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Dealer Plates

One of the biggest challenges in truck enforcement is learning to compartmentalize all the different areas of truck law and refrain from “crossing the streams”.  Registration is registration. Road weights are road weights. Safety tests are safety tests. Fuel tax is fuel tax. CDLs are CDLs. Similar? Yes. Independent? Absolutely. Within each of those disciplines are subsets of information to which special rules and regulations apply. The article this week will look at dealer plates and a new bill working its way through the Illinois legislature which would affect these special plates. The subset of registration that dealer plates fall into is called “restricted plates”. The name is somewhat misleading…in reality, registration classified as “restricted” actually allows more liberty to similar plates from other states. However, restricted plates are limited to very strict rules. The definition of restricted plates is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-400 and includes (but is not limited to) dealer, manufacturer, transporter, farm, repossessor and permanently mounted plates. The Illinois Administrative Rules, which have the power of law, define the rules by which vehicles may operate with these plates. For all practical purposes, a vehicle operating on out-of-state dealer plates within Illinois may do so lawfully provided the vehicle is operated within the regulatory boundaries as a vehicle bearing Illinois dealer plates. When it comes to second division vehicles (trucks and trailers) operating on dealer plates, there are two big hurdles to overcome. First, registration is a tax, and the more tax you pay, the more you can weigh! It seems a little unreasonable for a truck dealer to pay a registration tax on every second division vehicle in the lot considering he plans to sell the vehicle sooner than later. Yet everyone else with a truck or trailer must pay a hefty tax to the Illinois Secretary of State. The temptation to cheat looms large. Only in very limited circumstances are dealers allowed to operate trucks and trailers with dealer plates. Demonstration purposes, one parts truck per dealership and delivering the truck from a point of manufacturing or assembly is pretty much the extent of dealer plate use on second division vehicles.  Trucks and trailers operating on dealer plates in violation of these restrictions may very well result in a hefty overweight on registration citation. Police officers must use great care and discretion before issuing these citations. The administrative rules around dealer plates are subjective at best, and fall within the interpretative authority of the Illinois Secretary of State. It is not the job of police officers to create their own interpretations of these rules. The second hurdle to overcome is when trucks may operate within Illinois on out-of-state plates. As stated above, Illinois will honor out-of-state dealer plates operated within the limitations of Illinois dealer plates.  The dichotomy occurs when 3-axle trucks enter Illinois on dealer plates. Under the International Registration Plan (which is adopted by Illinois law), 3-axle power units may not cross state lines unless a tax has been paid to Illinois. Either the owner can apportion the truck for Illinois, buy Illinois registration or purchase a trip permit. A 3-axle truck with a dealer plate is provided no exception to the IRP rule. So what takes precedent? The 3-axle “you must pay Illinois rule” or the restricted plate rule?

Here’s an example: a Missouri resident purchases a brand new 3-axle semi-tractor at a dealership in Illinois. To this buyer from Missouri, Illinois thanks you for spending a huge chunk of money here instead of in your state. In order to thank you for your patronage though, you may not drive this vehicle back into Illinois for repairs or service under your warranty unless you pay a registration tax. Thanks for the sales tax revenue, now give Illinois just a little bit more for our financial troubles. In order to compensate for this unique problem, SB3402 has been introduced, moved out the Senate, and is awaiting approval in the House. If signed into law by Governor Quinn, this bill would exempt the 3-axle truck, now located in Missouri, to re-enter Illinois without having to pay a registration tax. There are few conditions that would have to be met before the exemption would be valid: 1.   The vehicle must be displaying dealer plates from the foreign state.  2.   The vehicle must have a work order/repair contract with a facility in Illinois. 3.   The driver must display the work/repair order for the vehicle upon request of any law enforcement officer. Good law? Bad law? You decide.

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