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Part 3: Passing the Buck

Fines and fees are part of doing business.  It is  foolish to believe that anything in the business world should be free.  You have to pay to play. The legislative question to ask during this article is how much a trucking should reasonably pay in order to purchase permits for oversize/overweight vehicles from local government.  Illinois State Senator John Sullivan has introduced SB3516 to limit the cost local units of government of permits can charge for trucking permits.  The ultimate goal of this bill is to prevent locals from creating unreasonably high prices for permits, including those locales with home rule powers.

Many home rule units of government have created their own local overweight/oversize permit programs.  The trucking industry has two main complaints about this.  First, the sheer magnitude of regulatory variances by hundreds of different towns (a future article).  Secondly, the inflated cost of permits by a handful of local governments.  The majority of carriers that regularly purchase permits understand the cost of doing business.  Its the exaggerated prices that frustrate them.

For instance:  a home builder is constructing a subdivision in a municipality with high prices trucking permits.  Thousands of line items are figured in to be profitable.  The builder asks Trucking Company A for a quote to haul in heavy equipment.  Trucking Company A includes in their bid the high cost of the trucking permits, which blows the margins for the builders.  The builder then gets a lower quote from Trucking Company B, who prefers to run the risk of not buying the permits.  So in essence, the legit trucking company is penalized for following the law.

The problem with this bill for municipalities is that it limits the fees to that which are charged by the Illinois Department Of Transportation.  IDOT figures many of their fees, particularly for overweight moves, on mileage.  The price per mile is low, but IDOT has the ability to charge for many miles.  Local towns may only be a few miles across and unable to make the permit fees worth their while.  A second argument by municipalities is the apples to apples comparison…every trucking company has to pay the same for permits, so it is a zero sum reality for the customer hiring trucking.  Enforcement efforts are provided to catch the scofflaws and even the score.  The third argument by locals is that many of their smaller residential streets are not built to the same standards as large state highways, thereby incurring more damage from the heavier vehicles.

Arguments on both sides have their merits.  But as mentioned in a previous article, a balanced approach to legislation is imperative.  There are a very small minority of local governments charging these high prices and it is not right.  They are running a store front to generate revenue while missing the purpose of permits…to provide safe routing for large vehicles  They sell permits without review.  They are encouraging illegitimate trucking companies to break the law.  To think their streets are in such worse disrepair than other towns with reasonable permit fees is a strawman.

This bill however swings the pendulum to far the other way.  It minimizes a serious problem for local governments.  It penalizes the vast majority of local governments trying to do a fair and reasonable job.  This bill will force municipalities to dismantle their overweight/oversize permit program and bury the costs in building permits instead.

The buck will still get passed, it will just have a different face on it.

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