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Cry Two Tears in Two Buckets

There’s a reason things come in twos. Without a second wheel on a bicycle, balance is quite difficult. Steering and shifting gears in a truck is a lot easier with two hands. What’s not good in pairs is two buckets accompanying an excavator being hauled on the authority of an oversize/overweight permit. The article this week will explain why this often misunderstood law creates an expensive problem for heavy haulers.

Understanding the concept of a divisible load requires one to first understand why permits are necessary in the first place. The Illinois General Assembly has set maximums for size and weight in Illinois. Like it or hate it, it’s what the elected leadership of this state have ruled, and it is illegal to exceed these limits.

However, there are objects or vehicles traveling on the highways which are too heavy, too wide, too tall or too long to conform to legal limits. They just cannot be made any smaller. The legislature has recognized this problem and has accommodated these loads through the issuance of oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits.

The second concept to understand is the limitation of the OS/OW permit. The purpose of a permit is not to create a new artificial maximum size or weight which can be filled in with multiple objects above legal. Multiple objects can sometimes be carried on vehicles with permits for dimension only (a topic for another article), but multiple objects for overweight loads are a no-no.

For instance, the legal gross weight for a 6-axle lowboy combination with a wheelbase of 67’ is 80,000 pounds. The driver loads an excavator on the trailer bringing the gross weight to 83,000 pounds. Just to be safe, the driver wisely applies for a permit for 88,000 pounds to cover the entire gross weight.

The purpose of the overweight permit is to allow the minimum amount of excess weight necessary, not to pile on more and more. This is why divisibility is so important.

If you have your trucker hat on, of course you think it’s ridiculous that an extra excavator bucket really makes that big of a difference. Maybe so, but that’s not what the law says. A quick survey of some equipment operators quickly determined no excavator can operate with two buckets simultaneously.

If two buckets are okay, where does it end? At what point does “enough is enough” take hold? A driver could load the trailer with extra equipment like a trenchbox, a stone-miser and road plates and continually push the vehicle unnecessarily overweight.

The legislature decided to avoid the moving target of what is “reasonable” and say only the bare minimum can be loaded when maximum weight is exceeded. Extra objects are considered divisible, and under statute, a divisible load voids a permit. This knocks the vehicle back to legal weights and any excess weight can be cited.

This is not a mere “violation of a permit”. The statute is clear in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a) that a weight permit is void if found to be divisible. Some attorneys over the years have unsuccessfully argued a divisible load is only a violation of a permit under 625 ILCS 5/15-301(j). What they fail to understand is 15-301(j) applies to valid permits, not void permits.

There’s a converse myth which needs dispelling as well. A few misinformed police officers recently have imagined a new divisibility interpretation by saying a single excavator bucket, securely mounted to the excavator using a “quick couple” is considered divisible. This is absolute nonsense.

An excavator without a bucket is not an excavator. It most certainly can be hauled with one bucket (not two) securely mounted on the machine. Whether this is through a quick-couple device or a pin is irrelevant. The issue is if the bucket is secure. If the quick-couple bucket can lift 5 tons of dirt and load it into a truck without falling off, it is most certainly securely mounted while in transit.

Two bucket loads are an easy mark for the trained truck officer. Hiding it between the tracks, curling it up in the attached bucket or chaining it down on the deck will most certainly result in a trip to the scales.

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