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Tow Truck Registration: Part 2

Last week, the ITEA blog focused on basic information about the peculiarities of tow-truck registration. The goal of the article this week is to examine proper enforcement methods for expired tow-truck registration. With the December 31st expiration of tow-truck (TW) plates right around the corner, enforcement efforts for expired tow-truck plates will increase after the new year. There never seems to be a lack of questions, from both police and the industry, about overweight enforcement action with tow-trucks. The fact is, while it is not difficult to understand the unique nature of tow-trucks, it methodology goes against the grain of normal weight enforcement…and when that happens, costly enforcement errors follow.

First, the myth that overweight on registration citations can be issued without actually weighing the vehicle on the scale needs to end…there is an entire ITEA blog post devoted to this topic HERE. Other than some authority limited to the Illinois Secretary of State Police when force registering a truck, all police officers in Illinois must weigh trucks on a scale in order to write an overweight ticket, regardless if it is a Chapter 15 or Chapter 3 (registration) violation. This error is typically played out in two different ways:

  1. GVWR – It is incorrect to write an overweight on registration ticket based on the manufacturers Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. It’s a free country. Illinois law does not require truck owners to cover the GVWR with registration. However, truckers are greatly encouraged to do so.

  2. Previous year – the amount of 2013 registered weight is not dependent on the amount of 2012 registered weight. Maybe in 2012 the owner registered his truck for 26000 pounds…but in 2013 he may choose to only register for 16000. Unless that truck actually weighs between 16001 and 26000 pounds on the scale, the driver cannot be fined for the cost of a 26000 pound plate simply because that is what was paid for the previous year.

Second, as was mentioned last week, the 3rd tow-truck plate serves no purpose other than to register the vehicle being towed behind (not carried on top). There is no combining the plates. If the towed vehicles does not have valid registration, and the 3rd tow-truck plate is not displayed, it does not necessarily make anything overweight on registration.

The biggest enforcement mistake made in regards to overweight tow-trucks is mixing up registration with legal weights in Chapter 15. There will be a separate blog post in the future about legal tow-truck weights, but for now, registration has the floor.

Rollback or flatbed carriers are required to register for enough weight to cover the actual weight of the empty truck AND any load carried thereon. Plainly spoken, even if the truck is carrying a load on the flatbed while simultaneously towing a car behind on the single wheel lift, the weight of the towed vehicle cannot be included. Nor can the tongue weight of the towed car be added to the calculation. Insurance is another fact that should be taken into consideration, it is a must ofr this type of car to have insurance, you can get it here.

For instance, it’s January 1st and a police officer finds an expired TW plate on a 2-axle tow-truck. The power unit has a vehicle being carried on top, and is towing a car behind. Assuming the TW plate is indeed expired, there is definitely an overweight on registration violation. Upon weighing the tow-truck (on a scale, no shortcuts!), the officer must completely disconnect the towed vehicle and leave it off the scale. Only the weight of the tow-truck and the load it is carrying can be used in the fine calculation.

This also goes for tow-trucks that are designed to only tow behind with a single wheel left assembly (aka a “stinger” or “sling” on the old trucks), not carry a load. When a police officer discovers this situation, only the power unit can be weighed. Just like the rollback carrier, the towed vehicle must be disconnected and left off the scale. The law only requires the truck to have enough registration to cover the actual weight of the truck, not the load it is towing.

It can be a pain and time consuming to ask the driver to disconnect the towed vehicle…but the law is the law, and it is the job of police officers to follow it. Truckers – again, like last week, get your registration paid up for 2013 before it is too late!


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