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Exemplary Police Work #5

The war on drugs. One could not invoke a law enforcement initiative with so great a political divide. The truth is, the war on drugs is hardly a war. It’s maintenance. There will never be a victor. There will never be a white flag of surrender. The idealistic goal is eradication, but the practical goal is to maintain a high quality of life for the people law enforcement serves. In paled comparison, the goal of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has never been to completely eradicate mistakes by truck officers. The goal has always been to minimize them and have accountable police officers correct their errors. The article today tells the story of a police officer who exemplifies what the ITEA stands for. Last week’s article discussed a radical new change in how law enforcement will determine when a commercial driver’s license is needed, and what class of CDL is required for certain vehicles. CDL law is a federal mandate which states must impose, manage and enforce.

Not all trucks require CDLs though…at least not yet. Rumor is beginning to swirl that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is looking into a potential expansion of CDLs to cover Class 5 and 6 trucks. Where federal regulation of CDLs end, the individual states pick up the regulation of non-CDL vehicles. What makes things confusing is the definition of a commercial motor vehicle. At last count, the ITEA had about eight versions. However, any vehicle with a GVWR or actual weight of 10,001 or more, used in commerce, is a commercial motor vehicle under the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Not all of these vehicles need a CDL though. Illinois is one of a handful of states which require a Class-C non-CDL for certain trucks. Any motor vehicle with a manufacturer’s GVWR (not actual weight, never registration) of 16,001 pounds to 26,000 pounds is required to have a Class-C non-CDL. It is these vehicles that are the potential target of future CDL regulation. There is no doubt CDL and classification determination is soup of confusion. Ask a dozen people and you will get a dozen answers. Unfortunately, police officers sometimes make mistakes when it comes to classification issues too. The most common mistake police officers make in this arena is to combine the GVWR of a truck and trailer to arrive at a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) that lands between 16,001 and 26,000 pounds. The officer then erroneously requires the driver to have a Class-C CDL. For instance, a truck has a 15,000 pound GVWR. If operated on its own, the driver only needs a Class-D license. Now take the same truck and add an 11,000 pound GVWR trailer. Even though the trailer exceeds 10,000 pounds, the driver does not need a CDL because the GCWR is not over 26,000 pounds. Because the driver does not need a CDL, the classification goes back to whatever is needed to operate the power unit only. In this case, a Class-D non-CDL. The mere fact the GCWR lands in Class-C non-CDL territory does not mean the driver needs a Class-C non-CDL. As a matter of fact, the only time a GCWR can be used is to determine if a combination of vehicles requires a Class-A CDL. That’s it. Every other time the classification only needs to cover the power unit. Earlier this month, an ITEA certified police officer stopped a trucking member of the ITEA operating combination of vehicles with a GCWR under 26,001 pounds. Because the total was more than 16,000 pounds, the officer wrongly cited him for a violation of classification for not possessing a Class-C non-CDL. Everyone makes mistakes, even the most educated truck officers. What makes this officer stand out is that he is an ITEA certified police officer. He works under a code which states: •   I understand I don’t know it all •   I know where to find authoritative resources for help •   I will make informed decisions before making wrong ones •   I will be open for correction when I make mistakes Our officer made a mistake, and when a representative from his ITEA Chapter reached out, he acknowledged the error. He accepted the correction professionally. He humbly agreed to dismiss the charge in court. Nobody likes a self-righteous police officer. Simply wearing the uniform inherently oozes the perception of arrogance, even when the officer is meek. The ITEA is proud of this officer and his attitude. We count him among the best.

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