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FMCSR Week 3: Legal Authority

Truth 1: federal law is enforced by the federal government only, except when States are mandated or authorized to share concurrent authority. Truth 2: interstate commerce is big business and highly protected in the United States. A quick internet search on the history of the Interstate Commerce Commission and all the respective acts created underneath it yields volumes of hits. The purpose of both of these truths is to promote fairness, equality, and uniformity.

The FMCSR is the sole authority for regulation of interstate motor carrier traffic and States have the ability to adopt the FMCSR for intrastate commerce. 49 CFR 350 provides a 26 prong requirement for States receiving funds from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). Illinois has met this burden in 625 ILCS 5/18b-100 and expanded the authority to regulate intrastate carriers as well. One prong of the MCSAP requirements is for the State to designate a lead state agency…a task given to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

This chapter defines “officer” as an “Illinois State Police Officer”. There are many police agencies at the State level such as the Secretary of State Police, Illinois Commerce Commission Police, and the Illinois Department of Revenue Police. Each department has unique enforcement authority, but enforcement of the FMCSR is exclusive to ISP. ISP troopers cannot force register a truck without registration and SOS police officers cannot perform a Level 1 motor carrier safety inspection.

It is not uncommon to hear local police officers point to their badge and say “see how it says State of Illinois?” It is true…local police officers have powers of the State. Every police officer in Illinois is sworn to enforce and charge crimes against the People under State law. In certain situations, local police officers can even enforce the State law outside their jurisdiction. This is not the same as being an Illinois State Police Officer though. To read the statute as such is a stretch of the abrogative imagination.

The law is clear. Compare these two statutes [editor comments]: 625 ILCS 5/18b-102(e): “Only [singular] the Illinois State Police [not other “state” police officers] shall be authorized to stop and inspect any commercial motor vehicle or driver at any time for the purpose of determining compliance with the provisions of this Chapter [18b-100] or rules and regulations issued under this Chapter.”

625 ILCS 5/18b-109: “Only the Illinois State Police shall enforce the rules and regulations issued under this Chapter against drivers. The Department and the Illinois State Police shall enforce the rules and regulations issued under this Chapter against persons other than drivers.”

The management task of MCSAP is assigned to the Illinois Department of Transportation, who in turn defers enforcement authority to ISP. IDOT retains some roadside authority for its own handful of non-sworn inspectors, and enforces sanctions against the trucking companies found in violation.

Both statutes say “only”. Both statutes say the “Illinois State Police”. Both statutes say “this Chapter”. How could there be any ambiguity or misunderstanding? If there was any doubt, the General Assembly clarifies its intent in 625 ILCS 5/18b-110 when it clearly states that in the event of a conflict between other laws and ordinances regarding the transportation of persons and property, Chapter 18b-100 controls. Local authority is trumped.

Officer safety is one of the biggest and most important parts of law enforcement training. The job can take their life, therefore they are trained to win at all costs. Unfortunately, the survival mindset of police officers bleeds over to other aspects of law enforcement that do not require victory every time. Being told not to do something is a bitter pill to swallow, but this is one of those instances. Local police officers cannot enforce the FMCSR. They have no legal authority.

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