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The Ceiling is the Limit

Have you ever thought about a word and wondered who made it up and why? The word “ceiling” is one of those nouns. It means all kinds of things. It is the limit of someone’s patience before they blow up. It is what finishes the top of an interior room. It is also the limit of what someone has to, or will choose to, pay for a specific good. In truck enforcement world, the term “ceiling” gets tossed around when it comes to how fines for overweight on registration are calculated. This week the article will talk about why the term “ceiling” is such an important topic.

In order to understand the fine ceilings on registration overweights, three myths need to be dispelled.

Myth #1 – Compulsory amounts of registered weight The owner of a truck is welcome to purchase whatever amount of registered weight he chooses. If he wants to spend $3191 (plus the federal heavy vehicle use tax) to register his F150 pickup with an 80,000 Z-truck plate, he can most certainly do that. If he only wants to spend $101 to register his 3-axle Peterbilt semi-tractor with 8,000 pound B-plates, he is more than welcome to do that as well!

Registration is a tax, plain and simple. Feel free to pay too much or too little, but the choice (and consequences) are yours.

Myth #2 – GVWR mandates registered weight Registration has nothing to do with the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. NOTHING. While truck owners are encouraged to purchase enough registration to cover their GVWR, it is not required. Any person who tells you otherwise (or a police officer who dares write an overweight citation for it) is completely wrong.

Myth #3 – There is a singular ceiling fine chart There are two ways a truck can be overweight on registration. First, if the vehicle has no registration, or the registration is expired, it is overweight. Secondly, if the registration is valid, and the vehicle exceeds the maximum registered weight, it is also overweight. The issue of a “ceiling” for overweight on registration fines applies in both cases.

In 2010, the ITEA, the Illinois State Police and several other organizations worked to have a piece of legislation passed which capped the fine amounts for overweight on registration. The statutory term “appropriate registration” was born from this bill.

If a truck has no registration at all, or it is expired, the police officer must weigh the vehicle in order to issue an overweight citation. Say the total gross weight is 35,750 pounds. If the police officer writes the citation using the overweight bond chart in found in 625 ILCS 5/15-113, the fine would be $10,800!

In these cases, the police officer must use the cost of the “appropriate registration” to calculate the fine. If the owner had simply purchased an L-truck plate (36,000 pounds), the total cost would be $1123. There is a ceiling to the fine amount.

Here’s another scenario. A truck with valid Illinois T-truck plates (64,000 pounds), is stopped and weighed with a gross weight of 69,500. To charge the driver for the cost of “appropriate registration”, in this case a V-truck plate (73,280 pounds), the fine would be $2624. The police officer is mandated to compare the cost of appropriate registration to the fine chart in Chapter 15. In this instance, the fine for being 5,500 pounds overweight, would be $1650. The officer must use this lower fine. That is the ceiling.

For years, police officers were instructed that calculating fines based on the cost of registration (625 ILCS 5/3-815) was the “ceiling” chart. The reality is there is no legal term in the Illinois Vehicle Code for “ceiling”. To dogmatically say the Chapter 3 registration fine chart is the “ceiling chart” misleads police officers to believe they should always use that fine structure instead of correctly choosing to use the lower of the two charts. This is why the term “appropriate registration” is a better way to describe the correct method for calculating overweight on registration fines.

Have you reached your mental registration ceiling yet?

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