top of page

Special Mobile Equipment – Week 2

There once was a man who owned a horse. He loved horses, but he equally loved the environment and refused to further decimate the good earth with a polluting modern automobile. The man rode the horse everywhere…to work, the grocery store and Chik-fil-A. He was a master rider, and had he been a little shorter, he probably would have been a jockey. One day a policeman stopped him (on the horse) and said he needed a driver’s license.  Please, read on.

The next question out of your mouth should be “what in the world does equestrian transportation have to do with truck enforcement”?  Last week this blog looked at special mobile equipment (SME) and the necessity for it to have registration.  This week the article takes another look at special mobile equipment, but the focus is on the necessity of a driver’s license.

The answer to your question is this: SME, like horses, does not require a driver’s license to operate on the road because they are not “vehicles”.  The problem is SME resembles a vehicle in the fact most have wheels and operate on the road.  Many types of SME also have motors.  From a generic, layman perspective SME should be considered a “vehicle”, but statutory definition does not give the same credence.  To understand this is to follow a horsetrail through the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC), so saddle up cowboy.

The easiest way around the driver’s license requirement is found in 6-102 where it lists which drivers are exempt from having a driver’s license.  Subsection (4) specifically says “A person operating a road machine”.  There is no definition of a “road machine” anywhere in the IVC, so apparently that is left to the discretion of the lawman.  Is a rubber tire end-loader a machine? Yes.  Is a mobile crane a machine? Yes. Common sense leads a reasonable person to believe that if both are machines and both are operated on roads, then they are “road machines”.  Still not convinced?  Read on.

First start with the definition of a “motor vehicle” found in section 1-146. The first line starts with “Every vehicle…” Stop right there and jump to the definition of a “vehicle” found in 1-217.  It is here that a vehicle is defined as  “Every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported…”  Is SME a device?  A reasonable person could argue it is.  However, is SME designed to transport persons or property?  According to the definition of SME in 1-191, SME it is not.  It specifically says in that section “Every vehicle not designed or used primarily for the transportation of persons or property”.

But wait!  It says “Every vehicle” in the definition of SME.  This is a problem.  The definition of SME says “vehicle”, but the definition of a vehicle directly contradicts the definition of SME.  Which statute should a police officer follow when interpreting the law?  It is in these situations where police officers need not be the lawyer and instead look to the agency with regulatory authority. In this case, the Illinois Secretary of State.

Both the statutory definition of “vehicle” and “motor vehicle” divide vehicles into two categories, the first and second divisions. The article last week made it clear that SME is not a second division vehicle, leaving only the definition of a first division vehicle for SME to fall into.  The problem with this is SME, by definition, does not meet the requirement of a first division vehicle either.  Now guess which regulatory agency also says SME does not fit in either category of vehicle?  You guessed right…the SOS.

Even though the definition of SME includes the word “vehicle”, it is not a vehicle per statute.  And if it is not a vehicle, then it is not a motor vehicle.  And if it is not a motor vehicle, then the operator need not be licensed per 6-101.  If the Illinois SOS will not license a driver operating SME, then how can police officers hold them accountable to having a license that will not be granted by the very agency with the authority to do so?

Sometimes though, special mobile equipment requires a CDL…but that topic is a horse (and a future article) of a different color.

61 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page