Get Your Money’s Worth

Since 2009, the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has made enormous strides in enhancing training for both truck enforcement officers and members of the trucking community. The goal has remained the same since ITEA’s inception and its mission will remain clear moving forward; bridge the gap between the trucking industry and those who regulate them.

Every year, the number of people whom the ITEA reaches greatly increases. Many of those new contacts know of the organization because of weekly blogs like this one. The goal of these blogs is to ensure that valuable information is disseminated to individuals who are impacted by commercial vehicle regulation and enforcement. For many, these weekly articles serve as a quick refresher on truck laws while for some, it is just leisurely reading material. What you may not know is how much more there is to the ITEA than these weekly briefs.

As the organization has grown, so have our responsibilities to our members. Those in law enforcement are, by far, the most active members.. From educational classes to the online forum, the ITEA allows officers from around the state to network and communicate about all things related to commercial vehicle enforcement. It is safe to say that police officers around Illinois are getting their money’s worth out of their membership to the ITEA.

But what about other members or those who are only on our weekly email list? Are they aware of what ITEA member benefits they may be missing out on?

While law enforcement members make up a majority of our membership, there are more than 100 members from the trucking industry! For those members, the ITEA has a plethora of services offered to drivers, owners and safety managers of trucking companies throughout Illinois.  The most popular service the ITEA provides to trucking members is traffic citation review.

If a member company or their driver receives a citation related to commercial vehicle regulation, the ITEA will assist in answering any of the confusing questions about the law violated. In many cases the violation is the result of a simple misunderstanding of the law or how it is enforced.

If this is the case, the ITEA will provide information and documentation needed to avoid future violations. With the assistance of regulatory agencies and other law enforcement professionals within the state, there is no question which cannot be answered.

For those who prefer to get the answers before they are cited for a violation, an ITEA membership gives access to all Standards of Practice (SOPs) and other resource documents. These are the very same items we use to train police officers in the signature Basic and Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer classes.

These documents are not only available online, but also on mobile devices for quick reference. These resource materials include flow charts for weight and size regulations, CDLs, safety tests and many other topics which are relevant to operating a commercial vehicle.

Members also have access to our online forum. This forum is open to all members throughout the state and allows instant communication with hundreds of other ITEA members in the industry. It also allows users to post questions which can be answered by ITEA leadership, many of whom are experienced law enforcement officers. The online forum is a great way to network with others, all while gaining a little more knowledge about the carrier industry.

ITEA trucking members also have access to training classes taught by the ITEA’s group of knowledgeable instructors. Many ITEA classes are geared to appeal to both those in law enforcement and those within the trucking industry.

The ITEA’s annual conference is open to all members and features professionals from Illinois’ regulatory agencies, law enforcement and trucking associations. This conference is a one-stop-shop for all commercial vehicle education needs.

Can’t make the annual conference? No problem, we will come to you! The ITEA offers educational seminars that are geared specifically to the needs of member trucking companies. Members can request to have an ITEA instructor come and speak at safety meetings and other seminars to help keep the company in compliance.

These classes are also a great way to allow drivers to understand things from a law enforcement perspective and even ask an experienced commercial vehicle enforcement officer any questions they may have. This is another example of how the ITEA is attempting to level the playing field and bridge the gap between law enforcement and the trucking industry.

Do any of those things appeal to you? If so, visit www.illinoistruckcops.com and click on “join us” to find out more about membership. For those who are members, ask yourself if you are using your membership to its full potential. If the answer is no, let the ITEA help you take the steps to get your money’s worth!

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Split the Difference

The goal for anyone looking for a relationship is to find the special someone who “completes you,” who meshes with your personality and character so well you coexist in perfect harmony. This is not to say one must be identical with the other person, rather complement each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. As with all ideals, there often comes a time for compromise, but how much compromise is too much? The article this week will discuss compromise in the face of statutory truck law contradictions.

In the courts, judges and juries decide where the compromise begins and where it ends. Once a police officer issues a citation, only the courts have the authority to change, accept or dismiss a citation or arrest.

However, police officers have an incredibly powerful tool called discretion. Discretion is what gives a police officer the ability to make decisions appropriate for the situation. Without discretion, there can be no compromise and cohesiveness becomes diluted in a world of black and white law enforcement.

The Illinois Vehicle Code makes a compromise with certain trucks having what is commonly known as a “split tandem”. As most truckers and truck officers know, a tandem is a series of two or more axles where the distance from the center of the hub on one axle, to the center of the hub on the next axle is more than 40 inches, but is less than 96 inches.

In a normal configuration, a tandem is allowed a maximum weight of 34,000 pounds. However, if the distance from hub to hub is between 72 and 96 inches, this configuration is called a split tandem and may receive additional weight under certain circumstances.

Confused? Continue reading…

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has a document called the Hamilton Weight Chart. It is a reference guide for ITEA members (both enforcement and industry) to use to help distinguish what types of trucks receive what weights. Cement mixers come in many configurations and are covered extensively in the chart, since they are infamous for causing confusion and frustration to truck officers.

Last month a certified ITEA truck officer stopped a 4-axle cement mixer registered as a Special Hauling Vehicle (SHV) that was driving on a public highway with its rear adjustable axle in the air. Since the truck only had three axles on the ground, it was treated the same as a 3-axle cement mixer. The problem the officer ran into was that the cement mixer had a split tandem.

The distance between the two drive axles was 74 inches. The officer turned to the Hamilton Weight Chart and discovered a contradiction in Illinois Vehicle Code law. The Hamilton Weight Chart states a 3-axle truck registered as an SHV with a split tandem receives 36,000 pounds on the tandem. However, the weight chart also states that a 3-axle rear discharge cement mixer registered as an SHV receives 40,000 pounds on the tandem.

So which is it? It would appear this vehicle qualifies under more than one category. Because the officer was trained by the ITEA, he made the mature decision in favor of the industry. He took the high road and gave the truck the higher weight allowance which resulted in the trucker driving away without an expensive ticket. He then took it upon himself to share this information with the ITEA so it could be discussed.

Contradictions are nothing new to the law books of Illinois and they are nothing new to police officers. Contradictions are an inevitable discovery for police officers, and they will not be reproved for being unable to figure out which way to proceed without help. Rather the officer will be praised by the ITEA when they decide to make a decision which protects the industry.

 

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The Goose and the Gander

Illinois, we’re sorry. No one is happy about the recent income and business tax increase in the Land of Lincoln. Even more irritating is paying state income tax and federal income tax. The same occurs in truck world when it comes to oversize and overweight (OSOW) permits. The State of Illinois issues OSOW permits for roadways under their jurisdictions and so do many locals. Similar? Yes. Different. You betcha. The article this week will discuss a scenario which occurs during enforcement of state permits, but not necessarily local permits.

In 2006, the Illinois Department of Transportation began issuing “blanket” or “LCO” (limited continuous operation) permits for overweight vehicles carrying interchangeable loads. One of the conditions of these permits was the minimum axles spacings listed must be met. In the event the minimum axle spacings were not met, the permit is considered void. A voided permit results in the truck only receiving legal weights, which is usually accompanied by a large fine.

When IDOT released its automated permitting system (ITAP) in 2013, the new permit format began listing individual axle spacings on overweight permits. Per Administrative Rule 554.212, an overweight permit which does not meet minimum axle spacings, is fraudulent. A fraudulent permit, per the Illinois Vehicle Code, is void.

The question truck officers are routinely asked by carriers is “why is a permit deemed fraudulent if the minimum axle spacings are not met?” The reason is engineering. When an applicant inputs axle spacings and axle weights into the ITAP system, there are countless algorithms evaluating roadway and elevated structure integrity for the entire route.

While the math is complicated, the theory is not. The more weight spread over a short footprint will do more damage to the infrastructure than less weight spread over a greater footprint.

If the route selected by the applicant passes, the permit will most likely be approved on the contingency the axles weights and spacings are truly representative of the vehicle in real life. Unfortunately, unscrupulous carriers will enter axle weights and spacings which in reality are shorter than what was entered into ITAP.

The goal of this deception is to get the system to approve higher weight limits using routes calculated on a longer wheelbase. The goal of law enforcement is to detect carriers who do not meet the minimum axle spacings as listed on overweight IDOT issued permits.

The question the ITEA is routinely asked is if trucks officers can enforce this same minimum axle spacing scenario on local roads covered by local permits.

The answer is both yes and no. The Illinois Vehicle Code, which is enforceable by all police officers throughout the state, is silent to the issue of minimum axle spacings. As mentioned earlier, IDOT has an Administrative Rule, or policy, to define the term “fraudulent” which in turn has a statutory penalty. If a local police officer wishes to enforce the axle spacing issue on their local permits on their local roads, they first need to create a similar policy defining “fraudulent”.

Second, the local permit must also collect axle spacings and axle weights similar to what IDOT collects. It would be a defensible argument to show a police officer enforced minimum axle spacings on a local permit which did not actually list minimum axle spacings.

What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

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I Saw the Sign

They come in all different colors, shapes and sizes. Some are old, some are new, but the one thing they all have in common is each has a unique message which is meant to assist the motoring public in being compliant with the law. Once again, this article is talking about a type of traffic control device seen daily. Traffic signs. In the world of commercial vehicles, there is often confusion about these seemingly harmless, reflective, works of art. Their placement, content and ramifications if violated are always topics brought to the ITEA by its members.

Over the years, there have been many hard fought court battles regarding the meaning and legitimacy of signs limiting the weight and size of trucks. Often times these battles are initiated by an incident where one party simply doesn’t understand its responsibility to post, enforce or obey a traffic control sign.

The most common sign a trucker will see on their route is a local weight limit sign. What do these signs look like? Well, the truth is, it depends on the jurisdiction traveled through and what the local has decided to put on their signs.

Local jurisdictions have the authority to restrict commercial vehicles on roads they own and maintain. This means a city, village, township or county may pass an ordinance or resolution restricting the weights or size of vehicles.

The caveat is if a vehicle violates the sign and travels on the restricted roadway, they cannot be enforced as overweight or oversize as it pertains to what the state law says a vehicle can be. For example, a truck weighing 10,000 pounds travels on a local road with a posted 5,000 pound weight limit. The driver cannot be cited for an overweight violation. Instead, the vehicle may be cited two different ways.

First, it could be issued a $50 citation for violating a local restricted road. Second it could be cited for disobeying a traffic control sign. This option will likely cost $120 before any court costs. This is a moving violation which must be reported to the Illinois Secretary of State.

Now place a weight restriction sign over an elevated structure which has been assigned a specific gross weight by the Illinois Department of Transportation. If a truck violates this sign, the driver faces fines likely in the thousands of dollars. The only distinguishable difference between the two signs is their location, yet the consequences are vastly different.

So how can a driver know which sign is which? The easiest way is to be aware of surroundings and look at where the sign is posted. Many jurisdictions have taken extra steps to ensure commercial vehicle traffic is made aware of weight restrictions well before they would have the opportunity to travel on them.

For readers more technologically advanced, weight restricted elevated structures are listed on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s website. When planning a trip, this is the best resource to make an informed routing decision.

Some may think these signs only impact drivers of larger commercial vehicles. This is not the case as smaller commercial, or even personal vehicles, can be impacted by weight restricted roads. An example would be a smaller delivery or refuse collection truck traveling on a local road. If there is a posted sign with a weight limitation and the vehicle weighs more than the sign, the vehicle is in violation. Local deliveries and pick-ups are not exempt from the limitations unless otherwise specified.

Local units of government need to be cognizant of what is posted on signs and written in ordinances. It would be unreasonable to prohibit local deliveries or garbage pick-up on residential streets without there being a major safety concern behind the reasoning for weight limit signs.

Further, jurisdictions need to make sure signs clearly state what vehicles they intend to prohibit or restrict. Simply putting “10 Ton Weight Limit” could mean many different things. Does this weight limit apply to the manufacturers Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), the actual gross weight on the scale or the registered weight?  These are all questions which should be asked and answered before signs are posted and enforcement is taken.

As is the theme in so many of the ITEA’s blog articles, the concept is to work together to make things right. Each entity has an important role to play in commercial vehicle safety. Local government needs to do their best to post clear, concise traffic control signs to assist in the prevention of violations.

Commercial vehicle operators need to exercise good judgment and be aware of their surroundings when traveling on unfamiliar routes. Finally, both need to live by the motto, “if you see something, say something.” Don’t be afraid to make suggestions or offer input to local government. After all, there is only one way to fix a problem: to make the problem known in the first place.

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Put the Phone Down

There was a time when talking to someone meant having to locate them in person and deliver a message. Then the telephone was invented and you could call someone at their house and talk to them. If they weren’t home you would leave a message and patiently wait for a return call. Now we can instantly send a message to someone from almost anywhere in the world. But what about when driving, is it safe to be on electronic devices cruising down the road? What laws pertain to all the equipment police officers and truckers have in their mobile offices?

Illinois law has two separate statutes that pertain to electronic communication devices and vehicles. One is designed for passenger cars and trucks, the other is intended for operators of commercial motor vehicles. Both are directed at drivers keeping their eyes on the road and not on a screen.

Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/12-610.1 and 12-610.2 define wireless telephones as electronic communication devices, and provide definitions needed to understand the laws. A wireless telephone is just that, a phone which can receive and make calls without a wire. An electronic communication device is a little more complicated.

“Electronic communication device” means an electronic device, including but not limited to, a hand-held wireless telephone, hand-held personal digital assistant, or a portable or mobile computer. However, this definition does not include a global positioning system or navigation system physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.

The statute goes on to give examples when a driver is exempt from the statute:

* law enforcement or other authorized emergency vehicles
* a driver using a communication device to report an emergency
* a commercial vehicle driver reading a message on a permanently mounted device with a screen that does not exceed at least 10 inches by 10 inches
* while parked on the side of the roadway
* when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the vehicle is in park or neutral
* two way or citizens band radio
* amateur radio users
* using a single button to start or end a phone call
* a driver using an electronic communication device capable of performing multiple functions, other than a hand-held wireless telephone or hand-held personal digital assistant (for example, a fleet management system, dispatching device, citizens band radio, or music player) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited by this Section.

For the common motor vehicle driver. In a nutshell, put the phone down. Although it is not illegal to use a phone while stopped at a red light (if the car is in neutral), what usually happens is the light turns green and the driver is still looking at the phone. Traffic will start moving and the officer will start writing the ticket as the driver sits there texting.

As for using a cell phone GPS system, best practice would be to set it before the trip and forget it. Although GPS systems are listed as an exemption, if the driver is looking at screen and simultaneously runs a red light, the officer will start writing the ticket.

A laptop on the center console while driving also does not meet the definition of installed. One certainly should not be entering purchase orders while cruising along the highway. This will not make the cut and the officer will start writing that ticket.

The best practice is to use a hands-free system that will make calls on command, voice integration will keep the driver up to date, read texts out load and the user to respond. Being distracted by a phone is like driving under the influence. Mental process time slows down and reactions become delayed.

For anyone who has looked inside a modern police car, it’s a wonder any driving can be accomplished. Between the radios, the computer, the cameras and radar gun there is also a cell phone. All too often officers are using one or more of the gadgets at the same time while driving down the road.

It is important for officers to remember to be an example for others and try to limit the distractions inside the car. This is a hard task as they are constantly getting messages on the computer or running a license plate. Police officers can limit phone use in the car, especially while driving. Pulling into a parking lot to talk on the phone might be the example needed for someone to follow suit.

Commercial vehicle drivers, it is imperative that you put the phone down. Switch to a hands-free system. The penalties for driving a commercial motor vehicle (those which require a CDL) and talking on your phone are far greater than a regular driver. The risk of losing your commercial driver’s license is there, and should be all that is needed to make someone think twice before talking on their cell phone while driving that big rig.

Together we can work on making Illinois a safer state to drive in. Enjoy the roads around you and the beauty that Illinois offers. Put the phone down and enjoy driving again.

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Slow Down, Move Over

On June 28, 2017 Illinois State Police Officer Ryan Albin was killed in a traffic crash involving a semi-truck. This is the third traffic crash to take an Illinois State Trooper’s life in 5 years, and all three have involved a commercial vehicle. These deaths are not only a loss to the trooper’s family and the law enforcement community, but also a loss to the State of Illinois. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association sends it deepest condolences to the families of these troopers. To help prevent these deaths and lower the increasing number of traffic fatalities statewide, Illinois has expanded Scott’s Law beginning in 2017.

Chicago Fire Lieutenant Scott Gillen was killed in the year 2000 while assisting at a traffic crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway. As a result, Illinois passed Scott’s law, or the “move over” law. The law requires the following:

625 ILCS 5.0/11-907(c) upon approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue lights or amber or yellow warning lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall;

(1)   proceeding with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or

(2)   proceeding with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.

When a driver sees a police vehicle with its emergency lights on, pulled over on the side of the road, every effort should be made to create a wide berth for the safety of the officer and the person he is dealing with. Police officers make every attempt to stop a vehicle in place safest for all parties, but people are unpredictable and sometimes they stop in dangerous places. This creates a hazard for not only the motorist, but the officer and those travelling on the road attempting to pass.

Punishments for not giving space or slowing down are harsh, including the possibility of a 2-year driver’s license suspension if someone is injured. The goal is to keep officers safe as they work at roadside. In 2017 the law was expanded to include more than just emergency responders.

In Illinois, any vehicle with hazard lights flashing stopped on the side of the road is covered under Scott’s law. This means when you see a vehicle broken down on the side of the road, you must slow down and change lanes, if possible. Be aware people may be walking or standing on the roadway.

Construction zones are another spot where drivers must have more than normal situational awareness. Trooper Albin’s crash occurred as he and a box truck entered a construction zone and slowed for traffic. Construction zones present hazards for the workers as well as the motorists passing through them. Between years 2000-2008, 25% of work zone fatalities involved large trucks, compared to 12% of all highway fatalities.

As a large truck enters a construction zone, the driver should be concentrating on the road ahead and the changes in speed limits or traffic patterns. Often trucks are told to stay in the right lane in a construction zone, and that’s for good reason. They should be travelling slower and prepared for sudden stops. This doesn’t mean cars may continue driving through a construction zone at full throttle. Every motorist should use caution through a construction zone.

The trucking industry and law enforcement can work to reduce traffic fatalities on our roads. By providing room for stopped vehicles, you will give a police officer room to work. Being conscious of construction zones and the reduced speeds sets a tone for other motorists to change their unsafe behaviors.

Remember, that police officer pulled over on the side of the road is not just someone writing a ticket. He or she is a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, or daughter. They want to go home to their family and they are asking everyone to be more aware. Slow down and move over.

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Wait for it… Wait for it…

The world is bent on instant gratification. The internet has become such an effective medium of communication it causes anxiety when people cannot receive information immediately. Shame on impatient people? Probably a fair assumption, but yesterday is the standard for today’s notification. There are some things, however, which everyone must wait on. For those readers hailing from Illinois, it is legislation. While you wait for the new cat video on YouTube to load, read on about new bills affecting the trucking industry sitting on Governor Rauner’s desk, waiting for a signature.

HB0683

A few weeks ago, this blog discussed the new length bill which passed through both houses of the General Assembly. HB0683 would increase the maximum overall length of semi-tractor trailer combinations on local roads from 55’ to 65’. You can read more about it HERE. This bill has now been sent to the Governor and is awaiting his signature or veto.

HB2492

Last year, the ITEA reported on a bill limiting the maximum weights of fire trucks on all highways in Illinois. To say the scathing article remained quiet would be a massive understatement. The ITEA received an astonishing number of phone calls from disbelieving firefighters, fire associations and municipal officials. The disbelief of how the Federal FAST Act mandates were improperly codified in Illinois law left everyone catching flies while their mouths were left gaping open.

In response, HB2492 was drafted to repair the damage. Originally the replacement bill struck the new weight limits altogether from all Illinois roads. This too was incorrect. An amendment to the bill was added to correctly abide by the FAST Act mandate and impose the weight restriction on federal highways only. The reader may believe this is a bad idea too, but it is what the feds have regulated. Call your congressional representative!

HB2543

Everyone sees all the numbers on the side of semi-truck when it passes by. Every large truck operating commercially needs an authority. For those carriers who never leave the State of Illinois, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) regulates. For those operating interstate, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulates.

For many years, the ICC has required interstate carriers to display their intrastate ICC number on the side of the truck in addition to their USDOT number. While local police in Illinois have no authority over the enforcement of this law, the ICC police do. This bill, if signed by the governor, would allow interstate carriers to only display their USDOT number.

HB2580

People from the northeast portion of Illinois seem to forget the bulk of Illinois is rural with an economy based heavily on agriculture. From time to time, the Governor will declare an emergency harvest. This is a big deal to farmers.

HB2580, if signed, would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation and local authorities to issue overweight permits for divisible loads, up to a certain percentage of weight, for combinations of vehicles hauling particular agriculture commodities during the declaration. This bill would also exempt them from the overweight on registration language in Chapter 3 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

HB3172

Most, but not all trucks are required to display safety inspection stickers. The ITEA maintains a flow chart to help make this difficult law easier to understand, but it may very well become a little more complicated if the Governor signs HB3172. But it will be big win for the trucking industry!
In a continuing trend to sync State and Federal laws, this bill harmonizes the frequency of intrastate and interstate semi-tractors and semi-trailers to obtain safety inspections. Currently, semi-tractors and trailers operating intrastate-only are required to be inspected by an IDOT safety lane facility twice per year. Identical trucks and trailers with interstate authority are only required to have an annual periodic inspection.
Under HB3172, intrastate carriers operating semi-tractors and trailers will only have to visit IDOT once per year.

While none of these laws are signed and sealed yet, there is no reason to believe Governor Rauner will veto. Then again, this is Illinois, a state of the verge of financial collapse.

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We All Wear Masks

In 1994, actor Jim Carey starred in a comedy called “The Mask.” Carey plays character Stanley Ipkiss who has a reserved, vanilla personality and lackluster social life. He locates a magical mask containing the spirit of Loki, a Norse god which transforms him into a boisterous character who exudes confidence, charm and wit – the exact opposite of his true persona. However, his antics become increasingly perverse and destructive. Ultimately, Ipkiss destroys the mask to prevent it from completely dismantling his life. The moral of the story is that while you can mask certain elements of yourself, you can never truly escape who you are.  A current hot button topic in the world of commercial vehicle safety is a concept called “masking”, and the article this week will explain why it is so destructive to a CDL holder.

Masking occurs when a CDL holder receives a citation for a traffic violation, which is later reduced or amended to a different offense to avoid negative sanctions. This concept was the primary focus of a recent conference attended by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and regulatory agencies from around the nation.

The overwhelming sentiment from the conference was masking violations is detrimental to the safety of motorists traveling on the nation’s roadways. Masking allows dangerous drivers to continue their unsafe driving habits without ever being fully accountable for their actions. Drivers who continuously ask officers, prosecutors and judges to “cut slack”, or make deals to protect the CDL holder’s interests, may never have to face the consequences for their behavior.

The solution seems simple enough – don’t allow violators who hold CDLs to hide their poor driving habits behind amended or reduced charges. After all, CDL holders should be held to a higher standard, right? Well, the answer is not so simple.

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has always prided itself on bridging the gap between law enforcement and the trucking industry. More problems can be solved working together than divided. Masking is another one of those problems which can be overcome through unity and accountability.

To say CDL holders should always be held to a higher standard and should have to face the maximum consequences for every mistake is not only wrong, it defies everything the ITEA stands for. The fact is mistakes are made by the best and the worst of us. The important thing is to discern who’s making the mistakes, the intent of the person and the likelihood the person will learn from the consequence.

However, carte blanche masking of traffic violations because the person holds a CDL is not the proper way to handle cases either. Some individuals who go without proper discipline for their actions are likely to repeat their behavior. This means drivers who take unreasonable risks while driving may continue to do so with the feeling of invincibility because they’re CDL holders.

Conversely, this doesn’t mean every CDL holder is brazen enough to drive without due regard for the safety of other motorists because they drive a commercial vehicle for a living. Repeat offenders almost certainly represent a very small minority of all operators.

Accountability is the arguably the most important core value of the ITEA, but accountability comes in many different facets. As it pertains to the current topic, every entity needs to be accountable for their actions.

To the CDL holders, continue to drive safe and be responsible. If you happen to find yourself on the receiving end of a traffic ticket, understand the officer has made a determination the violation was worthy of a citation. Take a moment to think about the events leading up to the traffic stop and what could have been done to prevent the violation from occurring. Learn from the mistake made and understand the officer is not trying to ruin your livelihood, but make the roadways safer. If you believe the officer was wrong, you are entitled to your day in court.

To the police officers, use your authority responsibly. Because you can write a citation, doesn’t mean you always should. CDL holders have much invested in their licenses, and while they do have more skin in the game, mistakes do happen. Do your best to determine the type of driver with whom you are dealing. Is it the professional who made a simple error, or the habitual offender? While this isn’t always possible, use your best judgment. Chances are you’ll get it right.

To the prosecutors, do your homework on the history of the driver. Don’t assume the person holding a CDL is a pillar of the professional trucking community. On the other hand, don’t assume every truck driver is attempting to get one over on you or will continue dangerous driving habits because you cut them some slack. Most drivers depend on the validity of their CDL to put a roof over their head and food on their table.

What is the best solution to masking? Stanley Ipkiss would likely tell you wearing his magical mask in moderation would have positively impacted his life without causing harm to others. Rampant abuse of the mask, however, is a recipe for disaster.

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When is a CDL Required?

The world of truck enforcement is a world of never ending questions. Most people will agree the second heaviest regulated industry in the United States needs rules and regulations. Most people will also agree there is a great deal of discontinuity in the dissemination of these laws, how they are to be interpreted and how they are to be enforced. This level of discontinuity gives birth to such organizations as the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. The article this week will cover one of these laws – the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act.

Over-the-road truck drivers can attest from experience how laws seem to change from state to state. Most local drivers will also affirm laws seem to change from town to town, even within the same state. There are some laws, however, which the federal government institutes and decrees all fifty states must abide by uniformly.

There are 3.8 million square miles in this great nation. Whether the road takes you to Lubec, Maine in the east or Cape Wrangell, Alaska in the west, the requirements for needing a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are the same.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

The manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) provides the definitive answer as to whether a CDL is required or not. If a single vehicle has a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, a CDL class B is required. In combinations, if the vehicle being towed (trailer) has a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more, and the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) exceeds 26,001 pounds or more, a CDL class A is required.

Are there exceptions? Of course, but this is the basic premise of CDL law. This information can be found on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website HERE. In the event the manufacturer’s GVWR is not available, there is only one other option to determine if a CDL is required, which is discussed in this next section.

Actual Vehicle Weight

Regardless of the manufacturer’s GVWR of the vehicle, the actual physical weight of the vehicle on the scale may require the driver to have a CDL. For instance, a dump truck with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less would not require a CDL to operate. It would require a CDL class B if the actual weight on the scale is 26,001 pounds or more. This is a true comparison, and the higher of the two (manufacturer’s GVWR vs actual weight on the scale) determines the necessity for a CDL.

In older trucks, it is common for the manufacturer’s stickers to fade and wear off. In these situations, police officers must use the vehicle’s actual weight. Police officers may also combine actual weight with one vehicle in a combination and the GVWR of the other. When combined, police officers will always use whichever number is greater.

Vehicles Requiring Endorsements

A Ford F-150 with a manufacturer’s GVWR of 8,000 pounds does not require a CDL to operate. Its GVWR and actual weight on the scale are both well below the 26,000 pound threshold. However, if the same Ford F-150 is used to haul demolition explosives, and if by federal definition the explosives are a hazardous material requiring placards, a CDL is required. This is because a CDL is required to add the haz mat endorsement. The Illinois Secretary of State does not have the authority to endorse a non-CDL with hazmat, passengers, double-triples, tankers, etc.

These line items requiring a driver to have a CDL seem relatively simple but many truck drivers have found themselves in trouble because they did not have a CDL when required. This is not a good place to be in Illinois because not having a CDL when required is a class-A misdemeanor. A class-A misdemeanor can carry a jail sentence and heavy fines.

Unfortunately, police officers have also made costly mistakes when enforcing CDL laws. This can be attributed to poor training or lack thereof. One erroneous method of instruction is to use the registered weight (license plate) of the vehicle(s) when the manufacturer’s GVWR is not available. This is 100% wrong. It’s also incorrect to use weight specifications listed in owner’s manuals or online VIN decoders.

As mentioned before, it’s the manufacturer’s GVWR or actual weight on the scale. That’s it.

 

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A Tale of One City

New laws are created every day. Legislators create laws to keep people safe, enact taxes and make lives better. Sometimes laws which are created are not looked at again for many years, even though they may have become antiquated due to advances in technology, safety or increase in population. So how does a community learn when it’s time to update local ordinances to better serve a community?

Recently a municipality reached out to the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association to ask for help with their local ordinances pertaining to trucks. As with many laws in Illinois, their ordinances had never been updated to meet the needs of the trucking community or the people they serve. As a result, a ticket was issued which caused a stir on social media, bringing negative attention to the community.

If this was a “choose your own adventure” scenario, the decision could be either continue writing tickets the same way (the wrong way), or reach out to leaders in the law enforcement community to figure out how to do things better.

The organization in this fable chose the second path (the right way).  This police department contacted the ITEA for help in making their ordinances fit the community.

An effective ordinance in one town may not be so in the neighboring town. This does not mean there isn’t a solution, only that the solution may need to be achieved differently. By changing the ordinances to meet the needs for the surrounding area is better than using a blanket ordinance for all laws involving trucks.

A partnership was born and the ITEA and this police department will begin to work on revising their local ordinances to best fit the needs of the trucking industry operating in their town. By updating their local laws, the streets can be made safer for the community because the industry will have a clear understanding of how to make safe passage through the town.

These are the partnerships which make the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association an important piece of the puzzle for both police agencies and the trucking industry.  Together, the ITEA and industry can make Illinois a truck friendly state while still creating a safe environment for residents.

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