Exemplary Police Work #7

Do you want a refund from the IRS this year? As you patiently wait for your W-2 form to get the process going, you have to ask yourself the annual question: do I save some money and try to do my taxes alone, or do I hire an accountant? The tax code is quagmire of laws, rules and regulations, and one wrong move, intentional or not, spells trouble. Truck laws are similar in the vehicle code. They’re complicated, and sometimes police officers make mistakes. The best truck officers, however, own their mistakes.

This week the article will look at a recent incident involving a mistake made by a certified member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association. Next week, the article will show the stark contrast of a mistake made by a non-member, non-certified member of the ITEA. You choose which model of truck enforcement officer should be working the street.

There are three ways a truck enforcement officer can be certified by the ITEA: 1.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Basic Truck Enforcement Officer course 2.   Attend the ITEA 40-hour Advanced Truck Enforcement Officer course 3.   Attend the ITEA 8-hour Certification Course, designed especially for those not originally trained by the ITEA.

An ITEA certified truck officer is not an “expert”. Where there are humans involved, there are mistakes. Police officers need not apologize for doing their jobs, but a humble spirit will take responsibility for an error…especially errors with pricetags in the thousands of dollars.

There is the law, and then there are exceptions to the law. With each exception comes more exceptions with limitations and qualifications. One such set of exceptions are those known as “Special Hauling Vehicles”, or “SHVs”. This blog has discussed SHVs many times before.

The trucking industry uses politics to lobby for exceptions to weight law. This article is not making a qualitative argument for or against SHVs, but as more exceptions are added to the law, the more complicated it gets. The more complicated it gets, the more mistakes will be made.

Currently there are five vehicle configurations of vehicles with SHV status, and there are several other configurations of vehicles with exceptions to the law which are not SHVs. Most of these configurations, SHV or not, do not receive their exemptions of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. These are the interstates and tollroads of Illinois.

However, there is one configuration that does receive the exemption on the defense highways: certain 5-axle combinations called “shorty dumps”, or “bombers” in days gone by. These vehicles are the exception to the exception.

Given all these rabbit trails, it is reasonable to believe a police officer may make a mistake? Absolutely. It happened just recently when a certified ITEA officer failed to honor the SHV exception for a 5-axle shorty dump which was operating on a defense highway.

After issuing an overweight citation with a fine north of $3,000, the trucking company contacted the ITEA. As it turns out, the trucking company was an ITEA member as well. Within a matter of hours, the issue was settled.

The officer acknowledged the error. He did not take offense to being asked what happened. He was open to correction. He immediately corrected the problem so there would be no prosecution. He even contacted the trucking company directly to explain himself. He humbly owned it. He protected the industry.

In a day when police officers are taking a beating in the media and social networks, it is encouraging to see professionals like this officer defeating the stereotype. He was not originally trained by the ITEA, but he joined and elected to be held to a higher standard. His exceptional authority (the ability to levy enormous fines) was voluntarily kept in check because he chose to have exceptional accountability (ITEA certification).

This system of checks and balances has worked every single time in the four years the ITEA has being certifying truck officers. Unfortunately, there are just as many times when police officers, who were not trained or certified by the ITEA, do the exact opposite. Read more about that next week.


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