Who doesn’t like a discount? Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or are flush with cash, there’s something satisfying about finding the lower price for a product. It’s just part of the American dream. There’s an inherent gamble in deals though. Occasionally the seemingly same product is not all that it was cracked up to be. Illinois truck registration is no different. It’s expensive, but there is a discount version…until it creeps up and bites back you in the pocketbook. Here’s a quick comparison to get your attention. If you purchase the flat weight tax 80,000 pound Z-plate, the cost is $3191. However, the same 80,000 plate in mileage tax form is $1415! That’s a 56% discount. These costs do not include other administrative fees like the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, the Special Hauling Vehicle permit or title/transfer fees. THE FACTS Mileage plates are available for both trucks and trailers. The premise is simple. While you receive a fee discount, you have a limited amount of miles the vehicle may operate each year on the registration, as opposed to unlimited miles on flat weight tax. The authority and classification options for mileage plates is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-818 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Interestingly, there are a few aberrations compared to their flat-weight tax cousins: • Mileage truck plates have a 20,000 pound “MG”plate. There is no “G” flat weight truck plate. • The flat weight “H” truck plate has a maximum capacity of 26,000 pounds. The “MH” mileage plate is only 24,000 pounds. • Regular truck plate have a “Q” plate for 50,000 pounds, but there is no “MQ” mileage plate. • A flat weight “TG” trailer plate is good for 20,000 pounds, and there is no flat weight “TF” trailer plate. There is a mileage “MF” trailer plate, and it is good for 20,000 pounds instead. • Flat weight trailers have a “TN” plate for 40,000 pounds, mileage trailers have a “MM” plate for 40,000 pounds. Those who elect to pay the mileage tax instead of the flat weight tax must have working odometers for the vehicle, including both trucks and trailers. This requirement is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-701. Odometers for a trailer are found in the hub of an axle. Records for the mileage of each vehicle must be kept. Also, anyone who opts for mileage tax must post a $500 bond in event they exceed the limited number of miles allowed for that particular plate. If the truck exceeds the mileage, the $500 bond is used to make up the cost. THE PROS Obviously a discounted rate is a pro. Mileage plates are great for seasonal jobs with trucks dedicated to seasonal operation only. Snow plowing and tree removal operations are perfect examples of this. This concludes the pros of mileage plates. THE CONS Here is where you pay the piper. While the mileage tax has a purpose, so does honesty and enforcement. After years of abuse, the Illinois Secretary of State Police now sends investigators out to do surprise audits. If the records are inaccurate, prepare to pay. If the odometer is broken, disconnected or otherwise not spinning at the appropriate rate, prepare to pay. Cheating on mileage plates is like not having plates at all. You may very well be force registered to pay the full rate for the fiscal year. While most enforcement authority rests solely with the Illinois Secretary of State Police, local police officers have a hand in this too. There is nothing local police officers can do about a truck exceeding its mileage, or checking record books. However, if a local police officer lawfully stops a vehicle with mileage plates and finds the odometer not operable, the truck has no registration. That means no registered weight, which means overweight on registration, which means expensive citations. This is not license for a police officer to stop a mileage plated truck for any traffic violation, just to have it run a course to check mileage. Or to inspect record books. That is fruit of the poisonous tree. Local police authority is limited. If a police officer has independent reason to believe the vehicle is overweight (axles/gross/registration) he can most certainly measure the mileage from the point of the traffic stop to the weigh station to guarantee odometer accuracy.
All that glitters is definitely not gold.