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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Stretching Out

Sitting still has never done a person good. People need to get up, move and exercise to maintain their health. Holding fast to sedentary habits leads to all sorts of medical issues. To combat the illnesses associated with doing nothing, one must purpose to change or atrophy sets in. There is no greater example of this in truck law than vehicle length limits. Read on to learn about a radical change to Illinois length law now sitting on the Governor’s desk!

No one would legalize murder to save money on prosecuting and incarcerating criminals. Nobody would raise the DUI per se limit to .200 to accommodate drunk drivers needing to get to work. Merely changing laws for the sake of an evolving culture, which could put public safety at risk, is hardly advisable.

However, vehicle length law is not murder. It’s not as dangerous as excessive speeding or driving highly intoxicated. Yes, there is a length ceiling which trucks probably should not exceed which could put public safety and infrastructure at risk, but that does not mean current length standards are appropriate either.

The overall length law for semi-tractor trailer combinations has not changed in Illinois since the 1950s. Bumper to bumper, the maximum legal measurement for this configuration of vehicles on local roads is 55’.

Unless a 53’ trailer is coupled with a 2’ tractor, these combinations will always be over length on local roads. Should the law change solely to legalize illegal operation of vehicles? Couldn’t carriers simply choose to operate shorter trailers?

More than forty years have passed since 53’ trailers have been introduced on the highways of Illinois and the law has not changed to accommodate them on local roads. They are the industry standard for truckload operations.

Opponents have argued the infrastructure of Illinois cannot handle the longer combinations, and in theory there is some truth to this. Many intersections in cities and villages were engineered for shorter combinations. However, as communities have grown, much infrastructure has been modified to meet changing industry standards even if statute has not changed.

Further, there is a lack of scholarly studies which prove longer combinations have played any role in jeopardizing public safety or are responsible for a disproportional amount of damage to the road system.

The reality is these combinations have been operating for decades with a minuscule percentage of problems compared to mega volume of 53’ trailers on the highways.

What has happened is a dramatic increase in enforcement of this ancient length standard. Truckers in violation of this law, although having done nothing else wrong, have also been found liable when crashes occur due to the negligence of other motorists.

The argument is this, “Hey – if the trucker would have complied with the [ridiculous] length law, it would not have been on this road and my intoxicated client with a suspended driver’s license would not have run into the truck and killed himself.” That’s fantastic. Thanks Mr. Lawyer.

Similar to increasing all highways to a uniform 80,000 pound maximum gross weight limit across all highways in 2010, Illinois is last to hold onto a 55’ overall length limit for semis. Failure to update this law keeps business from moving into Illinois and enforcement of the law is pushing business out. One more log thrown on the damnation fire for a state teetering on the brink of financial hell.

Both the Illinois House and Senate have passed HB 683 which will now move to Governor Rauner to sign or veto. If signed into law, the overall length of semi-tractor trailer combinations will increase from 55’ to 65’ on local roads. This will cover most 53’ trailers pulled by day cabs, but those trailers being towed by a sleeper cab will most likely still be in violation.

The law also provides two carrots to local government. First, it allows local government to seek compensation for damage to infrastructure caused by combinations exceeding 55’. Also, the law protects local government from being mandated to improve infrastructure to accommodate the longer vehicles (which were already operating anyhow).

A small bit of improvement for Illinois. Here’s to hoping the next common sense vehicle length law change does not take four decades to pass.

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Two Completely Separate Entities

Consistency. This one word is what the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has strived to provide in all truck enforcement efforts across the state for the better part of a decade. Those from Illinois know when it comes to government functions, there is often much to be desired when it comes to consistency. The only thing which seems to be consistent is the constant change in rules and regulations. This article will discuss a specific delegation of duties in Illinois which typically leaves police officers and carriers begging for regulatory consistency.

One of the most commonly entangled areas in commercial vehicle enforcement, from both an industry and law enforcement perspective, are the responsibilities of the different regulatory agencies within Illinois.

Take, for example, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS). Both regulatory agencies have specific responsibilities who seemingly have little impact on one another. Most individuals are aware the Illinois Secretary of State handles issues regarding registration, driver’s licensing and vehicle titles, while the Illinois Department of Transportation deals with all things Illinois roadways.

While it doesn’t happen very often, there are occasions when these two worlds collide. When this collision occurs, the financial consequences can be quite burdensome for carriers.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Illinois Department of Transportation, and units of local government, is the issuance of oversize and overweight permits. Generally, the issuance of these permits have very little, if anything to do with the registration of the permitted vehicle.

In its Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class, the ITEA teaches officers the concept of equivocation. Essentially, while the information on a permit should be accurate, the fact that it is not perfectly accurate doesn’t necessarily make the permit itself void. Part of this process has to do with the registration listed on the permit.

In many circumstances, if a permit has an incorrect license plate listed and the vehicle is stopped by law enforcement, the consequence would be a $120.00 citation for a violation of the permit.  The reasoning is this: just because a company changes out a power unit, it doesn’t mean they didn’t pay the permit fee to carry the extra weight on Illinois roadways.

While permit information should be accurate, statute allows leeway in this situation. This idea is simple enough – allow a margin of error while still holding carriers responsible for the inaccurate information supplied. The permit is still valid, but there is a problem demanding enforcement.

As it pertains to IDOT, the rule to only cite for a violation of permit only applies to permits having a pre-approved route assigned as a single or round trip permit. The validity of the permit must be equivocally compared against the vehicle, the load and the permittee collectively.

When looking at IDOT’s Limited Continuous Operation (LCO) permits, the game is completely changed. LCO permits allow oversize and overweight vehicles to operate continuously on state highways without a pre-approved route.

Unlike assigned route permits, the license plate listed on an LCO permit is the sole criteria to establish validity. If a vehicle stopped by law enforcement has an LCO permit with the incorrect plate, the permit is not valid for that move.

This means the vehicle will only receive legal weights and dimensions and can be cited for those violations. The fines in these circumstances can be in the thousands of dollars.

Why the difference? The simple answer is LCO permits are far less regulated than assigned route permits. This makes these permits more susceptible for abuse by carriers. A carrier could obtain an LCO permit and allow multiple vehicles to use the permit with the only real consequence being a $120.00 citation. This would put legitimate, law abiding companies at a competitive disadvantage.

While registration plays a primary role in the aforementioned scenarios, what role does the Illinois Secretary of State play in these violations? The answer is none whatsoever.

The SOS has no interest in which agency issues oversize/overweight permits, which vehicles are operating on this authority or which roadways in Illinois those vehicles are traveling. As long as the vehicle owner pays the appropriate fee (weight tax), they are good to go in the eyes of Jesse White and his staff.

How could this be? Because the SOS and IDOT are two completely separate entities who regulate two entirely different aspects of trucking.

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Fixing Mistakes

The most important life lessons learned are from bad decisions made. Time and experience can be excellent teachers when a lesson is learned from poor decisions. Experience comes from a way of living and making adjustments. Failure to learn from mistakes runs the risk of repeating them. Unfortunately, for many people, it takes a few repeats of the same mistake to learn the lesson. One costly mistake that is often made in trucking is operating overweight vehicles.

Overweight vehicles come in many different varieties. These vehicles can be overweight on an individual axle, overweight on a tandem or series of axles, overweight on the overall gross weight or overweight on registration.

Vehicles operating at legal weight can also be ‘temporarily overweight’ if they cross an elevated structure, are driving down a weight restricted road or have their tandem or fifth wheel in an incorrect position. Vehicles operating under the authority of an overweight permit can be overweight if their axle spacings are incorrect, if the wrong number of axles are engaged or if the driver makes a wrong turn onto a road not listed on the permit.

Thankfully, there is a way for overweight vehicles to make adjustments and keep commerce progressing – legalize it. No, the ITEA isn’t talking about a green leafy substance, but rather legalizing the load carried. So, before your eyes turn red and hazy and you get the munchies, please read on.

The method in which the load is legalized depends on the way the vehicle is overweight.

Overweight on Axles or Gross Weight – The solution here is relatively unpretentious. The load either needs to be adjusted or part of the load needs to be offloaded. A simple task if the load is palletized, but not so simple if the load is an aggregate. An adjustment of the fifth wheel location or sliding the trailer tandem back or forward may also accomplish the task.

Overweight on Registration – Another easy fix. The Illinois Secretary of State will allow a vehicle owner to register for as much or as little registration weight as desired. Despite rumors and wives’ tales, there is no such rule mandating a person to buy specific license plates or purchase enough registration weight to cover the GVWR of the vehicle.
An owner can buy a brand new 2017 Peterbilt 579 sleeper cab and walk into the Secretary of State and register the truck for 8,000 pounds. The same person can buy a new Ford F150 and register that vehicle for 80,000 pounds. There are no rules to the contrary.

Not purchasing enough registration weight is a huge problem in the Land of Lincoln. Truck enforcement officers issue more tickets to truckers for being overweight on their registration than any other type of overweight ticket. Fleet managers and owner/operators need to know the actual gross weight their vehicles will be operating at and register their vehicles accordingly.

In the event a truck is found to be operating above its registered weight, there are two easy solutions. One, offload part of the load to lower the weight to the registered weight. Two, purchase more registered weight at that very moment before the truck is driven any further.

Overweight on a Permit – Any vehicle operating on a valid permit must be within the weight limits listed on the permit. If a permit load is found to be operating beyond these weights, the permittee needs to reapply for a new permit covering the actual weight of the vehicle at the time it was stopped and weighed.

Being able to fix a mistake on scene and continuing operations is something unique to the trucking industry. When police stop drunk drivers, the officer does not stay on scene and wait for the driver to sober up and then let them drive away. A driver with a suspended driver’s license cannot simply call the Secretary of State to fix the problem over the phone. When these types of violations are discovered, there is no passing go. It’s straight to jail.

The best way to fix an overweight vehicle is to prevent it from being overweight in the first place. Read Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code where laws pertaining to vehicle weights are codified. Follow those rules, call the ITEA with questions and avoid costly mistakes!

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What’s Happening at the ITEA?

Since the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association began in 2009, the opportunities and networking has greatly expanded. This organization now has more than 600 members and is always building momentum in Illinois as a resource for anyone involved in the trucking industry. The ITEA’s Board of Directors is constantly tasked with educational and outreach programs which not only help our members better understand truck laws, but we also help to provide perspective on how those laws will affect law enforcement efforts.

So what has the ITEA been up to recently? Read on!

Training

The ITEA continues to teach the premier truck enforcement class for police officers in Illinois. In April of 2017, the ITEA certified 20 new truck enforcement officers at our 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class. These officers came from all corners of the state – from Woodstock in the north all the way down south to Shiloh in the Metro East area. The combination of classroom instruction, coupled with hands-on practical exercises, has helped hundreds of Illinois law enforcement officers understand the complexities of truck law.

The online discussion forum continues to provide answers to questions asked by members. Police members have utilized this function of our website to better understand truck laws and to share information on the vast array of trucks encountered every day.

Trucking industry and attorney members also have access to a forum specifically designed for them. Using the forum to ask questions not only helps the person asking, but also provides the information to other members who may have the same question.

The 2017 Annual Conference on February 22nd was the biggest turnout to date, and trucking industry members had a remarkable showing. The Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Secretary of State, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois State Police and our own ITEA instructors made this conference a first-class educational experience for all attendees. The ITEA has already begun work on the 2018 conference to make it even better.

ITEA instructors have also presented educational seminars at numerous trucking companies and affiliated businesses regarding truck laws which affect their day-to-day operations. This service is offered to members and the ITEA works to tailor each presentation based on the needs of the business. The ITEA also partners with the Illinois State Police to find speakers on topics which local law enforcement does not enforce, such as federal motor carrier inspections.

Partnerships

The ITEA continues to build partnerships with other organizations and communities. Membership discounts are provided to members of the Mid-West Truckers Association and the Professional Towing and Recovery Operators of Illinois.

In 2017, the ITEA attended the Mid-West Truck and Trailer Show, sharing a booth with Truckers Against Trafficking, an ITEA benefactor. During the show, ITEA representatives had the opportunity to speak with numerous drivers and owners to help them understand Illinois’ complex laws. The convention was a great way for the ITEA to strengthen its partnership with an organization which helps shape Illinois truck legislation.

The Mid-West Truckers Association holds advisory board meetings around the state, to which the ITEA is honored to receive invitations to. ITEA leaders are provided opportunities to speak on current enforcement trends from a police perspective and receive feedback from industry members about what they see happening on the highways.

Various state agencies continue to build strong relationships with the ITEA, particularly the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Transportation. The ITEA has worked with these agencies to better understand the rules and regulations regarding things such as registration, driver’s licenses and oversize/overweight permits. In turn, their information is shared with ITEA members to provide best practices police officers, businesses and attorneys as well.

The Illinois State Police has been instrumental in the success of the ITEA. During the April Basic Truck Enforcement class, ISP troopers assisted students at the scale and provided instruction as it pertains to commercial vehicle enforcement. The relationship the ITEA has with ISP is one of great value and is a primary reason that ITEA certified truck enforcement officers are some of the best in the field.

The ITEA is growing and providing more training and partnerships to our members. If you haven’t joined yet, sign up at www.illinoistruckcops.com. If you are a member and would like to get more involved to help keep the ITEA moving forward, drop us an email at info@illinoistruckcops.com.

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Raising the Red Flag

In recent years, there has been quite a controversy about flags in the United States. As the political polarization of this nation continues to divide, arguments over the display of Old Glory, the Confederate flag and even the Blue Line flag (to commemorate fallen police officers) have been subject to heated debate. The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) has something to say about flags too, and unfortunately there is not much to debate.

However, flags on trucks are a source of confusion. This is because the legislature has specialized in writing language throughout the years which lack harmonization.

It would seem simple enough to say if a vehicle is required to display a red flag, the specifications of the flag would be consistent throughout the Code. As usual, this would be faulty thinking.

Here are some excerpts from the IVC when flags are required to be displayed on trucks and other vehicles.

Snow Plow Blades – 625 ILCS 5/15-101(c)

Legal width for any vehicle is 8’6”, including snow plow blades. However, snow plow blades can extend up to 12’ wide when certain conditions are met, one of which is displaying an 18” square flag on the driver’s corner of the blade.

Note the only requirement for these flags is to be 18” square. Fly the 18” square red ITEA flag. Fly the blue Chicago Cubs W flag. The law does not limit creative flagging, but clean, red flags are advisable.

Implements of Husbandry – 625 ILCS 5/15-102(b)(2)(B)

Scroll down a few paragraphs and find flag requirements for overwidth implements of husbandry (aka “farm equipment” for the lay reader). Like snow plow blades, these flags must be 18” square.

Unlike snow plow blades, the flags must be clean and bright red. What qualifies as “clean” and “bright” are subjective and left to the interpretation of the police officer, which is not always a good idea. Also, these flags must be free from advertising, words, emblems or insignia. No ITEA or Chicago Cubs W flags for Farmer Jim.

Portable Buildings – 625 ILCS 5/15-102(b)(3)

Moving an overwidth portable building? A red flag will be needed, but unlike the flag scenarios above, two flags are required. These flags must be red (not “bright” red) and only have to be 12” square. The flags also must be cloth, so no cheap plastic imitations of red. Be mindful where the flags are mounted, as the lawmakers have a prescription for this too.

Projecting Loads – 625 ILCS 5/12-204

The weekend warrior picks up some 12’ base trim and loads the merchandise in the back of his Ford Explorer with the rear glass up. Guess what? It the material projects more than 4’ from the back of the vehicle, and during daylight hours, guess what he needs? You guessed it. A red flag.

But it’s not only limited to a red flag, but could also be a red cloth. Notice this does not require the red flag to be made of cloth, only that a red cloth is an acceptable substitute for a red flag of any consistency. Either way, the choice belongs to the driver, but it has to be a minimum 12” square.

The more important lesson here is that while this statute does not reside in Chapter 15 of the IVC like other weight, size and load laws, this applies to all vehicles. This includes commercial vehicles with loads projecting more than 4’ to the rear.

2nd Division Vehicles – 625 ILCS 5/12-702(a)(3)

All second division vehicles (trucks, trailers and buses) weighing more than 8,000 pounds (on the scale) must carry two red-cloth flags which are 12” square or larger. Not two red-plastic flags.

Wide Loads – Administrative Code Title 92 Part 554.417

While not in the IVC, the Administrative Code has the force of law. This section is the regulatory authority for those vehicles operating oversize loads on a valid permit, issued for the state highways, by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

When vehicles are overwidth, they must display flags which wave freely in the air, within the same specs as flags in the implements of husbandry section above. Further, these flags must be displayed on the extremities of an overwidth load, and at the extreme ends of all projections, protrusions and overhangs. All four corners of a house trailer must have flags displayed.

Local permit authorities may have their own rules for flags on permit loads. Best to check with them before moving.

For police officers, don’t take enforcement action based on assumptions of what a “flag” means. Read the law critically first. Truckers, do the same or you might find yourself waving a white flag instead.

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The Use of Portable Scales – Part Two

Driving an eighty-thousand-pound vehicle is not something to be taken lightly.  It takes skill, training, patience and is a huge responsibility. Understand it took the driver of this rolling mobile office far more effort than simply walking into a trucking company asking for a job.  If truck drivers are going to be held to a higher standard than the average motorist tooling down the road, shouldn’t the police officers charged with holding truckers accountable be held to a higher standard as well?  Absolutely, and proper use of portable scales is a great place to start.

The first step police officers can take to make sure they are doing things correctly is to step up and be trained by the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. Twenty-three officers participated in the ITEA’s 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer class this past week.

These officers, from all over the State of Illinois, decided their authority should protect the industry from erroneous enforcement. Part of their training was to be certified in the use of portable scales.

Level Ground

Here’s the truth – police officers are not required to weigh vehicles on a level surface. Should they? Yes.  Does the ITEA teach this? Yes. The question begging to be answered is, “Why aren’t police officers required to weigh vehicles on a level surface?” Unfortunately, the ITEA doesn’t have an answer. Nor does anyone else because this concept is not law.

If platform and in-ground axle scales are installed level, shouldn’t portable scales be used on a level surface as well? The ITEA teaches their students to weigh on reasonably level surfaces because there is no perfectly level pavement. Being held to a higher standard means conducting enforcement that weighs in favor of the industry.

Inclement Weather

As summer approaches, the use of portable scales increases. Some “fair weather” officers will not use portable scales in the rain or bitter cold. They may tell you it is unsafe (which on occasion it can be), but if they’re honest, they don’t want to get wet or freeze their police mittens off.

There are no laws prohibiting the use of portable scales in bad weather. However, portable scales do have a tendency to ‘spit out’ when the roads are wet. This can create a dangerous situation for the police officers and vehicles near the truck being weighed. If portable scales are to be used in these conditions, due care must be taken.

Axle by Axle Weighing

Because enforcement of weight laws is not commerce, the rules of the NIST 44 Handbook discussed last week is irrelevant. Axle by axle weighing is commonplace when police officers use in ground scales. In many situations, it is necessary so the vehicle can be checked for compliance with individual axle weight and the Federal Bridge Formula.

Police officers can use portable scales for axle by axle weighing too. However, it is imperative they keep all axles within a group (such as a tandem or triple) level at the same time using other scales or dummy pads. Further, axle by axle means the whole axle. A police officer must weigh all wheels on an axle simultaneously. He cannot weigh only one wheel at a time.

Adjustable Axles

Adjustable axles can be confusing for police officers, and most truckers are unaware of the laws surrounding adjustable axles. Why? Because there are no such rules or laws in Illinois. None.

The Illinois Vehicle Code has more than 700 pages and adjustable axles are never mentioned. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations only mentions them once, and only to speak of locking pins. In the absence of governance, how do police officers properly weigh adjustable axles?

Adjustable axles come in many different varieties. Some are controlled by air pressure, some by hydraulic fluid. Some are operated at the axle itself, others from within the cab. Some adjustable have dual tires and some are singles. The best way to weigh trucks when an adjustable axle is engaged is to treat them like every other axle – level!

If the truck is being weighed to check individual axles, it’s best if all axles are level through the use of scales and dummy pads. If the truck is being weighed only to obtain gross weight, then disengage the axle.

Liquid Loads

Here’s the golden rule of liquid loads on portables – all axles must be level at the same time. If there are insufficient portable scales to weigh all the axles of the vehicle at the same time, dummy pads must be used to compensate. Again, there are no rules or regulations which mandate liquid loads be weighed level, but like all things the ITEA stands for, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Protecting the industry is the prime directive of the ITEA.

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The Use of Portable Scales – Part One

Want to get some emotions heated up in a room full of truckers and police officers? Bring up the topic of portable scales. The carrier industry will bemoan their accuracy and accuse police officers of using them solely for revenue generation. Police officers will stand on their accuracy and argue their use saves time by not dragging truckers miles and miles to a fixed scale. While these disputes may never be settled, there are some objective truths about portable scales which can be clarified for all parties.

For the sake of argument, portable scales are a tool. Like any instrument, they can be used both properly and improperly. There is no scale, fixed or portable, which measures truck weights to the micro-fraction of a pound perfectly. So to say portable scales are “accurate” or “inaccurate” is a waste of breath.

What irritates the carrier industry most about portable scales are perceived misuses in their application by police officers. The erroneous thinking is that so-called “common sense” practices are codified by law or regulation. The truth is the law has very little to say about portable scales.

The Illinois Vehicle Code explicitly allows the use of portable scales. This is found in 625 ILCS 5/15-112(a). There is also some language about who can use portable scales, the training required and the regulatory authority governing the certification of portable scales. That’s it.

What is lacking is any statutory guidance about how to use portable scales. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is the regulatory agency which oversees the certification of all scales, but their policies and administrative rules do not provide guidance to law enforcement practices.

Here is a list of misconceptions about how portable scales are to be deployed by law enforcement:

Level Ground

Of course, police officers should only weigh trucks on level ground. It should be noted there is no perfect level ground. Every street and parking lot is pitched somehow. The argument is a moot point because there is not law or regulation which says the ground must be level.

What is level? Side to side? Front to back? All axles level? There is no definition as to what level ground legally means.

Inclement Weather

Wet pavement is slippery and can be a hazard to police officers using portable scales. Most truck officers probably won’t use them in the rain anyways. The law, however, does not say portable scales cannot be used them in the rain. Nor does the law say they cannot be used in the snow, bitter cold or excessive heat.

Axle by Axle Weighing

It is true full draft weighing (gross weight with all axles on the scale) of trucks is mandated for commerce under federal law in the NIST 44 Handbook. However, highway law enforcement is exempt from the handbook. This is listed not only in the handbook itself, but also in the Illinois Vehicle Code.

What this means is law enforcement can weigh axle by axle on both fixed and portable scales. So whether or not a truck has five axles or nineteen axles, the law never says all axles must be weighed simultaneously on portable scales.

Adjustable Axles

Many trucks have axles which raise and lower under pneumatic or hydraulic pressure. In most instances, adjustable axles correct themselves to compensate for uneven pavement to keep the load and vehicle balanced. The law never says vehicles with adjustable axles cannot be weighed on portable scales.

Liquid Loads

Yes, liquid loads like fuel, water and milk can register different readings when weighed axle by axle if the load is sloshing around. Again, like the adjustable axle argument, the law does not prohibit portable scales from being used to weigh liquid loads.

The ITEA goes to great lengths to make sure police officers they train use portable scales in a fair and reasonable way. Next week, this article will go through each of the above scenarios and explain the common sense methods police officers should use when operating portable scales.

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No Trucks Allowed

It’s a common theme among trucking associations – trucks make America’s economy move. Everyday deliveries are made to every corner of the country. Big trucks, little trucks, trucks with trailers, they all brings goods to stores, homes and factories. So how do those goods get where they need to be when a town has restricted every road in their jurisdiction from trucks?

Illinois allows local governments to restrict roads from vehicles based on weight. How a municipality chooses the weight restriction is up to them. The manufacturer’s suggested gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), registered weight (license plate weight) or actual weight (on the scale) can all be used to keep larger vehicles out of neighborhoods.

The intent behind the law is solid. No one wants their subdivision or residential street to be used as a cut-thru for trucks going from one business to another, or from one state or county highway to another. However, enforcement of the law has caused a lot of heartache over the years. When a police officer detects a violation, it’s not an overweight with hefty fines. The violation can be cited two different ways.

First, purest to the plain language of the law, a citation may be issued for violating a local weight restricted highway. This violation carries a maximum $50 fine.

The other way an officer may cite the violation is as a simple traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control device. This carries the standard Illinois fine of $120, which should be enough to deter trucks from taking a shortcut.

The question remains though: what is a trucker to do when it’s not a shortcut, but a delivery to a home or business on the restricted street?

For example, a person is very ill and needs to take delivery of their medical equipment, which includes oxygen and other lifesaving supplies. What happens when the vehicle used to deliver these life and death supplies cannot lawfully travel on the roads needed to get to the destination?

What happens when a resident of a town owns a vehicle which is registered with a weight exceeding the restriction? The vehicle in question is a personal vehicle, but it’s still illegal to drive on the very roads the homeowner is paying taxes to maintain. Should enforcement be overlooked because he is a resident?

This same homeowner is now spending thousands renovating his kitchen and a delivery truck with a refrigerator, dishwasher and stove must now stop at the corporate limits of the municipality and walk the appliances through town to the person’s house. It seems silly to walk blocks carrying kitchen appliances because the municipality refuses to allow delivery truck on their streets.

Using back roads to cut-thru and avoid traffic or traffic signals is not a safe move by truck drivers. Larger arterial roads are designed to handle heavier traffic and should always be used when possible. Municipalities should use roads restrictions to keep these trucks from making their small roads highways.

Wise, common sense discretion is displayed when local government makes sure restricted roads are not being used as a cut-thru and not compromising regular deliveries necessary for the municipality or its citizens.

Drivers, pay attention to the restrictions and respect the community’s goal of keeping their neighborhoods safe.

Municipalities and the police enforcing the ordinance, use the restrictions with purpose. The delivery you are preventing may one day be necessary to save a life.

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Traffic Assessments

There are lots of analogies to throw at the topic of this week’s blog. It’s the snowball effect. The horse got out of the barn. Herding cats. These idioms reference situations which have spun out of control and it’s time to reign them in. This could not be more evident than the spaghetti bowl of fines, fees and surcharges placed on criminal and traffic offenses in Illinois. A game-changing bill working its way through the legislative process in Springfield attempts to accomplish this task.

For the record, the ITEA is not taking a position of support or opposition to HB2591. However, it is clear the system is a mess and there is a lack of accountability for the disbursement of the funds. The conflicting and confusing language between the legislature and judiciary places circuit clerks in the dangerous position of interpretation.

Something needs to change.

As it pertains to overweight violations, HB2591 is a home run for the carrier industry. Check that, a grand slam. Better yet, it’s like 162 game ending grand slams in one season, plus the playoffs and World Series. To review, here is the basic breakdown of how overweight fines work.

First, there is a statutory fine. This fine is set by statute and calculates $150.00 for every 500 pounds overweight on axle, gross, bridge formula and elevated structures. There is a different fine chart for certain overweight on registration offenses.

Second, there is a statutory surcharge added to all overweight violations, except overweight on registration. This surcharge is exponential and calculated at $15.00 for every $40.00 of the statutory fine.

Lastly, there are court fees. These vary by county and are constantly on the rise.

HB2591 leaves the statutory fines intact, but eliminates the surcharge and court fees. The bill accomplishes this by striking the surcharge section (found in the Corrections Code, 730 ILCS) and the Clerk of Courts Act (found in the Courts Code, 705 ILCS). There are also amendments to the distribution of fines in Chapter 16 of the Vehicle Code, and other statutes.

Within the surcharge and court fee sections, the legislature divvies the money up into dozens of funds for various projects which may or may not have anything to do with trucks. That’s politics at its finest (or worst).

The truck driver who pays the overweight fine is more concerned about the bottom line than who all is receiving his money. Make no mistake, overweight violations will still be costly under this new legislation, but the bottom line gets much more attractive for truckers.

Because there are so many political pet projects funded by surcharges and court fees, the bill cannot simply do away with them. Instead, HB2591 creates a schedule of “assessments” to be added to each fine.

Each category of crime has a different assessment, whether it is a felony, misdemeanor, sex offense, DUI or traffic offense, the category has a fixed dollar figured added. Within each assessment is a breakdown of the monies, most of which continue to fund the same pet project, but at a flat rate.

For instance, a truck driver receives an overweight violation in Cook County for being 10,000 pounds overweight on gross. Under the law today, the statutory fine would be $3,000.00. The surcharge would add $1,125.00 and the court fee of $179.00 would be added. Total out the door? $4,304.00.

Under HB2591, the statutory fine remains at $3,000.00, but there is only a $145.00 assessment added. Total? $3,145.00. This represents a 27% decrease to the bottom line.

Will there be opposition to this bill? Absolutely. Those with pet projects funded by the exponential surcharge would see their revenues shrink enormously as the truckers would no longer be financing them with the $15.00 multiplier.

At first glance, it appears local law enforcement agencies would see a direct impact as well, but this is not the case. The local government who issues overweight citations does not receive any money from the current surcharge or court fees schedule. Under HB2591, the locals would receive the same percentages of the statutory fines as they have always received.

This is a simplistic look at a 301-page bill, and there are a lot of nuances within it not discussed here. Of course, even if passed, future legislation could seek to amend the traffic assessment figures and increase fees. Time will tell.

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