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One Plate, Two Plate

Each year, legislation is introduced in Illinois to allow only one license plate per vehicle.  Several states only require one mounted plate on the rear of the vehicle, but Illinois has yet to succumb to the peer pressure.  For various reasons people want this law changed.  Maybe it would reduce the cost of registration.  Others don’t like the appearance of the front plate.  Those with sports cars sometimes do not have mounting bolts or a way to even secure the plate on the front bumper.  There are exceptions to this rule though, and five out six of the exceptions apply to 2nd division vehicles…but unfortunately enforcement of this violation is no Dr. Seuss rhyme as the post title suggests.

Law enforcement groups have successfully beat back opposition of becoming a one-plate state by making it a case for identification.  Having a plate on the front of the vehicle gives the police a fighting chance to identify a vehicle in motion that is suspect to a crime.  A rear-plate only cuts the probability of proper identification in half.

Let’s look at the exceptions to the two-plate law in Illinois…most of  this can be found in 625 ILCS 5/3-413(b):

1. Motorcycles – these vehicles are only assigned one plate which is mounted to the rear.

2. Temporary plates – these are also known as “licensed applied for” and are issued to trucks, trailers and cars.  They are assigned to a vehicle while the Secretary of State processes the request for permanent registration.

3. Apportioned plates – the International Registration Plan only requires that vehicles bearing apportioned plates (interstate carriers) be issued one or two plates at the discretion of the State.  Illinois only requires one, and depending on the type of the vehicle, it must be mounted on the front or rear of the vehicle.

4. Trailer plates – it does not matter if it is a semi-trailer or a full-trailer, the vehicle is only required to have one plate, and it is to be mounted on the rear of the vehicle.

5. Tractor plates – truck tractors (aka semi-tractors) may be registered as power unit and only receive one plate.  This is primarily because a plate mounted on the rear of a semi-tractor is hardly seen when the trailer is coupled.  Also, there is a greater chance it could be damaged or torn off as the tractor backs into trailers.  Tractor plates are to be mounted on the front of the tractor and bear a small “T” about the letter designation of the flat weight truck plate.

6. Towed Vehicles – all vehicles on the highways in Illinois must be registered.  So what happens when a wrecker must tow a vehicle that does not have registration?  The tower must affix his 3rd tow plate on the rear of the towed vehicle, as the first two plates are on the towing vehicle.  There is no 4th plate required to be on the front of the towed vehicle.

The question begging to be answered…why is this important?  As has been stated in past posts, there is no certification required to enforce truck-specific registration violations.  What happens is untrained police officers who do not have a solid understanding of truck law fall back to their training that all vehicles must have two plates.  Truck drivers who are following the law are then cited for improper display of registration.  This is most commonly found in regards to apportioned plates and tractor plates.  Seasoned truck officers know there is an exception to most rules, and sometimes exceptions to the exceptions.

Because Illinois has placed such a high value on overweight enforcement and the fine revenue it generates, police mindset is to think that all violations involving trucks somehow should yield higher fines.  The most unfortunate circumstance is when a police officer believes improper display voids the registration all together, and then cites the driver for being overweight on registration as if the vehicle had none at all.

The one-off nature of truck laws is understandably confusing.  It is unrealistic to think mistakes will not be made.  However, there is no excuse for police officers to not fully investigate the truth to the exceptions before taking enforcement action.

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