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Exemplary Police Work #2

Law enforcement in Illinois has produced a very taboo word….profiling. In 2003, former Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced SB0030 (later ratified as PA 93-0209) to combat potential racial profiling by police officers in exchange for primary enforcement of the seat belt law. Profiling meant to discriminate against any group of human beings is unquestionably wrong, but the generic sense of the word profiling is not. The ability of police officers to size up situations is a learned skill to detect and prevent crime. Experienced truck enforcement officers can profile trucks. This article tells the story of an officer who used legitimate profiling skills, but also showed great wisdom and fairness to the truckers he stopped.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, semi-tractors towing short dump trailers had become commonplace in Illinois. Law enforcement commonly refers to these 5-axle combinations as “bombers” or “shorty dumps” (south of I-80). Under the old state bridge formula, this combination was allowed 72,000 pounds gross on all roads. When Illinois adopted the federal bridge formula for designated highways in the mid-1980’s, the same trucks were penalized and allowed less gross weight, even though the designated highways were built for heavier trucks than local roads. In order to compensate for the disparity, the General Assembly created a “Special Hauling Vehicle” permit, or SHV for short.

The SHV is still in effect today, and the federal bridge formula has been expanded to all highways statewide. There are several criteria to qualify as an SHV, but if the conditions are met, these combinations receive the full 72,000 pounds gross on any Illinois road. Because 72,000 is the magic number, the vast majority of truck owners will register their tractor with “V” truck plates (73,280 lbs) to cover their legal road weights.

It is not uncommon for trucking companies to have some tractors that heavier loads with longer trailers, and therefore register the trucks with a “Z” truck plate (80,000 lbs). Many times the owner forgets to buy the $125.00 SHV and trouble begins. The driver hooks up to a short dump trailer, loads to 72,000 pounds, and then gets stopped with an expensive overweight ticket. In other words, an alert truck officer will profile loaded bombers bearing “Z” plates to investigate their SHV status.

Last week, an ITEA member trucking company called to say three of their trucks had been stopped by an officer who claimed all three vehicles did not have SHV permits. The company said they had recently upgraded their truck registration from “V” to “Z” plates. They said they had purchased the SHV with the “V” plates and could not understand why the officer would say the trucks no longer had the permit.

Membership in the ITEA is not a “get out of jail free” card for truckers, but being part of the solution goes a long ways in helping resolve problems. As it turns out, the police officer who stopped the trucks was a certified member of the ITEA. After stopping the trucks, he said he realized something was strange and initiated a call to the Commercial & Farm Truck division of the Secretary of State. He was told by SOS staff the new “Z” plates should have been updated with the SHV from the “V” plates, but had not been.

Why is this exemplary police work? The officer truly had them dead to rights. He could have written three separate overweight tickets (each approximately $4000.00) to the three trucks stopped…but he did not. He could have made the truckers lose work time by requiring a court appearance to prove compliance… but he did not. Instead he took the high road. He spent the time to seek out authoritative information before making a bad decision. He chose to forgo financial gain to do the right thing. For these choices, we are proud to call this officer one of our own.

If you are a truck enforcement officer and have not been certified by the ITEA, sign up for our next class on August 16th, 2012…it’s free for members. If you are a trucker, be encouraged there are officers out there working hard to do the right thing…even if they are profiling you!

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