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A Truck is a Truck, of Course, of Course

We Americans love to generically assign popular brand names to common items. The really smart people of the world call these “proprietary eponyms”. All facial tissue is Kleenex. Dark colas are Coke. Go make a Xerox copy. Need to clean your ears? Use a Q-tip. The average person can visualize what a generic “truck” looks like, but how does one know if a law regarding a truck applies to the very truck they are operating?  For instance, think about signs that say“TRUCKS RIGHT TWO LANES ONLY” or “ALL TRUCKS MUST WEIGH”. Do these laws apply to the truck you are driving? Not sure? Better read on.

Let’s get one thing clear: the noun “truck” is simply the easiest way to talk about these types of vehicles. When the ITEA began, not one vote was cast to name the group the “Illinois Second Division Vehicle Enforcement Association” or the “Illinois Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Association”. It makes for a mouthful of words and extended acronyms.

The reality is truck enforcement is a genre of police work dedicated to enforcing laws that pertain to vehicles which are designed to carry property or transport passengers.  This could be a vehicle with power (“truck”) or a vehicle with no power (trailers).

A future article will discuss the many, many definitions of “commercial motor vehicle”. Illinois has a definition for the word “truck” which is found in 625 ILCS 5/1-211: “Every motor vehicle designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”

Illinois also has a definition of a second division vehicle found in 625 ILCS 5/1-217: “Those vehicles which are designed for carrying more than 10 persons, those designed or used for living quarters and those vehicles which are designed for pulling or carrying property, freight or cargo.”

Are these two definitions the same? No. Similar? Yes. A truck by definition is just a power unit. Trucks are second division vehicles that need the best trailer lights, but a second division vehicle also includes trailers and passenger vehicles like buses.

An important thing to notice here is neither definition mentions registration requirements or commercial purposes. The Illinois Secretary of State has its own interpretation of when certain license plates belong on certain trucks, but just because the SOS may not consider a vehicle a truck for registration purposes, a vehicle may still very well be a truck.

A truck does not mean it has to be used for a business or commercial purpose either, it just means that there is the possibility of it being used as a truck service. Most laws pertaining to trucks (registration, size, weight, safety tests) under the Illinois Vehicle Code apply to trucks regardless if the purpose of the vehicle is personal or business related. In contrast, the CDL and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are almost solely applicable to vehicles used in commerce.

The confusion usually comes when the discussion turns to smaller trucks. No one has to stretch their mind all that far to see a semi-tractor trailer combination and generically call it a truck. Most people will refer to their pick-up or large SUV as truck too.

But most people with pick-up do not consider themselves trucks for truck specific laws. Let’s discuss the two examples mentioned in the first paragraph. The goal here is not discuss the merits of discretionary enforcement, but lay out the strict letter of the law.

NO TRUCKS LEFT LANE On the interstates and tollroads of Illinois, it is not uncommon to find signs prohibiting trucks in left lane. Who does this apply to? Many pickups today are more like glorified cars that transport four to six people. But guess what? It is a truck and it is prohibited. These regulatory signs are official traffic control devices. It doens not matter if the truck is big or small. It does not matter which license plates the vehicle displays. It does not matter if it is a personal vehicle or a business name is on the side.

ALL TRUCKS MUST WEIGH Most truck enforcement officers prefer to write overweight tickets to drivers operating company vehicles. This is because if someone has to pay, a company paying a large fine is an easier pill to swallow. When the signs are up, all trucks must weigh. B-plate pickups. Personal or company owned trucks. Empty or loaded. If you are a truck, you must weigh. If the officers wave you off, then it’s your lucky day.

Just like a pony, bronco or colt is a horse, a truck is a truck. Of course, of course.

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