truck officers to that of a skilled homicide detective. However, too often police administrators minimize the skills necessary to perform high quality truck enforcement and relegate the job to traditional traffic officers. Officers who may not have the appropriate training or desire/willingness to even do trucks.

Yes, trucks are part of the highway traffic scheme just like cars, but the laws governing each are not apples to apples. Traditional traffic enforcement does not levy potential fines in the tens of thousands of dollars or impede federally protected interstate commerce for extended periods of time.

Police officers in Illinois are given the exceptional authority to stop a vehicle, which deprives a motorist of his constitutional right to liberty, for little more than a mere hunch of being overweight. The police officer can then order the driver to follow him to a scale 5 or 10 miles away and compel him weigh. If the officer is correct, the driver now owes an incredible amount of money in fines. If the officer is wrong, the officer gets to say “see ya later, my bad”. Nowhere else in police work does one find that kind of authority. It’s truly incredible.

Here’s another illustration. The printed version of the Illinois Criminal Code (720 ILCS), has five pages which discuss murder. The truth is murder is not a complicated crime. The elements of the offense are quite simple, but properly investigating the murder is far from basic.

When justice is being sought for a life taken by another, the public has an expectation of competent police work. When an arrest is made for murder, the defendant has the right to know the detectives followed the law and did an exhaustive investigation. His life is on the line.

In comparison, the printed version of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS) has over eighty pages of laws about trucks! Truck law is immensely complicated, and it requires a high level of skill to enforce correctly. The inability for a police officer to enforce it competently results in tragic consequences for the one accused.

Just like the murder victim’s families expect a proper police investigation, the truck driver and/or his company deserve to know the police officers enforcing truck laws are solid before they are assessed massive fines or being taken off the route to a job.

All police officers should receive training in proper enforcement of universal traffic law like speeding, seatbelts and distracted driving when the infractions are committed by truck drivers. On August 18th and 19th, the ITEA will be conducting ten, free one-hour courses at the ILACP expo in Tinley Park, IL for patrol officers on this topic.

The enforcement of truck-exclusive laws like size, weight and CDLs should be reserved for those officers who are specially trained and resourced. Just being a member of a “traffic unit” and attending a 40-hour basic truck enforcement course does not make one qualified to perform truck enforcement.

High quality truck enforcement is not a part-time job. It is understood that many police agencies cannot dedicate a police officer full-time to truck enforcement due to manpower issues. That is not an excuse though.

A thorough understanding of trucks and truck law takes a lot of time and effort to perfect. It’s a “use it or lose it” education. It sounds conceited, but the failure of the police to protect truck drivers from erroneous enforcement is just that – failure.


Digital Paper

Everything on the internet is true…everything! Don’t believe that statement? Well good, because it is obviously false. As technology has increased, society’s dependence on physical reference has decreased. As the functionality and portability of electronic devices has increased, dependence on paper documentation has decreased. Make no mistake truckers, the law requires you to carry certain documents in your vehicle. How to carry these docs is another story…

Two terms need to be discussed here: compulsory and discretionary. Compulsory is a mandate. This is the “shall” of the law. No wiggle room. The legislature has spoken and all will follow lest they suffer the consequences.

Discretionary means there is more than one avenue to get to the same point. Sometimes the law provides this. Sometimes the law is left vague (which usually serves to only create more confusion). Discretion is a choice for the police officer to make, even though many times the motorists feel entitled to it.

There is already an article each on this blog about compulsion and discretion. When it comes to regulatory paperwork to be carried in a truck, the law is clear. What the law is not clear about is what medium the documentation must be presented.

Three items of documentation will be discussed below. These are insurance, registration and oversize/overweight permits.

Insurance is compulsory and must be carried in the vehicle. However, this was the first law regulating discretion for electronic display of required documentation. Police officers must honor the electronic display of insurance on either a phone or portable electronic device.

Thanks to law enforcement leaders, the legislature also indemnified police officers from liability if the electronic device is dropped and broken. The choice belongs to the motorist, as does the cost of replacing the gadget.

Every set of license plates comes with a paper card. What is goofy in Illinois is what to do with the card. Carrying the card is compulsory in second division vehicles (trucks) but not in first division vehicles (cars). This law is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-411.

Regardless, it is highly recommended to file away one copy of the card at home and another carry the other copy in the vehicle. Many states require cars to carry the registration card. There is no percentage in arguing roadside with an out-of-state police officer about compact states and reciprocity rules, just carry the card.

Do Illinois police officers have discretion to honor an electronic version of the registration card as valid? Absolutely. Is it compulsory? No.

Truck drivers should not feel entitled to electronic display of registration cards. The law does not mandate it nor does it indemnify the police officer for damages to an electronic device.

Oversize/Overweight (OSOW) Permits
There are two regulatory authorities in Illinois when it comes to OSOW permits – the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and everyone else. But first, IDOT.

Several years ago, the trucking industry pleaded with IDOT to allow electronic display of their permits, and IDOT agreed. This regulation is included in the permit manual (which is the Administrative Code and has the force of law) and is in the OPER 993 form required to accompany every permit. The electronic copy of the permit must be open to inspection by any law enforcement.

Carrying an OSOW permit is compulsory under the law when operating under its authority. IDOT used their rule-making authority to regulate discretion in the display of the permit. However, they did not include indemnification to police officers like the legislature did with insurance.

Everyone else? These are local permits from the 102 counties, 1400 municipalities and 1400 townships in Illinois. There is no compulsion for electronic display of local permits. The ITEA would greatly encourage local communities to allow for this practice, but it is totally discretionary.

Police officers – be reasonable and use good discretion with how truckers display their documentation to you. The medium does not equal legitimacy. What’s more important is using privileged resources to determine the authenticity of documents. Both paper and electronic copies can be forged.

Truckers – don’t act entitled or get upset when police officers, in their discretion, refuse to accept electronic display of documents without compulsion. They’re doing their job and agency policies and ordinances may prohibit them from doing so.


Pipe Dreams

This week’s articles is about pipes. No, not the kind you smoke in a velvet robe. No, not the kind which broadcasts sound from a giant organ in a cathedral. No, not the kind which busts out the tailored sleeves of a guy with large biceps. Come to think of it, this article isn’t really exclusive to pipes at all. What is it about you ask? Fair question – read on.

Conversation is easier when a generic name is used to describe a whole lot of things which are similar. It in a high paced, high stress society, economy of words is critical. To meet this verbal frugality, it’s not uncommon to lump together similar items with a universal name.

Hence, “the pipe exemption” was born. The pipe exemption is an exception to legal length in the Illinois Vehicle Code. However, it is not just about pipes. It’s about anything of a structural nature which cannot be disassembled into smaller loads.

Obviously the pipe exemption applies to long pipe, but the law commonly serves to cover customary loads of steel I-beams, telephone poles and machinery, such as a legal weight excavator with a long boom.

Picture this: a 30’ long flatbed straight truck with three axles. The maximum overall length for any single vehicle in Illinois, regardless of highway classification, is 42’. Because the truck is only 30’ long, it is legal. But what happens when the truck is now loaded with a 50’ steel I-beam? There is no way to cram 50’ of steel into 42’. The pipe exemption kicks in to cover the extra length.

The same could be true with a semi-tractor hauling a 60′ telephone pole over a local road. The current (and drastically outdated overall legal length) is 55′. The load plus the rest of the power unit could very well exceed 70′. Not very compliant with the law, but the pipe exemption is there to make things legal again.

Most loads, when oversize, need to purchase an oversize permit from the proper road authority to carry such lengths. Not so with the pipe exemption, however there are limitations.

In order to qualify, the load must not be more than 80’ long individually, and the overall length of the vehicle and load cannot exceed 100’. Sound simple? Well keep reading.

The pipe exemption is found in four different places in the length law of the IVC, 625 ILCS 5/15-107. It is mentioned in the paragraphs which cover non-designated roads, Class I, Class II and Class III highways.

Each time it is repeated, something is a little different. For non-designated, Class I and Class II highways, the text specifically limits operations during “daylight hours”. However there is no definition of “daylight hours” mentioned. It is commonly accepted that this means 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.

In the paragraph about Class III highways, it only says “daytime”. This term is even more ambiguous, but it’s not unreasonable to ascribe the same time limits as “daylight hours”.

The term “legal holidays” is also thrown into each of the four paragraphs. Much like the daylight vs daytime discrepancy, non-designated, Class I and Class II highways actually define which holidays are “legal holidays”. The Class III highway paragraph only says “legal holidays”.

Big deal? Maybe not, unless you are the trucker getting a $500 overlength ticket on a Class II highway because the federal and state governments recognize President’s Day as a legal holiday, but the pipe exemption does not.

Or maybe you are the trucker who believed he could move under the authority of the pipe exemption, on a Class III highway 30 minutes before sunrise, just like bigger and heavier loads operating under the authority of a permit. Ooops…wrong again. Vague laws yield creative interpretation.

It’s been said before and it will be said again – Illinois length law is a disaster. It’s high time for a complete rewrite of the entire thing. Now is anyone willing to pony up some lobbying money?