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2016: Open Your Wallet

Ahhhh…the excitement of a new year is here. Resolutions for personal change. Madly scribbling out the old calendar year each time you write the wrong date. The feeling summer is ages away. Most importantly new laws by the dozens take effect in Illinois. If you are trucker in Illinois, particularly if you are operating in Cook County, you have two new financial pinches to celebrate. Happy New Year! Sort of…

Time for an honest confession to satisfy the perfectionists: the new Cook County fee which will tax truckers and motorists alike technically is not a “new year” item. It actually went into effect in mid-November 2015.

What is this new Cook County fee, you ask? Court fees for cases disposed of with a “straight conviction” have now increased from $159 to $179. True, this will affect any motorist who receives a traffic citation and opts to take the conviction instead of supervision to keep it off their record. However, CDL holders are not eligible for supervision in Illinois. Oh, and by the way, the supervision fee only went up $10, so apparently it costs less to keep it off your record. Go figure.

It does not matter if a CDL holder is cited for speeding in his personal car or cited for an overweight in his semi, he is held to a higher standard. All citations in Illinois, issued to CDL holders and regardless of disposition, are sent to the Secretary of State as convictions. This does not mean every conviction has a punitive action on the CDL status, it only means CDL holders can only receive convictions. You can read more about that HERE.

Per Illinois Supreme Court Rules, police officers have the discretion to require a trucker cited for an overweight violation to post the full fines and fees as a cash bail at roadside. That means the cost of the overweight ticket just went up $20 in Cook County, and the trucker never has to go to court. Apparently the cost of labor to deposit a copy of a ticket in a file cabinet is escalating.

The truth is the entire Cook County system of government is a financial mess, much like the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. The court system has felt the pinch, partially due to the no “ticket quota” law which came into play in 2015. Courts and police departments statewide have seen a massive drop in tickets (and associated revenues). Why? Because police administrations can no longer require officers to write tickets.

Be careful what you wish for. You are going to pay for it on one end or the other.

Instead of fees being collected from the masses to make ends meet, they now have to be spread out among the few. As lousy as this fee may sound, it’s only the insult to the statewide injury being inflicted among the truckers heading into January 2016.

Hey – no one is saying it’s okay for truckers to break the law and not be cited. The question has always been “why are punishments for truckers so disproportional compared to citations for car drivers?” Yes, overweights cause more damage to roads and that argument is answered in the fine structure established by the General Assembly.

The problem is the blatant lie told to all people of Illinois regarding how the new police bodycam legislation is funded. Who’s funding it? Truckers.

Contrary to what the press and media outlets report, it’s not an easy $5 increase on all traffic tickets. It’s a $5 increase to the multiplier used to figure the statutory surcharge for all traffic violations. If you receive a $120 speeding ticket today, baked into that number is a surcharge computed at $10 for every $40 of statutory fine. This multiplier escalates to $15 effective 1/1/16.

Does this mean the $120 speeding ticket will rise? Nope. That number is set by the Illinois Supreme Court as bail (with a conviction) for speeding. What it does mean is the surcharge increase will take a bigger bite out of the balance divided between what the courts and the enforcement agency. It has already been seen how Cook County plans to recoup that loss.

When fines are calculated in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars for overweight violations, do the surcharge math. It’s an incredible exponential leap for truckers. The industry wasn’t clamoring for police bodycams, but now they are eating the biggest piece of the pie. Check that – the consumers whom the cost will be passed onto will be eating it.

Be careful what you wish for. Rumor has it very few local police departments will even ask for the state bodycam funding due to the ridiculous rules.

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