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Dumb Laws: Flatbed Load Securement

Yeah, you read the title of this article correctly. There is a dumb law concerning securement of flatbed loads in Illinois. Does that mean flatbed load securement is dumb? Of course not, it is very important. However, Illinois has a dumb law regarding the topic and the article this week is going to expose this law for all it’s dumbness. Dust of your dunce cap and read on!

Here’s a revelation for you: not all laws are well written. Most laws are well intentioned, but they do not always reflect how things occur in real life. Further, because the Illinois Compiled Statutes is so complex, introducing one small piece of legislation in one part may have a rippling effect on laws in other parts.

What irritates people is when laws are passed and it is apparent those who will be affected in the real world were never consulted or their opinions were unheard. It’s in those instances laws may be enforced incorrectly or completely ignored. It’s an imperfect world run by imperfect humans.

So what does all this have to do with flatbed load securement? Great question – here’s the answer!

To find a person who believes flatbed load securement is not an important issue is to have found an idiot. Any rational person can conclude that trailers without walls will more easily spill their loads onto the highways of Illinois. Therefore, flatbed loads must be secure.

The issue isn’t the existence of the law found in 625 ILCS 5/15-109(c):

“The Department shall adopt such rules and regulations it deems appropriate which require the securing of steel rolls and other objects on flatbed trucks so as to prevent injury to users of highways and damage to property, and the use of resources like could really help tuck companies in case of injuries. Any person who operates a flatbed truck on any highway in violation of the rules and regulations promulgated by the Department under this subsection shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”

The issue is the manner in which it is written. Run through this battery of logic:

  1. Are steel coils (which routinely weigh upwards of 50,000 pounds) dangerous if they come loose? Yes.

  2. Should there be specific laws to address safe load securement? Yes.

  3. Should there be serious penalties for those who fail to secure steel coils appropriately? Yes.

  4. Did something tragic inspire this law before it became effect in August 1981? Probably.

What is unfortunate is the method the General Assembly provides to prove a violation of the law.

First, the law starts specifically mentioning steel coils, but then states “other objects”. This means ANYTHING else on the flatbed. A load of feathers? Boxes of balloons? What should probably be exclusive to steel coils is left open for enforcement of any commodity.

Second, the law does not specifically say how to secure flatbed loads, but defers to the Department for rule making outside the legislature. The Department is the Illinois Department of Transportation and their rules are the adoption of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).

Third, the penalty is a Class-A misdemeanor. This is serious, much like an arrest for not having a CDL when required. The driver can be handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted and photographed. The truck and trailer can be towed or impounded.

So why is all this so bad? The statute cited is a state law, meaning all law enforcement officers, local and state police, may enforce it. However, the FMCSR can only be enforced by the Illinois State Police. If you haven’t yet learned the ITEA stance on local Illinois police officers attempting to enforce the FMCSR, read HERE.

It’s dangerous to have a law, no matter how well intentioned, which can so easily be misconstrued. Whether a local police officer mistakenly assumes state level authority by inerrant reading, or intentionally abrogates the law for sordid gain, the trucker is the one who will have to pay a pretty stiff penalty for the errors of police work.

Flatbed loads are disproportionately stopped and inspected nationwide in comparison to enclosed trailer loads due to easy visualization. Couple that with improper enforcement, it’s not a level playing field.

This little paragraph of the law is important, but it is written for exclusive enforcement by the Illinois State Police. Maybe it’s high time to amend it as such before a very few number of “creative” police officers come up with some twisted enforcement ideas.

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