Fear the Reaper, ye CDL Holders

Tick tock…tick tock…tick tock. It’s gonna go boom. One-hundred forty-four short days to go. At 12:01am on Friday, January 31st, 2014, thousands of Commercial Driver’s Licenses will be cancelled in Illinois. Tens of thousands more nationwide will be cancelled as well. Like a dark cloud on the horizon, the storm is coming and there is nothing you can do about it other than comply. Like it or love it, the warnings have been clear and consistent for nearly two years. The federally mandated CDL medical merge program is darkening the door of every CDL holder nationwide. You can be sure as the consistent use of clichés in this opening paragraph that there will be a CDL reckoning in the New Year. The stubborn CDL holders will pay a price for non-compliance. Read on to understand the severity of this problem.

Start here. Every CDL holder in Illinois must make a declaration, officially known as a self-certification, as to their operating status by the end of the business day on January 30th, 2014. The doors close at 4:30pm. All self-certifications in Illinois must be made at one of the forty-seven CDL facilities operated by the Secretary of State.

At this time, there are approximately 135,000 Illinois CDL holders who have not self-certified. Do the math: if there are 144 days left to self-certify, that means an average 937 CDL holders must declare each day. If the law of averages play out perfectly, that means twenty people per day will visit each facility. Given it takes approximately five minutes for SOS staff to process each self-certification, twenty people a day is manageable even with all the other routine tasks occurring in their offices.

Search the Google and you can learn from multiple studies that nearly 20% of all adults are procrastinators. The reality is the aforementioned law of averages will not be played out perfectly. Conservatively speaking, define “procrastination” as the last eligible week to certify…that is Monday January 27th thru Thursday January 30th. In those four days, 27,000 procrastinating CDL holders, who represent 5.8% of the 460,000 CDL holders in Illinois, will show up to do what they have had two years to accomplish. Even if every procrastinator spread out evenly across all the state CDL facilities, 137 people each day at each facility would be need to certify. That is more than the staff can handle.

To compound it even uglier, there are only five CDL facilities within 50 miles of Chicago. The metropolitan area represents two-thirds of all CDL holders in Illinois, which translates into 17,280 procrastinators that last week. That’s 891 per day, per Chicagoland facility. Best of luck to you, Mr. Johnny-Come-Lately. Thousands will have the door closed in their face.

Here’s the even more ironic thing: Illinois, for once, was one of the first states to implement this federal mandate. Very early on, the Illinois Secretary of State CDL Division of Driver’s Services created a self-certification system. Numerous snail-mailings have been sent to all CDL holders. Associations, clubs and labor unions of all sorts and sizes have been solicited by the SOS to encourage their membership to get this process completed early. There is no doubt the SOS has gone beyond the call of duty to market and create awareness for the medical merge. Their final notice has been mailed…you can read it HERE.

If Illinois is the leader in this venture, how far behind must the other states be? How many drivers on January 31st are going to pay the price for their procrastination? Who knows.

Here’s the penalty for loafing. At the stroke of midnight on January 31st, all non-compliant Illinois CDL holders will have their CDL cancelled. Their regular operator’s license will be valid, so they can feel free to operate their personal cars. However, if they are caught driving a vehicle or combinations of vehicles which requires a CDL to operate, they do not have a CDL. A cancelled CDL is the same as a suspended, revoked or disqualified CDL. It’s a class-A misdemeanor. Read it for yourself in 625 ILCS 5/6-507(b)(1) and 507(d).

While the Illinois State Police have a policy which affords troopers discretion to not make a custodial arrest for misdemeanor traffic violations, the vast majority of local Illinois police departments do not. That means the local police will be out in force on January 31st. They will be using pre-textual probable cause to stop every CDL vehicle they can find to check CDL status. And when they find that cancelled CDL, custodial arrests will be made. Handcuffs. Towed trucks and trailers. Fingerprints. Mug shots. Criminal State ID numbers. FBI arrest numbers. And citations for any other problems they found along the way.

It will not be pretty, but you have been warned.

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