Local Truck Restrictions – The Appropriate Citations

You may find this hard to believe, but sometimes government does not function as well as you would expect.  The separation of powers between the legislature and the courts, no matter how well intentioned, do not always sync perfectly.  Occasionally laws are written which do not jive with court interpretations and rules.  This scenario rings true with citations for violations of local truck restrictions. The article this week will look into how the powers that be in Illinois have put truckers and the police in a jackpot during enforcement of local weight restrictions.

There is an easy way for police officers to cite truck drivers violating their local weight restricted highways.  As descried in the article last week, signs which regulate traffic are called “Official Traffic Control Devices” in the Illinois Vehicle Code.  In 625 ILCS 5/11-305(a), the General Assembly allows police officers to cite driver who violate official signs.

Local truck restriction signs are no different than a “No Right On Red”, “Do Not Enter” or “No Trucks In Left Lane” sign on the interstates (a topic for a future article).  If signs are authorized by statute and posted in conformance, they are official.

The problem with citing a truck driver for disobeying a sign is that it is a moving violation.  Because an Illinois CDL holder is not entitled to supervision, this violation will be marked as a conviction on his driving abstract.  Too many convictions will not only suspend the base operator license, but in turn the CDL.

However, disobeying a traffic control device is not a CDL disqualifier.  According to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators Code Dictionary (ACD), this violation is coded as “M14”.  It does not map as a serious, major or minor offense to either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or the National Driver Register.

If a police officer wants to do the trucker a solid by not citing him for the moving violation, are there other citation options available?  The remaining avenue is to cite the driver directly for violating the local weight restricted highway under 625 ILCS 5/15-316 for a maximum fine of $50.

$50? Really?  That sounds like a great deal!  Think again…it’s never that easy in Illinois.  This is where the legislature and the court system fail to see eye-to-eye.  The problem is the legislature has set a statutory fine which is less than bail required by the Supreme Court.

This same situation is also seen with citations for not wearing a seat belt ($25) or the future hand-held cellular phone use ($75) effective on January 1st, 2014 (another future article coming in November).  In fairness to the General Assembly, they have tried to do right by the trucker.  They recognized a violation of a local weight restriction is not the end-all of traffic safety. They have tried to give the driver a financial break.

Per the Supreme Court Rules, all traffic citations require a driver to post bail.  A violation of a local weight restricted highway would fall under Rule 526(a) as a minor traffic violation, requiring a cash bail of $120. The driver could choose to substitute his driver’s license instead of cash, or the police officer can release the driver on a recognizance (signature) bond.  However, the police officer cannot issue a uniform traffic citation for this violation and only take a $50 cash bail.  It’s not provided for by the Illinois Supreme Court.

If the driver chooses to post the $120 cash bail, he can take the conviction and pay $70 more than is required by statute.  That’s probably the least financially damaging option, but a hosejob nonetheless.

If the driver wants to give up his CDL, or the officer chooses to issue him a recognizance bond, the officer can assign a court date and assess the $50 fine in court.  Financially more appealing, but the loss of time from work and other ancillary costs may make the $120 option seem better.  In addition to a plea or finding of guilty in court, the judge will assess court fees in addition to the $50.  How much are court fees you ask?  If you are in Cook County, start by adding a paltry $194 in court fees to your statutory $50 fine.  The rest of collar counties are not much better.

Not such a great deal after all, huh?  Next week the article will focus on the rawest deal of them all involving local weight restricted highways.  Don’t forget to upload your truck sign photos for a chance to win $100!


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