It’s unfortunate there are times erroneous police work must be exposed. One of the toughest parts of policing is the policing of the police. Like all professions, most people are good and it’s just the few rotten apples that spoil the bunch. The same is true in truck enforcement world, it’s just the stakes are incredibly high. Couple an immensely complicated law with unparalleled high fines and you have a recipe for disaster. The redeeming beauty is when a truck officer does the right thing, like the story to be told in this article.
Oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits are one of the most complicated parts of truck law. Every jurisdiction, state, county, township and municipal authorities have their own set of rules and regulations. This makes the issue complicated not only from the perspective of the carrier trying to obtain a permit, but also from the police officer trying to understand the enforcement methodology of permits.
When the carrier operating under the authority of OS/OW permits makes a mistake, the penalties can be devastating. Since 2010, when the State of Illinois passed a law doubling the fines of overweight vehicles, it is not uncommon for off-route permit loads to have fines exceeding $30,000. Not all permit load mistakes are that expensive, but many are. In the diverse world of trucking, none are as susceptible to these kind of fines like those in specialized transportation.
When vehicles are operating under the authority of an OS/OW permit issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there is a unique set of rules, or conditions, which must be followed. These are created in the Administrative Rules, which have the force of law. They are more commonly found in the IDOT Permit Manual and listed on the OPER 993 form.
One such IDOT regulation is more commonly known as the “1-mile rule”. Under this rule, IDOT provides grace for the driver who goes off his assigned permit route for one of four reasons. One acceptable reason is because the driver mistakenly got off-route in the first place. The caveat is the vehicle may only travel for 1-mile off-route, and the road travelled on must be a state highway contiguous to the assigned permit route.
Last month, a young truck officer (a rookie with less than one year on the job) who had recently been through the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement course, stopped an OS/OW permit load on a state highway. During this conversation, the officer asked to see the driver’s permit. The driver had page 1 of his IDOT permit, but did not have page 2 which included the routing. Had the driver actually had the routing page of the permit with him, this traffic stop would have been over in minutes.
The driver knowingly admitted he was off-route, and by his description of where he had travelled, he was more than seven miles off-route. On the surface of things, it appeared this officer had the driver dead to rights. Based on the weight of the vehicle, the fine would have exceeded $16,000. The officer could have written the ticket, the company would have paid the fine and there probably would not have been any fight in court over.
The reality was everyone was in agreement the driver messed up, and messed up bad.
However, this officer knew the red flags he felt going up needed counsel. As an ITEA certified truck officer, he accepted a creed to make an informed decision before making a wrong one.
Truck officers in Illinois have privileged access to the IDOT permit system called ITAP. In this database, police officers can verify and download the actual permit issued by IDOT. Unfortunately, the officer had not yet received permission from his command staff to apply for ITAP access, so he contacted the ITEA who looked up the permit for him.
As it turns out, the driver was indeed off-route, but less than 1-mile from his permitted route and on a contiguous state highway. No overweight citation could be issued. If this officer was suffering from moneylust, he would have issued the citation and no one would have been any wiser.
Thankfully this young man was of noble character and did the right thing. The ITEA is proud of this officer. He is a fine example of the role police officers are supposed to play in the world of highway transportation.
On October 28, 2014, the ITEA is hosting a free 8-hour certification for current truck officers who have been trained elsewhere. If you are in the carrier industry and desire to see more truck officers like this one, get on the phone and respectfully demand truck officers in Illinois who are not certified attend this class. You can find a list of non-ITEA certified officers and their agencies by clicking HERE. Your voice can make a difffernce.
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