Everyone loves to pay income tax and here’s why: In America, you can pay as much or as little tax as you want. Right? Wrong. No one likes to pay income tax, but you are free to select how much you pay. It’s just at some point the IRS is going to hold you accountable. Truck and trailer registration is a tax and the police are the ones holding vehicle owners accountable. Like the tax code, registration is complicated, and sometimes mistakes are made. Thankfully, the ITEA is full of great police officers who own their mistakes when they are made.
To understand registered weight, one must understand the division of vehicles. First division vehicles are those which are designed to carry 10 or less people. Second division vehicles are those which are designed to carry more than 10 people, or freight/cargo.
Only second division vehicles are required to purchase registered weight. This is the tax. Whether the vehicle displays flat weight tax plates, mileage tax plates or apportioned plates, it’s a tax. The more tax the owner pays, the more weight the vehicle can carry.
If a second division vehicle does not have any registration (or tax) paid, or the registration is expired, it is overweight on registration. The enforcement part of this law has always been clear: the police officer must weigh the vehicle on the scale and the fine is calculated based on the flat weight tax which covers the vehicle’s gross weight.
For instance, a truck with expired plates weighs 22,500 pounds. The fine is calculated using the cost of a 26,000 pound “H” truck plate, or $561.
Conversely, if the truck has valid registration, and on the scale the vehicle weighs more than the tax paid, the vehicle is overweight on registration as well.
The question here is how to calculate the fine. Prior to 2011, the law said if the vehicles gross weight exceeds the maximum registered weight, the overweight fine schedule found in Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.
By that statute, if a truck with a 12,000 pound “D” truck plate was found to weigh 22,000 pounds, the fine for 10,000 pounds overweight would be $3000! What? If the owner had simply bought the $561 “H” truck plate, it would be legal.
Due to this anomaly in the law, the ITEA co-authored a legislative bill with the Illinois State Police, IDOT, the Secretary of State and the Mid-west Truckers Association to make it a true comparison between the fine schedule for “overweight” or the cost of the appropriate registration tax. The police officer must use the fine which is lowest.
However, sometimes police officers misunderstand this law to mean that no matter what, whenever a second division vehicle is found to be overweight on valid registration, the cost of the appropriate registration must be used. This is incorrect.
Generally speaking, the cost of appropriate registration for smaller trucks is usually less than the overweight fine. With larger commercial vehicles, the overweight fine is usually less than the cost of appropriate registration.
At a recent 8-hour ITEA certification course, an ITEA member police officer realized he had improperly calculated the fine using this erroneous methodology. In this case, the officer had found a truck with a valid “R” truck plate (54,999 pounds) weighing 58,299 pounds. Not enough tax was paid.
As there an overweight violation? Absolutely, and the fine should have been $520. However the officer fined him according to the cost of the appropriate registration to cover the weight, which was $2093 for an “S” truck plate (59,500 pounds).
After the course, the officer contacted the ITEA to confirm he did indeed make a mistake. The defense had demanded a trial and the local prosecutor was preparing the case. There was going to be an unnecessary battle in the courtroom.
Instead of allowing this to happen, the new ITEA certified police officer put on a coat of humility. He contacted the prosecutor to let him know of his error. He even contacted the trucking company to do the same. In the end, the owner still paid a fine, but it was far less than the original amount.
The officer could have allowed both the prosecutor and the defendant be bamboozled by the law, and an unjust trial would have taken place. Instead, this ITEA officer proved his integrity and worth and settled the matter honorably.
We are proud to call him one of our best.
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