No one can discount the fact truck drivers and company owners have a tough job. Balancing local, state and federal regulations with the media’s understanding of those same regulations can make one’s head spin. Often times these regulations are at odds, but what’s more difficult is conflicting sources of information. Unless authors specialize in the trucking industry, cutting through the noise and understanding the true intent of legislation is a challenge. The consequence of the misunderstanding for the owner or operator are citations, fines and court dates, but could it result in arrest and jail time? It has.
Federal regulations guide all Commercial Driver’s License statutes within Illinois and nationwide, though it can be years before state legislation catches up and aligns with the regulations. This results in confusion on not only within trucking but also enforcement.
Articles written by even well-known trucking journals who target wide audiences often write to align with their nationwide readership. This results in oversimplification and confusion on local issues.
Owners, operators and some law enforcement depend on state-run websites and state agency customer service for clarification but their writings and knowledge are often watered down versions of true vehicle code, criminal code and administrative code. These shortcuts result in mistakes by everyone.
The final straw where all conflicts can be broken is the truck stop or local breakfast diner. All walks of the industry reflect on the latest new regulations or applications of statute they swear were true or were completely false. This reliance results in shortsightedness. Where does this lead us?
Years ago a local truck enforcement officer and member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association stopped a vehicle for a minor violation. Had the officer not discovered the driver was not licensed to operate the Class-A non-CDL combination, the driver likely would have been on his way with a warning for the initial minor infraction.
The driver was perfectly cooperative and listened as the officer explained why the driver was not required to possess a CDL, but was still required to obtain the proper license class. It was not until the company owner arrived with a properly licensed driver when the problems began.
The company owner had regularly disagreed with the enforcement practices of the local police authority and saw the officer’s supposed missteps as an opportunity to voice his displeasure. With reference material in hand, the owner screamed back at the officer the regulations as he saw them which would have permitted the driver to operate on the license he already had. To the officer’s credit, he never raised his voice and calmly explained his thorough understanding of the licensing statutes.
Finally, after the owner refused to leave and then made an obscene suggestive recommendation to the officer, the owner was arrested for obstructing that officer’s investigation. The owner was so stuck on his misinformed understanding of the statutes that he was willing to go to jail over them.
The clearest understanding can fail without an abundance of council.
The greatest benefit owners and operators have over law enforcement is the need for a mastery of only the vehicles they operate. Police officers on the other hand have to understand how the law applies to all vehicles through all operations.
Seek out the counsel of local and statewide law enforcement. Educate yourselves through trade journals and state websites. Read vehicle and administrative code. Become a member of a local trucking association.
Most of all, be willing to learn and question inconsistencies from any one source.