The Commercial Distribution Fee

In the world of apps, the term “running in the background” has become common speak. Whether you are using a laptop, mobile phone or tablet, apps running in the background allow processes to work even though they are not being used at the moment by the user. That’s kind of what the Commercial Distribution Fee (CDF) is. It’s there, you don’t really see it, and unless you are paying for it or collecting it, you don’t really need to know about it. But guess what? Both the trucking industry and truck enforcement officers have a dog in this fight.

Let’s not pull any punches – the CDF is a fight. Back in the days of the Governor Blagojevich administration, there was a battle over the Rolling Stock tax exemption. The Governor could not get his way with it, so the CDF tax was created.

The CDF originally imposed a 36% increase in fees for any vehicle registered above 8,000 pounds. That meant any vehicle registered with a minimum “D” truck plate or “TD” trailer plate had to pay this percentage along with the statutory cost of the plate.

The trucking industry successfully lobbied to reduce the CDF to 21.5% in 2005-2006, and further reduce it to 14.35% from July 1st, 2006 until the present. Since that time, scores of bills have been introduced to repeal the CDF altogether.

The statute says the CDF is to be used “for the use of the public highways, State infrastructure, and State services”. Regardless of where you fall in your opinion of the CDF, this language is quite vague as to where the funds are actually deposited and used after having been collected by the Secretary of State.

In a recent publication released from the Transportation for Illinois Coalition (TFIC), the group claims revenue from the CDF “currently goes to the General Revenue Fund (GRF)”. Because of this, the CDF in and of itself is reviled by the local carriers. It’s a tax imposed exclusively on their industry which could be used for generic state spending which does not benefit their industry.

The State, however, has come to rely on this revenue boost as part of their budgeting during the horrid financial state in which the Illinois economy wallows.

So what’s the answer to the CDF and how does this impact truck enforcement? Well the answer is beyond the scope of the ITEA, but how the CDF is applied by enforcement is not.

In 2011, Governor Quinn signed legislation written in partnership between the ITEA, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Secretary of State and Mid-west Truckers Association. Part of this bill included new language called “appropriate registration” in 625 ILCS 5/3-401(d)(2).

It is not uncommon for truck enforcement officers to cite trucks for being overweight on registration. There are two separate fine charts which could apply, but the fine is never to exceed the cost of “appropriate registration”.

Included in the cost of the fine based on “appropriate registration” is the statutory cost of the registration as listed in 625 ILCS 5/3-815(a), and the CDF in 5/3-815.1. These two things make up “the full annual cost of the required registration and its associated fees” in 5/3-401(d)(2). Other figures such as court costs may be line-itemed in the total bail amount, but the fine amount is only “appropriate registration”.

This is nothing more than a formula for the police officer to use in the calculation of the fine. The different statutes used to tabulate the fine does not mean the truck is receiving new registration from the officer. Nor does it mean the circuit clerk has to redistribute the fine money to the Secretary of State. It’s as simple as a whole dollar amount equal to what the Secretary of State lists as the 1st quarter truck registration fees on its website.

The purpose behind the “appropriate registration” definition was eliminate questions about whether or not to include the CDF in the fine total. Or to use the differing quarterly fees assessed by the SOS when they are actually selling truck plates. The CDF should be like an app running in the background of fines.

The law provides uniformity as to how the fine is to be calculated. The Supreme Court Rules direct the circuit clerks how the fine is to be distributed. No one else has a voice in the matter, yet certain voices in truck enforcement world make unnecessary noise about the CDF.

Except there is state sponsored, unauthoritative instruction out there teaching police officers to break down the fine amount into the cost of the plate and the CDF. This same instruction gives hard copy resources to officers depicting the faulty practice. All this does is create confusion.

There is also software being sold to law enforcement agencies to automate citation processing. The programmers left off the CDF in the fine total because they do not feel it is “right” since the circuit clerks do not redistribute the CDF to the Secretary of State. That thought process is well outside their authority and in direct contradiction with statute and the Supreme Court Rules.

In the end, you have confused police officers collecting various fine amounts when they all should be collecting the same. The only variation should be in the total bail amount, and that is because of differing county court fees.

Never fear, the ITEA is here.


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