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Exemplary Police Work #10

Garbage stinks. Garbage cans stink. Garbage trucks stink. Garbage transfer stations stink. Garbage landfills stink. From the onset of humans creating waste to its final disposal underground for millennia to come, garbage stinks. You know what else stinks? The complexity of truck laws surrounding garbage weights. The article this week will tell the recent tale of an exemplary truck officer who made a mistake with garbage laws and how he cleaned up the mess.

Garbage is a political term. Like many parts of truck law, the waste industry has lobbyists who have fought for exemptions in the law to give them higher weight limits than other trucks of similar configuration. When there is deviation from the root law, errors occur, and it is not uncommon for this to happen in garbage law. In order for a garbage truck to receive higher weight limits, a four prong test must be met:

First, the term “garbage” is a generic word used to describe items which are bound for destruction as waste or recycling. This could be household garbage loaded in a compactor, commercial garbage in a dumpster or construction debris in a roll-off container. It could also be any material bound for recycling such as glass, paper, cardboard, etc.

Secondly, in order to receive the higher weights, the generator of the garbage must not be compensated. This has typically caused confusion in that people substitute compensation for commodity. You can read more about that HERE. If the homeowner (the generator) who put the garbage out at the curb is being paid by the garbage company for the garbage, then the truck does not receive higher weight limits.

Third, the garbage must be destined for a licensed waste or recycling facility by the State of Illinois. If the first two prongs match up, but the truck driver is taking the garbage to keep in his backyard, the truck does not receive garbage weights. The transfer station, landfill or recycling facility must be licensed as such.

Lastly, the vehicle must be of a configuration required by law. This means either a compactor or roll-off truck. If the garbage is tossed in the back of a hydraulic dump truck or a stakebed, the truck does not receive the higher weights.

Clear as mud? Well if you are a new truck officer, learn this concept plus dozens more similar situations concerning other commodities and vehicle configurations in the classroom. Then go out on the street and figure out how to apply this quagmire in real life with real trucks. To think the smartest guy out there won’t make a mistake is foolishness.

In the case at hand, a suburban town sent a new truck officer to the ITEA 40-hour basic truck enforcement class. Upon graduation, this officer hit the street running and was routinely finding overweight trucks. Then he stumbled across an interesting one.

The truck was a 3-axle roll-off, and the container was filled with broken concrete. On the scale, the truck weighed in at 59,600 pounds. The truck was registered with valid R-plates for 54,999 pounds which made it overweight on registration by 4,601 pounds. The drive axles weighed 45,840 pounds making in 11,840 pounds over the maximum 34,000 pounds for a tandem. Except it’s not quite that easy.

Soon after writing the overweight citations, the officer told some other truck officers the stop. A veteran truck officer talked the rookie truck officer through the 4-prong test to determine if the truck received garbage weights or regular truck weights.

  1. Was the broken concrete going to be recycled? Yes.

  2. Did the generator or the broken concrete receive compensation for the concrete? No.

  3. Was the broken concrete destined for a licensed recycling facility? Yes.

  4. Did the 3-axle roll-off meet the statutory configuration? Yes.

Turns out the truck should have received the higher “garbage” tandem weight of 40,000 pounds, not 34,000 pounds. Still overweight, but the fines was $2250 less!

So what did this officer do? Did he cover up his mistake and let the company pay it and move on? Nope. Did he argue and try to justify his mistake? Nope. Did he let the company go to court and fight to prove their innocence instead of him proving their guilt? Nope.

Instead he immediately picked up the phone and called the clerk’s office at the courthouse. He asked them to amend the ticket to the correct overweight fine so the company would only pay what they lawfully should have had to pay.

That’s integrity. That’s what the ITEA is all about.

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