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Getting Tarped

Tell the truth…you know you love it when a rock falls off a truck and cracks your windshield. You know what else you love? When sand blows of the pile inside a truck and you can feel it scratching against the clear coat. If you indeed love these things, you must either be nuts or drive a beater car you really don’t care about. There’s a common myth in Illinois truck enforcement circles that “all loads of aggregate must be tarped”. Guess what? Not true.

Pick and industry and there is always a hot topic. In trucking world, fatigued driving and highway funding are all the rage these days. Dial the clock back a couple years and load securement was the talk of the town, read about the Owner Operator Truck Driving Opportunities Mid South here.

Even if this article is narrowly focusing on tarps and aggregates, it’s in the family of load securement. Because load securement is the big picture, a foundational background needs to be laid.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations speak in volumes about load securement. Pick a commodity like steel coils, heavy machinery or roof trusses and there are specific rules about how that load is too be secured. After that, the securement devices themselves have a set of regulations. Chains, load straps and binders have ratings and integrity specifications.

It’s been said before and now it will be said again. Local truck enforcement officers in Illinois should have a working knowledge of the FMCSR and be able to spot a critical safety violation for a lawfully stopped truck.

This does not mean the officer has the right to stop a truck for an FMCSR violation. This does not mean the officer has the right to inspect the truck for other FMCSR violations. This does not mean the officer can write any sort of citation for the FMCSR or shoehorn it into the unsafe vehicle statue of the Illinois Vehicle Code. This does not mean the officer has the authority to play pretend “out of service”. These are exclusive enforcement tasks of the Illinois State Police.

Whereas the FMCSR has scores of detailed regulations regarding load securement, Illinois has three statutes. Yeah that’s right…three and they are not very commodity or device specific.

The first is 625 ILCS 5/15-106 that says any protruding members of the load must be secured.

The second is 625 ILCS 5/15-109 that says loads cannot be spilled on the highway or come loose and be a hazard to other motorists. There is also a subsection about steel coil securement, but it defers to the FMCSR, so no local enforcement.

The third, and case in point, is 625 ILCS 5/15-109.1. This statute talks about when tarps are required:

“(a) No person shall operate or cause to be operated, on a highway, any second division vehicle loaded with dirt, aggregate, garbage, refuse, or other similar material, when any portion of the load is falling, sifting, blowing, dropping or in any way escaping from the vehicle.”

Notice the law speaks about second division vehicles, which could be trucks or trailers. The law also speaks directly to aggregates. The term aggregate is defined in subsection (d):

“(d) For the purpose of this Section “aggregate” shall include all ores, minerals, sand, gravel, shale, coal, clay, limestone or any other ore or mineral which may be mined.”

The most important words are the verbs. Falling. Sifting. Blowing. Dropping. Escaping. In other words, the load has to be leaving the truck in order for there to be a violation. That’s it plain and simple. Any police officer sitting on the side of the road waiting for a load of untarped aggregate to pass by has not met his burden to write a citation.

If the officer gets behind the vehicle, and the stones are falling out of the tailgate, ticket. If the sand is blowing off the top of the pile, ticket. Otherwise, there is not a load securement violation. Of course officers may exercise discretion in issuing citations. Interestingly, much like overweight vehicles, the statute actually requires the load to be secure before moving on.

The worst rationalization is a load must be tarped in the event the truck rolls over. Check out the picture used for this post. Tarps don’t hold back 20 tons of aggregates.

Myth busted.

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