PS, I Love/Hate You

Unless you are new, you are well aware the ITEA is just as much about trucking industry advocacy as it is about training and resourcing for law enforcement. For many years (and for many reasons) the two professions have been on opposite side of the battlefield. Great healing has occurred since the ITEA first launched, but there is one topic that is a quiet, brewing storm in the background: portable scales.

Here’s the reality – there will never will be consensus on the use of portable scales by law enforcement. Love them or hate them, they probably are never going away. Does that mean the use of portable scales is never abused by law enforcement? No. Does that mean trucking should just accept status quo? No.

There are two kinds of portable scales, axle load and wheel load weighers. Axle loads are large and heavy scales which are towed around on a trailer. Very few local units of government use these because of the cost and time it takes to set them up.

Local police do not have the authority to lay axle load scales on the highway and make all trucks weigh. This is why these scales are more commonly employed during a joint effort between the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and some local police departments.

Because local police officers stop trucks one-at-a-time under the “reason to believe” doctrine, wheel load weighers are more practical for that type of activity. They are relatively light and portable compared to their axle load cousins, and one officer can quickly set them up by himself.

To understand portable scales and how Illinois has come to a loggerhead on their use, step back take an objective look at the law. The truth is the law does not have a heck of a whole lot to say about them.

Regardless of type, the law only has three main points about portable scale use:

1.   Training
Any police officer who writes overweight tickets based on the evidence gained from portable scale use must have been trained and certified in a course accredited by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. This does not apply to Illinois State Police troopers.

2.   Annual certification
The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Weights and Measures, has regulatory authority over the annual certification of portable scales. There is no end run around this regulation. Each year, IDOA must put a sticker on it.

3.   Exemption
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a handbook (#44) which governs how commercial vehicles are weighed. In commerce, CMVs are required to be weighed “full draft” only. However, the Illinois Vehicle Code exempts law enforcement from this, thereby allowing police officers to weigh axle-by-axle.

That’s it. The end. No more regulation. There are a lot of rumors about how portable scales should be deployed and operated, but it’s not in the law. Here are some of them:

1.   Portable scales must be used on level ground…not true.
2.   Trucks have to release their brakes on portable scales…not true.
3.   Police officers cannot use portable scales during excessive cold and heat…not true.
4.   Police officers must use dummy pads for all axles not being weighed…not true.
5.   Police officers cannot use portable scales on tag/drop axles…not true.
6.   Police officers must photograph or print the portable scale reading…not true.

Having said all that, any police officer weighing trucks in the manners described above, and thinks it to be okay, is very wrong. Conversely, anyone from the trucking industry who universally believes all portable scales are inaccurate is just as mistaken.

Even though Illinois law does not give any hard and fast rules for portable scale operation, there are many things a quality truck officer will do to ensure the weighing is accurate and reasonable. Here is a list of common sense practices a truck officer should follow:

1.   Make sure the ground you are weighing on is level and have the driver release his brakes to prove it.
2.   Don’t use portable scales when the temperature is above or below the manufacturer’s ratings.
3.   Use dummy pads on all adjacent axles not being weighed within a group or tandem.
4.   Use dummy pads on all axles if the vehicle has any amount of pressure adjusting axles.
5.   Either let the driver see the scale reading, or take pictures of the display.
6.   Always weigh both wheels on an axle simultaneously, never one at a time.

Using these recommendations may not change industry opinion on the use of portable scales, but it will go a long ways to prove the case in court. It will also help prevent defensive legislation which could further erode the ability of law enforcement to weigh trucks.

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The 36′ Rule

Have you ever looked at an optical illusion on paper, and no matter how long you stared, it became more and more confusing? The key to solving these visual riddles is to back off, relax your eyes and look at it from a distance. Optical illusions are quite simple, they just mess with your brain. Amazingly, truck law can be like that too! The article this week discusses the most complicated paragraph in all the Illinois Vehicle Code to legislate something incredibly easy.

Definitions to Understand

Federal Bridge Formula (FBF)

The FBF is federal law adopted by all 50 states. It has nothing to do with bridges which cross over waterways or railroad tracks. It’s the “bridge” measurement between two or more consecutive axles. In the simplest terms, the more axles spread over a greater distance increases the amount of weight a vehicle can carry.

What consecutive does not mean is “adjacent”. As a matter of fact, the word “adjacent” is not used once in Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Many times police officers and truckers alike try to interpret what consecutive means by inserting “adjacent”, as if somehow the FBF cannot be used if the axles are not right next to each other. Consecutive simply means axles which are in sequence, regardless how far apart they are from each other.

Tandem Axle

A tandem axle means two consecutive axles, however not all sets of two axles are tandems. To be a tandem, the two axles must be a minimum 40” on-center from each other, but not more than 96” on-center.

A small landscape trailer may have two physical axles next to each other, but if the on-center measurement is 34”, then it is not a tandem. It is a single axle. A typical semi-trailer hauling steel usually has two axles at the end, but they may be spaced at 9’ (108”). Guess what? Not a tandem.

What is the 36’ Rule?

This rule is found in 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a)(5):

“Two consecutive sets of tandem axles may carry a total weight of 34,000 pounds each if the overall distance between the first and last axles of the consecutive sets of tandem axles is 36 feet or more, notwithstanding the lower limit resulting from the application of the above formula.”

In truth, the 36’ Rule is an exception to law. Legal weight for a tandem is 34,000 pounds. This rule describes when there are two consecutive sets of tandems for a total of four axles. Note that it must be two tandems…not any set of four axles.

For instance, a police officer stops a vehicle with two consecutive sets of tandems. He measures from the center of the first axle (in the first tandem) to the center of the fourth axle (last axle in the second tandem) and the total distance is 36’ exactly. He then pulls out his handy-dandy FBF chart and the total bridge formula weight for the series of 4-axles is 66,000 pounds.

What? Who did that math? So if a driver loads each individual tandem exactly to its legal weight of 34,000 pounds (for a total of 68,000 pounds), that group of four axles receives 2,000 pounds less? Correct.

Except the 36’ Rule covers this anomaly. If the police officer takes the measurement of two consecutive tandems, and it is 36’, 37’ or 38’, this group of four axles always gets 68,000 pounds on the FBF. That’s it. It is truly that simple. So what’s all the fuss about?

Two Misconceptions about the 36’ Rule

#1 – If the measurement for two consecutive sets of tandems is less than 36’, the tandem only gets 32,000 pounds.

This is entirely false. Once upon a time, there were two sets of weight laws in Illinois, and one of the sets only allowed for 32,000 pounds on a tandem. However, those non-designated roads were not entitled to the FBF anyhow. On designated roads, tandems always received 34,000 pounds because the FBF applied. Today, all highways in Illinois are subject to the FBF.

A police officer cannot assume just because something does not add up quite right, that somehow he is justified take away weight granted by the legislature. This theory was wrong prior to the uniform weight law of 2010, and it is wrong afterwards.

#2 – The maximum gross weight for two consecutive tandems is limited to 68,000 pounds.

This is an inverted interpretation of the previous misconception. Just because a series of four axles (in a very limited circumstance) receives a higher weight (68,000 pounds), should that ever be construed to mean there is a 68,000 pound ceiling for all sets of two consecutive tandems.

Technically, the FBF is an infinite weight formula. The legislature chose to cap the four axle weight at 74,000 pounds with an on-center measurement of 48’. If they had desired to cap it at a lower weight, they would have.

Sometimes the law is most understandable when it is read without bias. Adding words to it, or inferring things which do not exist, leads to misunderstandings, poor enforcement, and lost time/revenue.

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QC Mobile

One day the internet will crash, and the world will turn to complete chaos. Today the phone network, the mail system and automobiles all rely on the internet to function. These old school methods of doing business have a modern infrastructure. This article does not critique the use of web-based technology, but the content it delivers. It’s a real problem affecting both trucking and law enforcement, and a mobile app released in March is proof positive.

Reports are coming in all over trucking world about the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) that was held in Louisville, KY at the end of March. There is one common denominator: technology.

This mammoth trucking expo was dominated by new startups offering mobile computing for routing, vehicle performance, truck parking and electronic logs. All of which require the internet.

A couple years ago this blog featured an article call “G.P.(B)S” about how truck GPS systems, as beneficial as they are, can just as easily lead truckers into peril. Not just peril with enforcement, but routing on roads which don’t exist or into bridges with low clearances. It’s a nightmare.

The common ground with current internet solutions flooding the carrier industry is that they are owned, developed and marketed by vendors from private industry. The American free-market dream rests on who can make the best product.

If a truck GPS vendor has a marginal product with bad routing data, the industry will shun it and find a better one. There’s plenty of competition. What happens though when an innovative piece of technology is offered by the federal government, yet it delivers inaccurate information? Who has the alternative?

In March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its new (and free) mobile app for iPhone and Droid devices called “QC Mobile”. This app is a window to carrier CSA scores on a mobile device.

The app itself is not the problem. It is very user friendly. It navigates intuitively. It provides the public a ton of investigative information about every carrier with a census number.

The purpose of the app is not wrong either. Whether or not the general public needs to know about carrier safety ratings is up for debate, but there is little doubt police officers, insurers and logistics firms benefit greatly from the data.

The problem is the quality of the data behind the app. Even before the CSA program went live in 2010, there was great concern about how data would be gathered. There are infinite numbers of variables to be considered when assigning a score to a carrier.

Only an unreasonable person would believe that such an undertaking by FMCSA would be without flaws. Rightfully so, grace has been extended as they have honed the system the last five years.

However, the data is still apparently erroneous. With this app, inaccurate scores are now readily available to those who can do damage to the carrier.
Insurance companies can choose to deny carriers with bad scores. Logistical firms can choose to not use carriers with bad scores. Police officers can choose to use less discretion with carriers who have bad scores. All at the fingertips of a smartphone.

Is the data really that flawed? This depends on who you talk to. Of course the data on the app is an accurate reflection of the CSA scores, but the data behind the CSA scores is what is at issue.

What has proven to be damning to the app release is a statement from a representative of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal agency whose job it is to police their own.

When Susan Fleming, the GAO Director or Physical Infrastructure went on record calling the data “unreliable” after an audit, trucking leadership across the nation exploded.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) called the release of the mobile app “reckless” based on her statement. Similar comments were heard from an unlikely bedfellow to the ATA, the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association.

So what does this mean for police officers on the street? Well, hopefully police officers will see that QC Mobile, as convenient as it is, probably should not be taken as gospel.

There’s an old adage that police officers should take enforcement based on the action, not the actor. Citations should be issued when good judgment meets the seriousness of the violation itself, not on a safety history which may be tragically flawed.

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Electrically Surging Brakes

If you were more than an infant in 1980s or earlier, the year 2000 seemed like an age away. The average American thought people would be traveling in flying cars and have robot maids. Humans have advanced technologically since then, but driverless cars are still a good decade or two away. What will never change, however, is the need for brakes on vehicles. Trailers need brakes sometimes, and the article this week will look at what the law says about them.

When an average truck officer or trucking industry professional looks at a 53’semi-trailer, no one stops and wonders if the trailer needs brakes. Of course it does. It’s big. It’s heavy. Friction will be required to stop it.

The confusion about when brakes are required occurs with trailers of the smaller variety. Big rig drivers ought not to stop reading at this point, and truck cops who only go after “the big fish” should not either. Why? Because it’s the small trailer the average Joe uses to haul a boat to the lake, an ATV to the trail, or a little dumper with yard waste.

However, it’s these little trailers and their braking requirements which lands driver’s in trouble with the police. Whether enforcement is right or wrong, it’s better to operate with the authoritative knowledge than that of your buddy at the bar.

What the Law Says
In 625 ILCS 5/12-301(a)(4), the statute reads all trailers (except boat trailers), with a gross weight over 3,000 pounds (which means 3,001 pounds or more) must have brakes which can be controlled by the driver. This is accomplished by using the independent trailer brake control within the truck.

Boat trailers are discussed in paragraph 4.1. It is almost identical to paragraph 4, except the law does not require the boat trailer brakes to be controlled by the driver. This is why boat trailers typically have “surge brakes”. When the driver engages the service brakes on the power unit and the vehicle decelerates, the trailer “surges” forward, using that energy to activate the brakes.

The law also requires any trailer (boat or non-boat) with a gross weight over 5,000 pounds (which means 5,001 pounds or more) to have an emergency breakaway system in the event the two vehicles become uncoupled. This is normally accomplished with an aircraft cable, attached to the power unit (not the hitch or the safety chains) which ties into the braking system of the trailer.

In the unfortunate instance the two vehicles separate, the aircraft cable either pulls a pin to release the electric battery power to set the brakes on dry trailers, or pulls a lever forward which sets the surge brakes on boat trailers. Hopefully, the trailer will stop soon and without disaster.

What the Law Does Not Say
Notice the law does not say “gross vehicle weight rating” (GVWR) or registered weight. What the trailer manufacturer rates as the maximum loaded weight of the vehicle, or what the Secretary of State assigns as the maximum registered weight, means jack squat when it comes to brake requirements. All that matters is how much the vehicle, with load, weighs on the scale.

The law does not give police officers the authority to stop vehicles for the purpose of inspecting brakes (except for Illinois State Police troopers). All other police officers must first lawfully stop the vehicle. The law also does not give the police officer the authority to lawfully stop a vehicle and then begin a fishing expedition, or unconstitutional search, for brake violations. This is fruit of the poisonous tree.

If a police officer wishes to enforce the laws governing brakes in the Illinois Vehicle Code, he must follow an appropriate investigative path:
•   He can ask the driver if he would be willing to independently engage the trailer brakes.
•   He can ask the driver to open the battery compartment on the trailer to see if there is a battery.
•   He can ask the driver if he can weigh the trailer to see if it is even heavy enough to meet certain brake requirements.

A driver can at any time tell the officer “no” to the questions above and the investigation stops. An officer cannot use “reason to believe” a trailer’s weight is exceeding braking requirements. That burden of proof is reserved for overweight violations only.

Just because a police officer believes a trailer weighs in excess of 3,000 pounds does not mean he can order it to the scale. Similarly, just because an officer believes a vehicle weighs in excess of 5,000 pounds does he have the right to declare the trailer must have an emergency breakaway system.  The driver of a truck is entitled to the same civil liberties as the driver of a car, and police officers do not make a practice of stopping cars to check brakes.

Safety is paramount, but a mere suspicion of safety violations does not justify poor enforcement methodologies.

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Full Reciprocity Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Village of Moneylust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise they are just actors facing a certain judgment.

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Rookie Truckers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeeps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trucks & TVDLs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whose Fine Is It Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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