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Split the Difference

The goal for anyone looking for a relationship is to find the special someone who “completes you,” who meshes with your personality and character so well you coexist in perfect harmony. This is not to say one must be identical with the other person, rather complement each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. As with all ideals, there often comes a time for compromise, but how much compromise is too much? The article this week will discuss compromise in the face of statutory truck law contradictions.

In the courts, judges and juries decide where the compromise begins and where it ends. Once a police officer issues a citation, only the courts have the authority to change, accept or dismiss a citation or arrest.

However, police officers have an incredibly powerful tool called discretion. Discretion is what gives a police officer the ability to make decisions appropriate for the situation. Without discretion, there can be no compromise and cohesiveness becomes diluted in a world of black and white law enforcement.

The Illinois Vehicle Code makes a compromise with certain trucks having what is commonly known as a “split tandem”. As most truckers and truck officers know, a tandem is a series of two or more axles where the distance from the center of the hub on one axle, to the center of the hub on the next axle is more than 40 inches, but is less than 96 inches.

In a normal configuration, a tandem is allowed a maximum weight of 34,000 pounds. However, if the distance from hub to hub is between 72 and 96 inches, this configuration is called a split tandem and may receive additional weight under certain circumstances.

Confused? Continue reading…

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association has a document called the Hamilton Weight Chart. It is a reference guide for ITEA members (both enforcement and industry) to use to help distinguish what types of trucks receive what weights. Cement mixers come in many configurations and are covered extensively in the chart, since they are infamous for causing confusion and frustration to truck officers.

Last month a certified ITEA truck officer stopped a 4-axle cement mixer registered as a Special Hauling Vehicle (SHV) that was driving on a public highway with its rear adjustable axle in the air. Since the truck only had three axles on the ground, it was treated the same as a 3-axle cement mixer. The problem the officer ran into was that the cement mixer had a split tandem.

The distance between the two drive axles was 74 inches. The officer turned to the Hamilton Weight Chart and discovered a contradiction in Illinois Vehicle Code law. The Hamilton Weight Chart states a 3-axle truck registered as an SHV with a split tandem receives 36,000 pounds on the tandem. However, the weight chart also states that a 3-axle rear discharge cement mixer registered as an SHV receives 40,000 pounds on the tandem.

So which is it? It would appear this vehicle qualifies under more than one category. Because the officer was trained by the ITEA, he made the mature decision in favor of the industry. He took the high road and gave the truck the higher weight allowance which resulted in the trucker driving away without an expensive ticket. He then took it upon himself to share this information with the ITEA so it could be discussed.

Contradictions are nothing new to the law books of Illinois and they are nothing new to police officers. Contradictions are an inevitable discovery for police officers, and they will not be reproved for being unable to figure out which way to proceed without help. Rather the officer will be praised by the ITEA when they decide to make a decision which protects the industry.

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