Happy New Year, Tow Truckers

On the first day of Truckmas, Jesse gave to me, a tow truck plate.  On the second day of Truckukkah, Jesse gave to me, a second tow truck plate.  And on the third day of Truckwanza, Jesse gave to me, a third tow truck plate. If you are the “rest of us” who celebrate “Festivus”, sorry, there is no holiday mashup for you!  The reason Jesse gives out flat weight tow truck registration (TW) in triplicate is for one simple reason: they all expire on December 31st.  Apportioned plates (IRP) expire March 30th and regular flat weight plates June 30th, but the bells toll for intrastate towing on December 31st.  Here’s why…

The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) has something to say about tow trucks without registration.  In the different disciplines of truck law, tow trucks have some unique rules.  However, they are regular second division vehicles just like other trucks.  They are designed for pulling or carrying property, 625 ILCS 5/1-217.

Due to their second division vehicle status, the owners of tow trucks are required to purchase weighted registration, just like other trucks. This mandate can be found in 625 ILCS 5/3-401(d)(1).  This is what is referred to as an “instructive” law.  It is telling the owner what to do.

When a second division vehicle does not have registration, meaning either the registration is expired or the vehicle never had registration, the “prescriptive” law kicks in. The penalty, or prescription, for an unregistered vehicle is spelled out in the following paragraph, 625 ILCS 5/3-401(d)(2).  If a tow truck is found to be unregistered on January 1st, then the entire gross weight of the vehicle is overweight.

WHOA!!  The question you are asking yourself right now is, “You mean to tell me that if my tow truck with expired plates weighs 23,000 pounds, then I am 23,000 pounds overweight? That fine will be astronomical!”  Correct. It would be astronomical, except that is not how the fine is calculated.  If a vehicle is 23,000 pounds overweight on its gross, the fine would be north of $7,000!

The law has a special clause for the unregistered vehicle though.  Yes, the total gross weight is used to calculate the fine…but no, the fine chart totaling up to $7,000 is not used.  Think of it this way: to make the truck legal, all you would have to do is go purchase registration with enough weight to cover the weight of the truck and load, and all is good.  Therefore, the law says the fine for the overweight on registration is based on “appropriate registration” to cover the weight of the truck and its load.  In this instance, the owner would need a 26,000 pound license plate to cover the weight, and the cost is $561. Not cheap, but better than before!

That is Truck Enforcement 101 stuff.  Here is where things get dicey.  What’s up with that third tow truck plate?  Well, all vehicles on the road are required to be registered, even those being towed.  Is it possible that a tow truck driver could be towing a car that has expired registration, or no registration at all?  Of course!  The third tow plate has one sole purpose: to make a towed car registered.  Once the driver slaps the plate on it, BAM! It is now a registered vehicle.

The key words to understand are the difference between “towed” and “carried”.  A towed vehicle is one that is pulled behind another.  A carried vehicle is one which is carried as a load on top of another.  Generically speaking, people refer to them all as tow trucks, but that is no always the case. Some “tow trucks” are designed to only tow behind. Some “tow trucks” are designed only to carry…these are referred to as roll-back or flatbeds.  Some of these do double-duty in that a vehicle can simultaneously be carried and towed.

The trick is knowing how to properly weigh tow trucks that do not have valid registration.  The method is oddly described in Chapter 15, 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a)(12).  The goal here is to not overthink the process, and there are three possible scenarios:

  1. If a tow truck only has a vehicle being carried on top, that load counts towards the total gross weight fine calculation.

  2. If there is a vehicle carried and also towed behind, the towed vehicle gets disconnected, left off the scale, but the load carried counts towards the gross weight fine calculation.

  3. If the truck is only towing a vehicle behind, again the towed vehicle is disconnected and left of the scale, which leaves the empty weight of the truck as the sole gross weight used to calculate the fine.

Towers – get ‘er done…there is still time!  Coppers – get it right!


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