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Everything Is A Commodity

Trucking is a business and the goal of a business is to make money.  Sometimes that does not always happen, but it is the goal.  When trucks are used for-hire to haul something, that something is a commodity.  Websters dictionary defines a commodity as “an economic good; an article of commerce“.  When it comes to truck enforcement in Illinois, the word commodity gets thrown quite a bit, especially when the conversation is about garbage, refuse, or recycling.  For purposes of this article, we will generically refer to all three of these as “garbage”.

Trucking is a complex business.  There are all kinds of vehicle types and configurations depending on the work needing to get done.  Over the years, the Illinois General Assembly has saw fit to modify the Illinois Vehicle Code by giving different styles of trucks exceptions to legal weight limits.  Garbage is one of these, and for good reason.  Removal of garbage is necessary for public health and sanitation.  Vehicles qualifying as garbage trucks get some extra gross and axle weights in Illinois because it is an inexact science.  Whether it’s a dumpster full of trash from a restauant or a recycling bin at the curb of someones house, the weight can vary greatly depending on rain and other weather conditions.

The great debate with garbage has always been about what is a commodity and what is not, thereby defining which vehicles qualify to receive higher garbage weights.  However, this is an improper qualification as the word commodity is never used in Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (except when describing “agricultural commodities”).  For many years, police officers have been improperly taught a theory that if a trucking company hauling garbage was making money, then the truck did not receive higher garbage weights.  This is totally incorrect….here are some examples:

  1. The trucking company picking up household waste at the curb is making money..from taxes collected by a local unit of government.

  2. The trucking company tipping commercial dumpsters is making money…from the business that filled the dumpster.

  3. The trucking company picking up roll-off containers full of construction debris is making money…from the contractor building a new home.

  4. The trucking company lugging containers of turned steel is making money…from the sale of the scrap.

The mere fact that some waste described above may go to a landfill, a recycling yard or a transfer station has no bearing on whether or not the truck should receive higher garbage weights.  It doesn’t matter if the trucking company is making money on the front-end (by contract) or on the back-end (by sale), the criteria to determine if the truck receives garbage weights is not the commodity status of the load.

Members of the ITEA have access to our Standard of Practice (SOP-31) written by cops, lawyers, and truckers describing a 4-prong test to determine which trucks get garbage weights and which do not.  That’s a better way to do truck enforcement…at least better than creating non-existent criteria and legal definitions.

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