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Exemplary Police Work #4

There are vicious rumors floating around about Illinois. Once such rumor is that truck registration in the Land of Lincoln is super expensive…way more expensive than surrounding states. Is this true? Well, unfortunately, yes. The purpose of this article is not to argue the rights and wrongs of registration pricing, but to show why solid enforcement of registration laws by solid police officers makes a world difference on how the trucking industry perceives the police.

Registration is a tax plain and simple. Make no bones about. When it comes to trucks and trailers (aka “second division vehicles”), the tax is proportionate to the amount of weight to be carried on the vehicle.

Because Illinois sells expensive registration for trucks and trailers, sometimes trucking companies domiciled in other states (aka “foreign states”) choose to operate within Illinois without paying a tax to Illinois. Do trucking companies do this on purpose? Most likely some do. Do some screw up and work within Illinois on foreign plates by accident? Probably. If a truck is making an intrastate move, meaning the load (not the truck itself) has a point of origin and a destination within Illinois, a tax must be paid. As always, there are some exceptions to this requirement.

Many blog posts could be spent discussing the finer point of intrastate registration requirements, but the ITEA has several resource documents and Standards of Practice available for our members to review. Even if the law is the law, police officers always have the right to use discretion, which brings us to the story being told today.

On a cold night this past January, an ITEA certified police officer was out patrolling when he noticed a truck bearing foreign registration. After making a lawful traffic stop based on probable cause (not solely because the truck had foreign plates), the officer spoke with the driver and determined the vehicle was making an intrastate move.

Based on this evidence, the officer had him dead to rights. He had all authority to weigh the truck and issue an overweight on registration citation. The fine for the ticket would have been cost of the license plate necessary to cover the gross weight of the truck. It would have been quite expensive.

Even though this officer had been certified after attending the ITEA Advanced Truck Officer class, he had never dealt with this issue before. He was trained in it, but because truck law is so voluminous and complicated, he did not know if he was on sure footing.

A lesser officer would have weighed the truck, written the ticket and hoped for the best in court…but not this officer. What he had learned through his instruction with the ITEA that is it better to take no enforcement action at all than to take bad enforcement action. It is better to make an informed decision than to make a wrong one.

So that is what he did. He cut the driver loose and gave up a legitimate overweight. The decision to let the driver go and then do his homework was a mature decision. Afterwards, he looked up the ITEA Standards of Practice that speak to this issue. He went on the ITEA member discussion forum and found some similar incidents in other towns. He emailed the ITEA and was connected with the resident expert on all things registration.

The ITEA is proud of this officer. So proud a letter was sent to his Chief explaining he had a quality truck officer in his ranks! He let a big fish go, but there are more fish in the sea. It is not the job of the police to write questionable tickets and then let the courts and a judge sort them out.

On April 10th, 2014, the ITEA is hosting it’s 8-hour Certification class for truck officers. The goal is to raise up more industry conscientious officers like this one.

If you are truck officer not yet certified by the ITEA, this is your chance to show your quality. It’s free for members. Membership is $25.

If you are trucker or trucking company official, make the phone calls and respectfully demand your local truck officers attend this class. Put your mouth where your money is.

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