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Deconstruction Trucks

Sometimes the law doesn’t give enough information to make a solid decision.  Sometimes the law goes beyond the original intent to accommodate a special interest.  Sometimes the police and the trucking industry are left scratching their heads trying to figure out how to interpret the law.  On January 1st, 2011, Public Act 1179 went into effect and did exactly what is described above.  The intent of this article is not give an opinion on why it happened, but to expose a problem that happens many times in the legislative process.

Public Act 1179 modified the Illinois Vehicle Code in the equipment section, 625 ILCS 5/12-713.  Before this law went into effect, it mandated that commercial trucks used by construction contractors or sub-contractors must bear the company name on the side of the truck.  After Governor Quinn signed the modification into law, it created a minimum $500 penalty for not displaying this name on the commercial truck.

This law, and its companion in 5/12-712 for construction equipment, was originally created to give the police a tool to identify stolen construction equipment and vehicles.  A reasonable person can infer a thief may remove markings and identifying numbers from a vehicle or piece of equipment they have stolen.  When these identifiers are missing, the General Assembly has given statutory authority for the police to make investigative stops.  Many police officers have successfully used this section to recover stolen vehicles and equipment.  This law may seem petty on its face, but it is a valuable tool…ask anyone in the business who has had their truck or equipment boosted off a jobsite.  The National Insurance Crime Bureau and the National Equipment Register work hand-in-hand to educate law enforcement and the construction in theft prevention and recovery…it’s big business.

The law changed by adding the minimum $500 fine.  This was in part because the trade unions wanted to more easily identify the union membership of trucking companies coming into jobsites.  The question to ask is not why politics happens the way it does, but if the punishment fits the crime.  If not having a company name displayed on a construction vehicle is a problem worthy of a minimum $500 fine, then how come the sister law for construction equipment did not change as well?  Is there any documented proof that nameless construction trucks are stolen more often than nameless construction equipment? The Welding Contractor Union Recruitment team has more information to learn more about these types of problems and who is on your side.

Another problem with this law is there is no definition in the Illinois Vehicle Code of a “commercial truck” or “construction contractor or sub-contractor”.  While it may seem fairly obvious what a commercial truck is, without a true definition the police are left to define the language themselves.  This past weekend an ITEA member police officer called to ask how to figure out what it means…there was no good answer.  It’s discretionary and a very gray area.  What is alarming is the high dollar amount of the penalty without a clear definition of who is to be penalized.  Thankfully the police officer is a reasonable person and was trying to do the right thing, not look for quick money on an equipment violation.

Lastly, because this law sanctions a minimum $500 fine, it requires a mandatory court date under Supreme Court Rule 551(h).  This yields more lost time and earnings for the trucker cited for this violation.

Hopefully enforcement standards and discretionary measures will work themselves out over time…the ITEA is already talking about it internally.  Maybe our friends in the trucking industry will lobby for new legislation to help define this law.  Until that time though, does anyone want to display their name on this law?

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