Remember the schoolyard bully? He was the monster in 6th grade (for the fifth time) who would target little kids from across the playground while they were lining up to go inside each morning. He’d walk up to them, snatch their Batman lunchbox, and then demand they had to buy it back with their milk money. Unfortunately, that’s what local towns do when they require permits for trucks exceeding only their local weight restrictions. It’s a racket and it’s plain wrong.
Let’s be perfectly clear. Local Illinois governments engaged in this practice are the exception to the rule. For those few towns involved, the process of critically thinking through their actions has probably not been vetted against all who have a dog in the fight. The negative impact to the carrier industry and their own local businesses is not fully understood by their leadership. However, ignorance is not an excuse to continue further down that road. It’s not excuse for motorists and it is not an excuse for government officials.
Consider these analogies:
1) A local town has had complaints about speeding cars on a specific street. The police conduct speed surveys and the engineering department conducts traffic counts. It is determined that a problem does not truly exist, but the residents are clamoring nonetheless. To answer the call of their constituents, they lowered the speed limit to 10 mph, even though the Illinois Vehicle Code set a minimum speed limit at 20 mph. In turn, the town sells permits to those drivers who can prove a need to drive greater than 10 mph.
2) The same town has spent years curtailing drunk driving in their town. The compliance rate is so high they have not been able to find any more drunk drivers. This has reduced fine and administrative towing revenues. To compensate, the council lowers the blood alcohol level to .020 for all drivers on their local streets. However, those people with legitimate reason to consume alcohol at weddings and funerals may purchase a permit to do so as long as their BAC does not meet the .08 DUI threshold.
Preposterous? Of course. These situations would never play out in real life…or would they? While lowering a weight limit on a local street is perfectly lawful, the Illinois Vehicle Code is clear in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a) that permits for excess size and weight must be “exceeding the maximum specified in this Act”.
What is “this Act”? The definition of the “Act” is found in 625 ILCS 5/101.1 where it defines the term as meaning “the Illinois Vehicle Code”. Not a local ordinance. Unless the vehicle exceeds the size and weight limits declared as maximums by the General Assembly, it is unlawful to issue a permit.
Why not create a phony width restriction of 6’ wide? Or reduce legal height to 10’? The intent of the local ordinance is plainly clear…revenue. If the local jurisdiction had a pure desire to keep certain trucks off their streets, they would choose to enforce the law with the penalties codified by the State. If the motive was truly to protect the infrastructure from damage caused by trucks, or to satisfy complaints from residents, they would hold to an absolute restriction. Selling a permit to allow the truck to operate on the very road they restricted it from in the first place smacks of financial gain.
Conversely, they have chosen to revoke the limitations granted by the legislature. They have implemented an unlawful system of requiring the trucker to buy back his rights with a permit. If he fails to do so, they hit him with an “overweight” ticket using an unlawful fine schedule.
If that isn’t bad enough philosophically, this practice violates a second statute in the IVC. All permits for size and weight must be for non-divisible loads. This limitation is found in 5/15-301(a):
“No state or local agency shall authorize the issuance of excess size or weight permits for vehicles and loads that are divisible and that can be carried, when divided, within the existing size or weight maximums specified in this Chapter.”
Let’s say a town has a local restriction for 8-tons. How many trucks, operating above 8-tons yet within legal weight and size limits “of this Act”, are carrying divisible loads? Landscapers hauling dirt and stone to a patio job. Cement mixers hauling ready-mix for curbs or a driveway. Tow trucks bring two cars from a crash to the yard. It’s endless.
It’s high time to make sure no one steals your lunch again.