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Beach Towels & Tow Trucks

Imagine you are on the beach – taking in the sun, the breeze and the sound of the waves are only slightly drowned out by the cool rhythms of some classic Bob Marley. Now think about the colorful floral beach towel that you bought just for your trip to this sandy destination. It’s a comfy, large, soft towel, and you paid good money for it. It only seemed appropriate you would take a “beach towel” to the beach.

The next day, you decide to keep your toes out of the sand and instead head to the pool. You grab your expensive beach towel and head out for a quick dip. You jump in and feel the cool water rush against your skin before emerging to the top and eventually exiting and grabbing your beach towel to dry off. But now there is a problem.

You’re approached by a lifeguard who hands you a citation for improper use of a towel. He tells you the towel you are using is specifically designated for beach use and not for pool use. Astounded, you think back to your purchase of the towel.

You recall the towel costing the same as other similar towels. There were no specific directions telling you the towel could only be used for beach purposes, even though the price tag did specifically call it a “beach towel.”

This particular situation helps illustrate a past problem an ITEA member tow company had with law enforcement regarding their use of “tow truck” registration.

This particular law enforcement officer had stopped the company for a registration violation after seeing the company hauling a generator on a flat-bed tow truck. Since the vehicle was not being used to “tow” a disabled vehicle, the officer informed the driver his registration did not cover the move because the vehicle was being used to transports goods for commerce.

He also advised the driver making similar moves in the future would require the company to purchase flat weight or apportioned registration, thereby dual registering the vehicle as both a tow truck and commercial truck.

Thankfully no citations were issued. However, poor and inaccurate explanations of the law were given.

A more accurate explanation of the statute would show tow truck operators may register such vehicles with tow truck registration plates. Also, in section 625 ILCS 5/15-111, tow trucks need to meet a variety of requirements to be considered tow trucks and to qualify for special weight exemptions.

Nowhere in the statute does it specifically state tow trucks may not use those same vehicles to carry or tow loads other than disabled vehicles. This type of movement would only negate the weight exemptions afforded to tow trucks who are in fact towing disabled vehicles. It would not void the registered weight they paid for.

Also, in 625 ILCS 5/3-810.1 the legislature spells out the cost of tow truck plates in Illinois. The cost of these plates are concurrent with the cost of flat weight plates in Illinois. This mean that a tow truck plate for 50,000 lbs costs the exact same amount as a flat weight “Q” plate, which is also good for 50,000 lbs. Therefore, it makes sense if tow companies pay the same amount as regular trucking companies for registration, they can use vehicles plated with tow truck plates to haul other commodities.

The explanation to the company (requiring they purchase two types of registration for the same vehicle) is not only ridiculous, it is not supported in the Illinois Vehicle Code. The only time dual registration is ever covered as a requirement is when it addresses registration of semi-trailer plates on special hauling vehicles. This topic will be covered in a future article.

At the end of the day, the poor advice of the officer did not cause any financial harm to the member company, but it did serve as another example of some of the inconsistencies in commercial vehicle enforcement the ITEA works to remedy on a daily basis.

ITEA certified officers continuously work to educate themselves in order to provide the most accurate information available and disperse it to those they come in contact with. This is something those in both law enforcement and the trucking industry should not only expect, but demand.

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