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Christmas in July

Like children gathered around an advent calendar, truck enforcement officers throughout the state will be gathered around their duty schedules waiting for that one magical day to roll around. The one day when they will go on patrol to find an abundance of violations to which they are specially trained to enforce. The single day where it is actually “easy” to be a truck officer. The day being referred to is July 1st, and it’s known in the truck enforcement world as “Christmas in July.”

As all truck officers know, and what those in the industry should know, is July 1st represents the day all flat weight Illinois registration plates expire. All intrastate carriers should be checking right now to ensure the process of registering second division vehicles has at least been started, if not been completed.

Consider this article the friendly reminder that the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) will no longer sends reminders. Please remember, the SOS has suspended the issuance of mailed expiration reminders for vehicles registered in Illinois. Many people operating their personal passenger cars have suffered the consequences of relying on the State of Illinois for a reminder to update their registration. The difference is a citation for a passenger car bearing expired registration is $120, while a citation for expired registration on a second division vehicle (truck or trailer) could reach over $3,000. Here is the information for owners or operators of vehicles bearing Illinois flat weight truck plates:

1) While all truck officers in Illinois aren’t actually shaking in anticipation of this date, agencies are aware of the expiration of these plates and will allocate manpower to enforce expired registration offenses. Even officers who do not specialize in commercial vehicle enforcement will be looking for expired registration plate stickers on July 1st.

Commercial motor vehicle drivers with expired registration should expect to be stopped by the police, weighed and cited. The overweight citation fine will be the cost of the plate required to cover the weight of the vehicle and load, plus court costs. The financial burden does not end there as the driver is still be required to pay the appropriate fee to properly register the vehicle once the plates are renewed.

2) Carry all the appropriate paperwork and proof of registration renewal in the vehicle. Keep in mind if a vehicle is still displaying an expired registration sticker (or no sticker at all) the driver will likely be stopped by police. Keeping the paperwork in the cab of the truck showing renewed registration is important.

Providing this information to the officer may be the difference between an expensive citation and a warning. Keep in mind an officer may not honor the paperwork provided if the registration still comes up as expired in the SOS database. While this may seem ridiculous, people lie, cheat and attempt to deceive the police ALL THE TIME.

A simple piece of paperwork or receipt from a currency exchange is not hard to fabricate, and is not an uncommon method for dishonest truck owners to attempt to bypass paying for registration on time.

3) If a citation for expired registration is received, and it can be proven the renewal was purchased prior to the time stopped by the police, bring the information to court. The time to argue the issue is not at roadside, and chances are the driver is not going to win the argument with the officer anyways. Be cordial, polite and courteous and the officer will most likely reciprocate that demeanor.

Most officers understand mistakes are made and sometime the SOS system does not update immediately upon purchase of registration. Both the prosecutor and officer will most likely be open to dismissing the charges if appropriate.

4) If the renewal was late, do not operate the vehicle. Officers who have been around truck enforcement for any amount of time have seen almost every attempt to fake, hide or cheat renewing registration. The fact of the matter is that doing so will almost guarantee significantly more serious offenses being cited.

It’s simply not worth risking fines, arrest or possibly seizure of equipment to operate on expired registration. The revenue lost from a single day of down time will pale in comparison of fines, court and attorney fees if you attempt to cheat the system.

Finally, please be courteous of the Secretary of State and renew your registration is a timely manner. The SOS Commercial and Farm Truck Division works very hard throughout the year to provide the best possible service, but become very overwhelmed leading up to July 1st.

The best thing to do is submit renewals early to prevent any issues. Focus on celebrating this great country’s independence over the 4th of July weekend as opposed to being concerning with citations, fines and court.

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