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The Magical 8,000 Pounds

There’s magic numbers in truck law.  Illinois used to have the magical 73,280.  There’s also the magical 54,999 which is an integer short of the federal heavy vehicle use tax.  The most magical number of all is 26,000, but that’s an article for another day.  This week, the magical 8,000 found in the Illinois Vehicle Code is discussed.  As will be seen, it is commonly a problematic magic number.  The problem occurs most often when a truck owner or a police officer does not fully understand the regulations of an 8,000 pound truck plate – and there are many.

A concept to understand is that properly registering a vehicle is the responsibility of the owner.  The Secretary of State does not inspect vehicles at the point of sale to make sure the correct registration is purchased.  There are dozens upon dozens of different types of license plates available to vehicle owners in Illinois.  The Secretary of State simply reviews the application on its face and assumes the information listed is true and correct.  If everything is in order, a fee (or tax) is assessed and the registration is issued.

The law requires that all second division vehicles (trucks/trailers/buses) be registered, and the registered weight must cover the weight of the vehicle plus the load.  This is found in 625 ILCS 5/3-401D.  As stated above, there are many different kinds of registration available to owners of second division vehicles, however the most common found on trucks in Illinois are regular flat weight plates with a letter designation. The list of these plates are found in 625 ILCS 5/3-815.

Here’s the rub.  Occasionally a small truck or van (some of which are second division vehicles, some are not) are out on the street operating on passenger plates instead of B-truck plates (8,000 pounds).  It does not take long for the alert police officer to make a stop.  The driver quickly blames the SOS for the error, but as stated above, the responsibility truly lies with the registrant.  Shame on truck driver.

Two wrongs do not make a right, but time after time a truck enforcement officer will size up this situation as this:

“The truck, by law, requires weighted registration, and since it has none it is therefore overweight.”

The police officer will subsequently weigh the truck and issue an overweight on registration citation.  Or maybe he doesn’t weigh the truck and writes an overweight ticket based on the manufacturers GVWR. Even worse, maybe he wrongly assumes since the vehicle does not have appropriate registration, it is not entitled to be on the road, therefore is overweight on gross under 625 ILCS 5/15-111(a) and writes that citation.  Each example described is wholly wrong, and each example gets progressively more ridiculous in understanding. Shame on the police officer.

So is it wrong for the small truck or van to be operating on passenger plates if it is a second division vehicle?  Yes.  Then what are the police to do if they are not to write an overweight ticket?  Well, for starters, the police officer could simply inform the driver of the error and instruct him to visit the local SOS officer and pay a $29 fee to have the plate reclassified.   This would be the most reasonable route.

However, if a police officer must issue a citation, because by golly a law has been broken, the only enforcement avenue is under 625 ILCS 5/3-703 for improper use of registration, a Class-C misdemeanor. This is punishable by a $1500 fine and 30 days in jail…one heck of a penalty for misclassification of the smallest truck plate available in Illinois.

But wait!  What if the truck is really loaded down?  If the truck had been properly classified with a B-truck plate, it would be over 8,000 pounds and an overweight on registration citation could be issued!  Correct…here is the answer. Give the driver credit for 8,000 pounds just like a B-truck plate.  Why?  Because the cost of a B-truck plate is $101 and the cost of a passenger plate is $101.  At the end of the day, the registrant paid the right amount of money…he just got the wrong product in the check-out aisle.  As mentioned before, registration is a tax to operate vehicles on the road, and the owner paid the tax.

Further, Illinois is the midwest king of specialty registration like firefighter, sports teams and university plates. These are permissible on second division vehicles up to 8,000 pounds as well.  Sorry coppers, no overweight on registration.

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