Leveling Portable Scales

Some things in life are common sense. Some things are not. Sometimes common sense prevails, other times it fails. Is this conundrum of worldly imperfection, it is quite apparent the laws generated by the elected official at all levels of governance do not always employ common sense. Some laws are in direct conflict with common sense, some laws simply leave common sense out of the equation. In Illinois truck enforcement world, the law forgets to include common sense in a very critical area: portable scales.

Here’s what any truck officer or trucking professional can tell you – the use of portable scales is a ceaseless debate. Truckers will tell you portable scales are unreliable, inaccurate and abused. Correct. Police officers will tell you portable are reliable, accurate and used appropriately. Also correct.

So in a world when two parties’ beliefs are diametrically opposed, who is correct? The answer? No one. Or wait, they both are.

The truth belongs in the hands of the operator. Police officers or other government agents who deploy portable scales have a burden to make sure they are using the instruments with common sense. And by common sense, this author actually means integrity.

It would seem integrity goes without saying, but much like common sense, it’s an imperfect world with imperfect people. There’s always “that one guy” who puts himself and his agenda ahead of the cause for his own personal gain. He can feel free to refrain from ITEA membership.

Here’s what Illinois law says (paraphrased): portable scales are lawful for enforcement by qualified personnel, and the scales must be certified annually by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That’s it. Done.

Here’s what Illinois law does not say: the ground must be level. The temperature must be above or below a certain temperature. The officer must weigh all axles simultaneously. Portable scales can’t be used for tag axles. This list could go on forever, but it’s all words, ideas, rumors, speculations and innuendo.

However, this non-statutory list reflects common sense. Unfortunately, many truckers, police officers, attorneys and judges have spent a lot of time arguing and debating over things which do not exist in the law.

Should these things be in the statutes? Probably, but they are not, so quit trying to prove a point which is objectively false. The argument should be over the subjective integrity of the officer or highway worker using the portable scales for enforcement.

Should portable scales be used on reasonable level ground? Of course, but the law does not say so. (quick point – there is no such things as perfectly level ground).
Should the driver be able to release the brakes and the truck not roll off the scale? Of course, but the law does not say so.
Should one side of the truck be higher (or lower) than the other side on portable scales? Of course not, but the law does not say so.
Should the scale operator allow the driver to get out and see the weights on the portable scales? Sure, but the law does not require him to do so.

The police officer with integrity will take great care to make sure the ground where he chooses to weigh vehicles on portable scales is reasonably level. He will make sure the truck will not roll off the scales with the brakes released (static weight). He will allow the operator to get out of the vehicle to look at the weights provided it is safe to do and the delay in time is not creating a traffic problem.

There is a reason why the good book says unequal weights are an abomination and false scales are not good. Those who choose to cheat will be held accountable.

Veteran truck officers (with integrity and common sense) who have used portable scales for a long time know portable scales are accurate when used appropriately. Sorry truckers, it’s true.

The ITEA trains and certifies police officers to use portable scales with a code as if it was written into the law. This is something which must be kept on the level.


Beach Towels & Tow Trucks

Imagine you are on the beach – taking in the sun, the breeze and the sound of the waves are only slightly drowned out by the cool rhythms of some classic Bob Marley. Now think about the colorful floral beach towel that you bought just for your trip to this sandy destination. It’s a comfy, large, soft towel, and you paid good money for it. It only seemed appropriate you would take a “beach towel” to the beach.

The next day, you decide to keep your toes out of the sand and instead head to the pool. You grab your expensive beach towel and head out for a quick dip. You jump in and feel the cool water rush against your skin before emerging to the top and eventually exiting and grabbing your beach towel to dry off. But now there is a problem.

You’re approached by a lifeguard who hands you a citation for improper use of a towel. He tells you the towel you are using is specifically designated for beach use and not for pool use. Astounded, you think back to your purchase of the towel.

You recall the towel costing the same as other similar towels. There were no specific directions telling you the towel could only be used for beach purposes, even though the price tag did specifically call it a “beach towel.”

This particular situation helps illustrate a past problem an ITEA member tow company had with law enforcement regarding their use of “tow truck” registration.

This particular law enforcement officer had stopped the company for a registration violation after seeing the company hauling a generator on a flat-bed tow truck. Since the vehicle was not being used to “tow” a disabled vehicle, the officer informed the driver his registration did not cover the move because the vehicle was being used to transports goods for commerce.

He also advised the driver making similar moves in the future would require the company to purchase flat weight or apportioned registration, thereby dual registering the vehicle as both a tow truck and commercial truck.

Thankfully no citations were issued. However, poor and inaccurate explanations of the law were given.

A more accurate explanation of the statute would show tow truck operators may register such vehicles with tow truck registration plates. Also, in section 625 ILCS 5/15-111, tow trucks need to meet a variety of requirements to be considered tow trucks and to qualify for special weight exemptions.

Nowhere in the statute does it specifically state tow trucks may not use those same vehicles to carry or tow loads other than disabled vehicles. This type of movement would only negate the weight exemptions afforded to tow trucks who are in fact towing disabled vehicles. It would not void the registered weight they paid for.

Also, in 625 ILCS 5/3-810.1 the legislature spells out the cost of tow truck plates in Illinois. The cost of these plates are concurrent with the cost of flat weight plates in Illinois. This mean that a tow truck plate for 50,000 lbs costs the exact same amount as a flat weight “Q” plate, which is also good for 50,000 lbs. Therefore, it makes sense if tow companies pay the same amount as regular trucking companies for registration, they can use vehicles plated with tow truck plates to haul other commodities.

The explanation to the company (requiring they purchase two types of registration for the same vehicle) is not only ridiculous, it is not supported in the Illinois Vehicle Code. The only time dual registration is ever covered as a requirement is when it addresses registration of semi-trailer plates on special hauling vehicles. This topic will be covered in a future article.

At the end of the day, the poor advice of the officer did not cause any financial harm to the member company, but it did serve as another example of some of the inconsistencies in commercial vehicle enforcement the ITEA works to remedy on a daily basis.

ITEA certified officers continuously work to educate themselves in order to provide the most accurate information available and disperse it to those they come in contact with. This is something those in both law enforcement and the trucking industry should not only expect, but demand.


Restricted Permission

Illinois is no exception when it comes to doing things backwards.  Whether its reversing the direction of the Chicago River, naming its first state capital in Kaskaskia, Illinois (current population: 14), or budgets and taxes (which won’t even be discussed) many things seem to be out of order.  Why then is it that in Illinois, in order to operate some vehicles, drivers must have additional restrictions on their licenses?  For an answer, rewind to the year 1986.

In 1986 the Federal government passed the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act (UCDLA).  The Feds saw the wide variation in driver’s license testing and licensing requirements from state to state, which resulted in a large number of preventable traffic deaths.  By the time the act became law in 1992, Illinois had already adopted its standards which were to be overseen by the Illinois Secretary of State.

Along with the UCDLA came numerous provisions on what the states could and could not change when it came to the now federally standardized Commercial Driver’s License.  It was the UCDLA which derived the standard Class A, B, and C commercial licenses as we know them today.  It was also the UCDLA which required a minimum age of 21 in order to operate interstate commercially.  Testing was standardized.  The effects of serious traffic violations on CDL holder’s licenses were standardized.  All these provisions being administered by the Illinois Secretary of State are actually federal mandates. In order to be uniform across the United States, this includes endorsements.

Endorsements were standardized through the UCDLA to include only:
 T – Double/Triple Trailers
P – Passenger Vehicles
S – School Buses
N – Tank Vehicles
H – Hazardous Materials
X – Hazardous Materials and Tank Vehicles.

At the time Illinois adopted the UCDLA, the Illinois legislature was prevented from creating any other endorsements in addition to the six federal endorsements.  That’s where restrictions come in.

The Illinois legislature and Secretary of State recognizes, with the public’s safety in mind, some drivers should have to pass more testing in order to operate certain types of vehicles.  Because the state cannot create an endorsement for the vehicle’s operation they instead created appropriate restrictions which allow drivers to operate additional vehicles.

After passing appropriate testing, drivers will receive license restrictions allowing the additional operation of school buses, religious organization buses, senior citizen transport vehicles, commuter vans and farm use truck-tractors and semi-trailers.

It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the fact drivers can get in trouble with the police when they don’t have the proper license restrictions for the vehicle they operate. However, when one understands how many governmental entities, acts and laws are at play it’s easier to appreciate.


The Clock Is Ticking

With its roots in 19th century warfare, the phrase “deadline” has an interesting, somewhat literal, etymology. According to author Christine Ammer, the term “deadline” was coined at the hellish Andersonville, GA prison camp, and first appeared in writing in a report of Confederate Inspector-General, Colonel D.T. Chandler, on July 5, 1864. In the trucking industry, companies and owner-operators are chased by deadlines all year long.  The article this week will talk about those inevitable deadlines which haunt the trucking industry throughout the calendar year.

Deadline #1 / January 1st
With a new year comes new responsibilities.  If it’s January 1st and you drive a flat weight plated tow truck in the State of Illinois, your registration just expired.  All of the weight allowances you spent your hard earned money on no longer have any meaning while operating upon a public highway.  This means that your tow truck is overweight on registration from pound one.  This applies not only to the average tow truck, but to the heavy lifters and rotators which have flat weight plates as well.

Deadline #2 / March 1st
Do you have three or more axles on your power unit?  Are you registered for, or have, an actual weight exceeding 26,000 pounds while traveling in two or more states?  If you do, then you are required to have a motor fuel tax license and decals as you are subject to the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA).

The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is an agreement among states and Canadian provinces to simplify the reporting of fuel use taxes by interstate motor carriers.  The letter of the law says you should have had your license paid for by the first of the year, but the not-so-business friendly State of Illinois gives you two whole months to display your decals as proof of purchase.  This means that if your decals are not properly displayed by March 1st at midnight, you are open to enforcement.

Deadline #3 / April 1st
Are you one of the tens of thousands of truckers who travel interstate?  If you are, there are several requirements you must meet before you do.  Not only do you need to have your IFTA license, IFTA stickers and a medically certified CDL, you must have apportioned registration.  What is apportioned registration?

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is a registration reciprocity agreement between the contiguous United States and Canadian provinces, which provides apportioned payments of registration fees, based on the total distance operated in participating jurisdictions, to them. IRP’s fundamental principle is to promote and encourage the fullest possible use of the highway system.  While all states have different expiration dates for their apportioned plates, the Land of Lincoln renders them expired at midnight on April 1st.  In Illinois, when your apportioned registration plates expire they are purged from the Illinois Secretary of State’s database.  No apportioned registration means overweight from pound one.

Deadline #4 / July 1st
In Illinois, this is perhaps the most infamous deadline in the trucking industry.  On July 1st at the stroke of midnight, all flat weight registration plates will expire.  With the exception of TA-trailer and B-truck plates, all flat weight trailer plates expire as well.  What does expired flat weight registration mean?  It means the vehicle and the load in its entirety is overweight on registration from pound one.  Most responsible trucking companies are well aware of this deadline and begin the registration renewal process well in advance.  Most police departments with truck enforcement programs will be hunting those vehicles which have expired.

These deadlines are like time. It’s like a predator, always stalking you.  You can try to outrun it with a 45-day temporary IRP card- or paperwork which says your registration is ‘applied for’, but in the end, time is the clock which keeps on ticking.


Legal Illegalities

In 1989, James Bond received a License to Kill. What? Where does one obtain such credentials? The truth is no one has a license to kill, or to commit any other crimes for that matter. There are times when the law affords law enforcement, the military or even a private citizen the right to use justifiable force which could result in death or great bodily harm, but no one has a license for such. Illegal behavior is illegal, but as in all things truck law, there is an instance when trucks can legally be illegal.

Trucks which are oversize and overweight are illegal. To be oversize or overweight means the vehicle and/or its load are exceeding the maximums established by the legislature. In Illinois, the General Assembly has said there are absolute limits to weight, width, length and height. No more. End of story.

There are other absolute limits to vehicle legality in Illinois. How about speed limits? The sign says the maximum speed limit is 35 mph. Going 36 mph is illegal. One would hope a police officer uses some good discretion here, but strictly speaking (to the letter of the law), a driver cannot exceed 35 mph.

What about blood alcohol levels? This association would strongly encourage and ask people to never drive with any amount of alcohol in their system, but that does not make it illegal. It’s only illegal when the driver is impaired or the blood alcohol concentration exceeds .080. There’s a line in the sand.

Now decide for yourself if this makes any sense. A driver who can never make it to work on time walks into the police department and asks to purchase a permit to exceed the speed limit. Employment is important and losing a job due to tardiness is not good. Would anyone expect a local government to actually sell such a document to make illegal speed legal again? Not a chance.

The unfortunate truth is some people function better when they have a certain amount of alcohol in their system. Just ask your friendly neighborhood policeman. Would it serve the public interest to allow a drunkard the ability to purchase a permit to exceed the legal blood alcohol level? Asinine.

This is exactly what oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permitting is though. A permit is a legal document which makes what was illegal, legal. It is very unique to trucks.

It’s not illegal to build a fence around your yard or install a new deck, yet those jobs need permits as well. The difference is those permits are designed to ensure compliance with the law, safety and aesthetic measures. Very different than OS/OW permits.

Because it is illegal for a vehicle to be OS/OW, there is no guaranteed right to a permit. The Illinois Vehicle Code is very clear on this topic. In 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a), it states the Department (IDOT) and local authorities (everyone else) “may, in their discretion” issue a permit to exceed legal size and weight. It does not compel, mandate or require any unit of government to issue OS/OW permits.

Are there good reasons why some vehicles need to be OS/OW? Absolutely. Is it good for economic growth to allow trucks to obtain OS/OW permits? Most definitely.

However, there is no entitlement. A local community has the absolute right to say “no, we are not going to issue any permits to be oversize or overweight”. This refusal does not give the carrier the right to move OS/OW without a permit either simply because they have an important and legitimate need.

Conversely, a local authority does not have the right to say, “we don’t issue OS/OW permits, so go ahead and move without one”. This is poor governance because the law specifically states if a truck is exceeding lawful weight and size, it requires a permit, and this permit must be in written form.

No verbal permission. No taking someone’s word for it. That is setting the carrier up for failure and liability when a crash occurs, a low bridge is struck or a long vehicle gets hung up on a turn.

Local governments – do the right thing and issue OS/OW permits up to certain size/weight limitations which will protect your roads and communities. There are solutions out there to do this fast, quick and easy in a business friendly way.

Carriers – encourage local towns who issue permits to do so in an expeditious manner. Demand nothing less than permissions issued in some sort of writing.


Tax On Tax On Tax

Those who live, work or own a business in Illinois are well aware of the astronomical amount of taxes paid out on a yearly basis. While some of these taxes are absolutely necessary to provide security, education and infrastructure, others can leave the Illinois tax payer scratching their head as to the actual benefit to society. The bottom line is taxes are necessary to keep this state and country running and providing those essential services often take for granted. The one obligation of the State of Illinois which is a hot topic is infrastructure, specifically how to maintain it and fund said maintenance. This is where the controversial SB3267 has recently come into play.

It should be noted earlier this week, the Senate President who introduced SB3267 said he will not move it forward. However, if you understand Illinois politics at all, you understand no bill is ever truly dead. This particular bill would create the Illinois Road Improvement and Driver Enhancement Act. It will require all owners or lessees of vehicles required to be registered in Illinois to pay a tax for each mile traveled on Illinois roads. This tax would not be imposed on commercial vehicles in Illinois (this will be revisited in a moment). The cost of this tax would be $0.015 per mile traveled.

The bill provides a timeline of when this fee can be raised, stating the legislature will adjust the fee on June 1st of every fifth year beginning June 1st, 2022. Illinois drivers would have three options as to how the mileage fee is monitored and calculated. The first is the option would be what is called the I-RIDE Smart Plan. This plan would report the miles traveled on public, non-tolled Illinois roads using personally identifiable information and location data to calculate the miles traveled monthly. The best guess is this would require a device to be placed in vehicles which would monitor every road traveled and how many miles you traveled on each roadway.

The second option would be called The I-RIDE Convenient Plan. This would include the reporting of miles traveled monthly using the vehicle’s odometer reading. This plan doesn’t involve the use of personally identifiable information but would still likely include a monitoring device in the vehicle.

The third option is the I-RIDE Flat Rate Plan. This would be a flat monthly rate based on 30,000 driving miles a year for passenger cars and single unit (non-commercial) trucks. This fee ends up being approximately $450.00.  There is also a provision in the bill which allows an undetermined convenience fee to be collected under this option.

The fees paid would be directed to roadway improvement. The bill was introduced due to less taxes being collected at the fuel pumps as more fuel efficient vehicles are being purchased and driven on roadways. The fuel taxes collected are supposed to be used to fund infrastructure improvement and maintenance, however with more cars consuming less fuel the revenue stream has dissipated. The “silver lining” to this bill is that drivers would receive a break on some fuel taxes paid throughout the year.

The most important part of this bill, and why it’s being covered in this article, is that it would repeal the Commercial Distribution Fee (CDF). This is a fee paid by all vehicles registered in Illinois for over 8,000 lbs. The fee is currently a 14.35% increase to registration fees paid annually. This fee was also supposed to be used “for the use of the public highways, State infrastructure, and State services”. However, the money collected for the CDF is currently dumped into the General Revenue Fund for the state. Who’s to say the same wouldn’t happen with the new mileage tax?

At this point, those in the trucking industry may be torn. On its face, the bill seems to fully benefit the trucking industry while providing a minor financial strain on the rest of the motoring public. While one may not disagree with this fact, skeptical skeptic may believe this bill will come back to haunt the industry in the future.

As has been done with attempts at pension reform, it would not be the first time the State of Illinois has gone back on its word. Tough
economic times may result in desperate measures which may require re-establishment of the CDF. For those who were in the industry just a decade ago, the CDF was an astronomical 36% increase of registration fees! A number which took a great deal of blood, sweat and tears from industry lobbyists to get lowered to the more reasonable number it is today.

The last thing that anyone in the industry would want is a new battle to develop when the economy is in the state of distress it is currently in. Illinois is only one public windstorm away from the “silver lining” to become a funnel cloud which could tear through the pockets of those in the trucking industry.


Driver’s Ed

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase: “It’s better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6.”  This refers to the hope the decisions you make may save your life, but could put you in legal jeopardy.  The vast majority would agree with the idea.  But what about those CDL drivers whose poor safety record reflects their poor driving ability?  Or those survivors that have been impacted by inexperienced CDL drivers?  Newly proposed FMCSA regulations are attempting to rein in the inexperienced.

In March the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a proposed rule that would require mandatory training for new CDL drivers or those CDL drivers seeking an upgrade in license class.

The rule would require Class A applicants to have taken 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training while Class B applicants would need 15 hours.  All training must be through a FMCSA approved vendor listed on the Training Provider Registry.  The estimated implementation cost: $5.55 billion. So what’s the big deal?

Whether it was your father sitting next to you teaching you how to shift, or the “Behind the Wheel” component of your high school’s driver’s education classes, driver’s education has been around for decades.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until 1973 that driver’s education was implemented for the sole purpose of roadway safety.

Many studies have followed evaluating the effectiveness of formal driver’s education.  A few will tout the outlier study which suggests those having attended formal driver’s education were more prone to crashes, but the vast majority of data suggests exactly the opposite: Educated and practiced drivers are safer drivers.

This isn’t an unreasonable conclusion to draw.  Look back to the second or third day following your first operation of the most complicated vehicle you currently operate; whether it be car, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle.  You were likely able to operate that vehicle just well enough to pass the Secretary of State’s tests.  You’re then handed a license to drive and off you go.

Many of you are saying, “but I’ve been perfectly fine since that time.”  The problem is: many are not.

An 80,000 lb commercial motor vehicle traveling on the roadway carries 20 times more the propensity for damage than a 4,000 lb car traveling the same speed.  Simply put, an unsafe Commercial Motor Vehicle driver is putting everyone else at risk, not just themselves.

In a day in age where billions and trillions are thrown around like dollars and cents, 5.55 billion dollars is still a tough pill to swallow.

That comes out to $17 for every man, woman and child throughout these United States.  Instead, consider the enormity of the cost society bears due to inexperienced drivers: vehicle damage, personal injuries, medical care, rehabilitation, policing and fire resources. Even litigation.

It may be undetermined how much of a difference a 15 or 30-hour course will make and whether taxpayers and consumers are willing to bear the cost.  Given the research, it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.  Is your jury still out?


Permit Jumping

Have you ever been to a sporting event and seen people move up to better seats than they paid for? Maybe you are that person! Usually the usher approaches them and makes the person return to their rightful seats. Rarely does the person get kicked out of the event. Trucking companies who move oversize or overweight items sometimes have to move up to a larger permit depending on the load. So what happens when a truck with a limited continuous operation permit has their single trip permit voided?

When a company regularly transports large pieces of equipment, they will purchase a limited continuous operation (LCO) permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation. This permit allows them to move a piece of equipment on almost any state route almost anytime they need to. The maximum weight an LCO permit allows is 120,000 pounds.

A company who has an LCO but has a piece of equipment larger than 120,000 pounds will need to purchase a single or round trip permit. The single or round trip permit tells a company where they may drive, and what the load consists of.

When a truck is stopped by a police officer, and that officer finds the permit to be void, that officer should use the valid LCO permit for the overweight ticket. For instance, if a truck has a permit for 140,000 pounds, and the load is more than a mile off its route on a state highway, the permit becomes void.

The truck driver produces a valid LCO permit which allows for 120,000 pounds and meets the criteria for that permit, except for the weight. A police officer takes the truck to the scale and finds it to be 132,000 pounds. Instead of dropping the allowed weight to 80,000 pounds and writing a 52,000-pound overweight, the officer must drop the allowed weight to 120,000 pounds and only write a 12,000-pound overweight.

Mistakes happen, and a trucking company that has paid for a permit, and then purchased another permit for additional weight should not be punished excessively for that mistake. Had the trucking company not made the effort to purchase the additional permit, the officer would use the LCO permit to issue the overweight ticket anyway. So why punish someone for trying to do the right thing?

This is not an opening for someone to try and get away with not obtaining a permit. The fines for being overweight on permit can still be high, even if they start at 120,000 pounds. Any attempt to cheat could end up with the state not issuing a permit to you in the future.

The ultimate goal in law enforcement is voluntary compliance. A police officer should recognize an error and only enforce the law as is reasonable. A truck driver should make sure they are following the rules and not cutting corners. By doing these things, everyone can enjoy the game from the seats they rightfully paid for.


Creating a Crisis

You know you are in the midst of an election season when your apathy for government is at an all-time high. Forget which candidate you will endorse or despise the most, and realize a truth of every future master of the universe: they create a crisis to generate votes. There’s always a kernel of truth sewn into a big bag of rhetoric and exaggeration. Of course, this happens in trucking world too. The article this week will look at one trucking law in Illinois created by a “crisis” and a second “crisis” which is being developed.

Illinois has always lagged in successfully creating new laws to keep up with industry standards for the world of legal weight trucking. One such law is kingpin length for semi-tractor trailers. The goal of this article is not to opine regarding the merits of the kingpin law, but to look at how a recent change came to be when the livestock industry created a crisis.

In short, semi-tractor trailer combinations have a length restriction, depending on which road they are operating, from the kingpin of the semi-trailer to the center of the last trailer axle. Some roads it is 45’6”, on other roads it is 42’6”. In fairness, Illinois is one of the last states with kingpin regulations.

In 2012, the livestock industry created a crisis. They had been manufacturing trailers with fixed axles which exceeded the kingpin limitation in Illinois. Livestock farmers around the state purchased these trailers and began receiving citations for exceeding the length law. It’s no surprise legislation was quickly introduced to exempt livestock trailers from this regulation.

This isn’t a discussion regarding the merits ofwhether or not the General Assembly should or should not have passed a law exempting livestock trailers. The question is whether or not breaking an existing law is the proper way to effect change. The counter-argument is this: don’t buy trailers which are illegal to operate.

Should the speed limit be raised to 90mph because people drive that fast? Should the blood alcohol level be increased to .15 because people will drink that much before driving? Drastic comparisons? Yes, but analogically sound.

In the end, politics ran its course and the livestock exemption passed.

Since you are reading this blog on the internet, you are well aware of the exponential strides computer technologies have made the last ten years. One such market which has seen rapid growth is crash avoidance technology. It’s truly amazing stuff, but most realists see the futility of totally autonomous driving vehicles. A good balance between new technologies assisting attentive human drivers will surely reduce injuries and fatalities on the highway.

However, a crisis is being created to change rules and regulations to benefit the crash avoidance technology industry. There is no doubt these technologies can mitigate crashes, but does that mean these technologies should pre-empt other safety regulations?

The technology industry has lobbied the federal government to mandate their product in new trucks. Truck manufacturers have been offering these as options. One more log on the fire of increasing truck purchase prices.

Crash avoidance technologies rely on cameras and radars to see what is happening around the vehicle. These devices are rendered useless when big, yellow, oversize load signs cover the lenses. Legal size/weight trucking will benefit from crash avoidance technologies, but will the oversize/overweight trucking industry? The tech industry is working hard to get states to change their oversize load sign regulations to accommodate their product. They are creating a crisis.

Here’s some questions for states to ask before they start changing their rules to accommodate profiteering:
1.   Are vehicles operating oversize/overweight really moving at speeds so fast this technology is truly necessary?
2.   Do the safety benefits of crash avoidance technologies exceed the benefits oversize load signs provide by altering other drivers who share the road?
3.   Does moving the yellow oversize load signs higher, lower or removing them altogether actually create a more dangerous environment?
4.   How many serious crashes involving oversize vehicles could have been prevented by this technology?

Through the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the states have been working to harmonize many of their regulations, including content, placement and display of oversize load signs. This artificial “crisis” throws a monkey-wrench into the progress which has been made. Progress on harmonization which has long been desired by the specialized transportation industry.


It’s Only One Day

At the end of their shift on April 1st, ask any truck enforcement officer in Illinois the most common line heard from truck drivers throughout the day. Chances are most, if not all, will answer with the same redundant phrase: “It’s only one day.” One day is the amount of time that has lapsed between when the Illinois apportioned plate displayed on the driver’s truck went from valid to expired.

This is an indisputable fact many drivers will attempt to use in mitigation of the offense. In some cases it may only be a matter of hours or even minutes. Nonetheless, those caught without valid registration will be staring down the barrel of some hefty fines regardless of the amount of time from when the used to have valid registration.

Every April 1st the sun rises and truck enforcement officers across the state take to the streets with a primary focus on expired Illinois apportioned plates. Subsequently, ever year, these same officers come across thousands of violations and issue hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Whether you agree or disagree with the enforcement tactics or lack of a grace period, there is nothing you can do to escape the realities of April 1st. What can be done, however, is to take some extra steps to prevent your trucks and drivers from finding themselves stopped on the side of the road or at the scale instead of their planned destination.

Renew Your Registration
It may seem like common sense, but the reality is that many times those in charge of registration simply forget to renew it. Unlike regular Illinois passenger vehicle plates, Illinois apportioned plates all expire at the same time every year. Knowing this, you should give yourself ample time to complete the proper documentation and submit it to the Secretary of State Division of Commercial Farm and Truck.

Please realize that this is one of the busiest times of year for the Secretary of State, and they too need time to process the paperwork. Getting your paperwork to the SOS on time is only one part of the battle, the more important part is the processing and validation of your truck’s registration.

Simply having the paperwork saying you submitted your registration documentation is not enough to avoid being cited for no registration. Until the SOS has given your truck its blessing to be on the road (in the form of valid registration) you are rolling the dice by operating.

Carry Your CAB Card
Having your CAB card inside of the vehicle and ready to be displayed upon the request of law enforcement is not only a good idea, it is required by law. Having this documentation with you is as good as gold if you are stopped by the police. Even if your apportioned plates come back in the system as expired or “No Record” there is information listed on the CAB card which law enforcement can confirm through a simple call to the SOS.

Display Your 45-day Permit
For those who are either new applicants to the Full Reciprocity Plan (FRP) or who have otherwise obtained a 45-day Registration Permit, display it in the front windshield of your vehicle. In addition to this, have an extra copy available for law enforcement to review.

Having to peel one copy of the permit from the windshield is not only time consuming, it may end in that document being inadvertently torn or damaged. Understand simply displaying the permit in the window will not necessarily prevent an officer from stopping you for further investigation of the document. It is impossible for any officer to know what that 8×10 piece of paper says without seeing it up close. In most counties across Illinois, States Attorneys have supported the investigatory stop of a truck for purposes of checking registration permits displayed in this manner.

Owners, Keep Your Driver Informed
An informed driver who has been educated on the appropriate documentation needed is a driver who will most likely leave a traffic stop without a citation. Set your drivers up for success by giving them organized paperwork and ensure that they know what the paperwork is for.

If you recently switched from Illinois apportioned plates to another jurisdiction in the FRP, make sure your drivers are aware and have the documentation to back it up. You and your drivers know more about the vehicle being operated than the officers who are investigating a possible violation.

The officer will be able to obtain as much information as they feel necessary to either release the truck or cite it. You can absolutely help speed the process along by carrying the proper documents and being able to articulate the status of your registration. While the above tips will not necessarily prevent the issuance of a citation, they are good practice and more likely to result in a favorable outcome if followed. Remember, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”