The Goal is Never Revenue Enhancement
It’s week three in the five part series on what makes a successful local truck enforcement program, and it’s going to get a little touchy. Why? Because the topic is about revenue enhancement. In a day when government agencies are under the microscope of accountability and transparency, it’s time to call a spade a spade.
Yes, there is revenue in local truck enforcement programs, however the revenue should only be the by-product of quality and reasonable enforcement programs. If there was ever a mantra which should be emblazoned on the office doors of police administrators, it should be this.
The tension between the police and the carrier industry is not about the law being broken and the need for justice to be served. Common sense tells you overweight vehicles are unsafe and damage roads. For those carriers who play by the rules and find themselves at a disadvantage to competitors undercutting them by breaking the law, the police serve a true purpose.
The tension is not about the fact fines must be levied to encourage compliance. Without the threat of a penalty, the maintenance of order (why real policing exists) would be impossible to obtain. The rub is the disproportionally high fines unique to “crimes” involving trucks compared to cars. The consternation is the motive behind the enforcement in order to generate fine revenue.
The reality is overweight truck enforcement does not produce nearly the amount of revenue for local government as readily believed. Read more about that by clicking HERE. Yet an overweight fine does produce more than other traffic citations, therefore quantities of violations do yield a larger bounty.
Here’s another truth: The trucking industry appreciates local law enforcement. This can be illustrated by unparalleled support the ITEA has garnered from major trucking associations within Illinois and around the nation. What the trucking industry does not appreciate are local police agencies that see them as deep pockets to plug their budgetary holes.
So here’s a list of questions to consider to determine if a truck enforcement program is revenue driven or quality driven:
1. Is the local truck officer expected to issue a certain dollar amount of overweight citations each year or risk losing his assignment?
Whether or not there is a written dollar quota (incredibly, this is not illegal) or a presumed one, if the officer feels threatened, he will use whatever tactics to keep his position intact. Revenue driven.
2. Does the local truck officer always seek the highest possible fines in court for “regular” traffic violations just because a truck is involved?
In Illinois, petty offenses can be fined up to $1000. Are car drivers being fined hundreds of dollars for petty car violations? Look out for an agency using maximum fines (or leveraging a lesser yet still ridiculously high fine) for a petty truck violations like “no company name on vehicle”. Revenue driven.
3. Does the local agency use alternative prosecution venues to increase the percentage of overweight fines or other truck specific offenses?
Any agency using administrative adjudication for overweights, or any Illinois Vehicle Code violation involving a CDL holder, is breaking the law even if they are a home-rule community. Revenue driven.
4. Does the truck officer or police administrator harbor an opinion or belief the trucking industry is lucrative and can afford whatever fines are levied?
Yes, the trucking industry, as a whole, generates billions every year in revenue. That does not mean each trucker or company is living in the black. The trucking industry struggles to generate a profit like every other business in America. Oh yeah, and they do it as the second most regulated profession after the banking industry. Revenue driven.
5. Does the local town make oversize/overweight vehicle permits difficult to obtain, thereby reducing the opportunity for compliance?
The ITEA maintains a webpage for local towns to list their OS/OW permit information, for free, as a good-faith effort to help carriers be compliant. This does not mean a town not listed is trying to hoodwink the industry. Some don’t know about it and others can’t cut through their bureaucratic red tape. The irony is the towns who have adamantly refused to post their information on this page are the ones most complained about. Lack of compliance is more lucrative than compliance. Revenue driven.
If you are the truck enforcement officer, honestly ask yourself if these questions describe you. If you are the police administrator, honestly ask yourself if you encourage or facilitate these behaviors. If you are the trucker, seek out the right answers to these questions and then formulate an honest opinion.
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