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Give Them an Inch…

Give them and inch and they’ll take a mile, is how the old saying goes. Police officers see this in action every day. The speed limit is 30 mph but the motorists push the limit to see how much faster they can go before they get pulled over. A car pulls up to the white stripe at an intersection, how far over the line until the officer decides the motorist disobeyed the stop sign? Same goes for oversize/overweight permit moves, which are set with very little margin of error. So what are the common errors made by the trucking industry and how many inches do officers give for those mistakes? Read on to find out!

Axle Spacings

With the implementation of automated permits by the Illinois Department of Transportation, it’s more important than ever the trucking industry know the correct axle spacings when requesting a permit. IDOT regulations say the axle minimum axle spacing must be correct or the permit is deemed fraudulent, and the officer can knock the weights back to 80,000 pounds.

What’s important to remember is the greater the axle spacing, the less weight is compressed in one area. In other words, exceeding the minimum axle spacings would not constitute a fraudulent permit. Officers should also be aware the tool they use for measuring axle spacings will have a margin of error. In this instance, the officer should give the trucking industry the inch.


IDOT regulations, the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations explain what is considered a non-divisible load. Compromising the intended use of the load, destroying the value of the load, or taking more than eight hours to dismantle would render a load non-divisible. As such, many companies who regularly participate in permit moves know what can and can’t be transported on the trailer.

IDOT clearly states that tie downs, brooms, shovels, rigging and other dunnage can be carried on the trailer. In other words, minor things that help the workers get the equipment on and off the trailer, and secure it are perfectly legal to have on the trailer. Once again, the officer can give the inch to the trucking industry.

Number of Axles on the Ground

When applying for a permit, the company must state how many axles will be on the ground. So when the huge permit load drives by with five axles on the ground and the permit requires six, one would think this voids the permit. According to IDOT’s permit manual, not enough axles on the ground is a violation punishable by a regular traffic citation for a “Violation of Permit”, not an overweight ticket. When there is not enough axles on the ground, the officer should give the inch.

Off the Assigned Permit Route

The police officer hears it all the time, “I can leave my permitted route for 1-mile for the purposes of loading, unloading, food, fuel rest, or repairs”. Well, not exactly. IDOT regulations state a permitted load can go from one state highway to another state highway for food, fuel, rest, repairs, to return to permitted route after mistakenly getting off route or to comply with regulatory signs to weigh. Often times, the trucking industry believes they can utilize non-state roads for these reasons. They cannot. So in the instance a permitted moves turns onto a local road, the officer gets the inch.

Police officers have great discretion in deciding what the letter of the law is. In some instances, the officer should use their best judgement in deciding when a mistake is a clear violation of the law, or simply a subjective view. Sometimes the trucking company deserves the mile, but sometimes they don’t even get the inch.

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