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Legal Illegalities

In 1989, James Bond received a License to Kill. What? Where does one obtain such credentials? The truth is no one has a license to kill, or to commit any other crimes for that matter. There are times when the law affords law enforcement, the military or even a private citizen the right to use justifiable force which could result in death or great bodily harm, but no one has a license for such. Illegal behavior is illegal, but as in all things truck law, there is an instance when trucks can legally be illegal.

Trucks which are oversize and overweight are illegal. To be oversize or overweight means the vehicle and/or its load are exceeding the maximums established by the legislature. In Illinois, the General Assembly has said there are absolute limits to weight, width, length and height. No more. End of story.

There are other absolute limits to vehicle legality in Illinois. How about speed limits? The sign says the maximum speed limit is 35 mph. Going 36 mph is illegal. One would hope a police officer uses some good discretion here, but strictly speaking (to the letter of the law), a driver cannot exceed 35 mph.

What about blood alcohol levels? This association would strongly encourage and ask people to never drive with any amount of alcohol in their system, but that does not make it illegal. It’s only illegal when the driver is impaired or the blood alcohol concentration exceeds .080. There’s a line in the sand.

Now decide for yourself if this makes any sense. A driver who can never make it to work on time walks into the police department and asks to purchase a permit to exceed the speed limit. Employment is important and losing a job due to tardiness is not good. Would anyone expect a local government to actually sell such a document to make illegal speed legal again? Not a chance.

The unfortunate truth is some people function better when they have a certain amount of alcohol in their system. Just ask your friendly neighborhood policeman. Would it serve the public interest to allow a drunkard the ability to purchase a permit to exceed the legal blood alcohol level? Asinine.

This is exactly what oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permitting is though. A permit is a legal document which makes what was illegal, legal. It is very unique to trucks.

It’s not illegal to build a fence around your yard or install a new deck, yet as the people at fence installation in Louisville, KY will tell you, those jobs need permits as well. The difference is those permits are designed to ensure compliance with the law, safety and aesthetic measures. Very different than OS/OW permits.

Because it is illegal for a vehicle to be OS/OW, there is no guaranteed right to a permit. The Illinois Vehicle Code is very clear on this topic. In 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a), it states the Department (IDOT) and local authorities (everyone else) “may, in their discretion” issue a permit to exceed legal size and weight. It does not compel, mandate or require any unit of government to issue OS/OW permits.

Are there good reasons why some vehicles need to be OS/OW? Absolutely. Is it good for economic growth to allow trucks to obtain OS/OW permits? Most definitely.

However, there is no entitlement. A local community has the absolute right to say “no, we are not going to issue any permits to be oversize or overweight”. This refusal does not give the carrier the right to move OS/OW without a permit either simply because they have an important and legitimate need.

Conversely, a local authority does not have the right to say, “we don’t issue OS/OW permits, so go ahead and move without one”. This is poor governance because the law specifically states if a truck is exceeding lawful weight and size, it requires a permit, and this permit must be in written form.

No verbal permission. No taking someone’s word for it. That is setting the carrier up for failure and liability when a crash occurs, a low bridge is struck or a long vehicle gets hung up on a turn.

Local governments – do the right thing and issue OS/OW permits up to certain size/weight limitations which will protect your roads and communities. There are solutions out there to do this fast, quick and easy in a business friendly way.

Carriers – encourage local towns who issue permits to do so in an expeditious manner. Demand nothing less than permissions issued in some sort of writing.

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