Taxes. The double-edged sword. We all hate to pay taxes, but without them the vital resources provided by government agencies would go unfunded. Every year, the interstate motor carriers of the United States and Canada have to pay fuel tax as part of IFTA, the International Fuel Tax Agreement. IFTA provides a similar function as the International Registration Plan in that motor fuel tax revenues are shared among the member jurisdictions. Currently, the lower 48 states and all Canadian provinces are members of IFTA.
Illinois came online with IFTA in October of 1977. Before IFTA, each individual state required a fuel tax permit to operate…a burdensome task for sure. Obviously some states have higher tax rates than others (Illinois is one of 5 jurisdictions that increased their motor fuel tax rate in 2012). If there was not a system to share the funds, Illinois motor carriers could purchase fuel at the lower rates of a nearby state and operate their vehicles solely within Illinois and never pay a dime worth of taxes to Illinois. In its purest form, IFTA revenues are meant to maintain the highways of Illinois.
On March 1st, the January/February grace period ends and enforcement of IFTA begins. Unlike other laws under the authority of state regulatory agencies, IFTA may be enforced by all law enforcement, including local police. The Illinois Department of Revenue has regulatory authority, and law enforcement needs to acknowledge the IFTA rules set forth by the IDOR are binding.
There are a couple traps that snare law enforcement enforcing IFTA violations. First, other regulatory agencies use a definition of “commercial motor vehicle” (CMV) to describe which vehicles are regulated by them. A definition of a CMV subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations is different than a CMV for purposes of a Commercial Drivers License. For purposes of fuel tax, the term “qualified motor vehicle” is used, and it is different than registration, CDL, and the FMCSR. Police officers cannot assume that a definition from one agency fits the definition of another. This may be confusing, but it is what it is.
A second pitfall law enforcement finds themselves in assuming expired IFTA decals means the vehicle is still required to have IFTA in the new year. The truck may have been a “qualified motor vehicle” in the previous year, but in the new year downgraded the registration to Illinois flat weight plates for 26,000 pounds (or less). Another possibility is the carrier ceased interstate operations and now solely operates intrastate. Either way, police officers need to judge each vehicle on its own merits before deciding to take enforcement action. The mere presence of an expired IFTA decal is not proof positive of an IFTA violation…and for sure an expired IFTA decal does not make a truck overweight (yes, the ITEA has heard this unbelievable complaint).
For ITEA members, please log into the discussion forum and review SOP-33 before you start your IFTA enforcement…and be looking for a new resource document in the near future to help work through the IFTA process.