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Two Ways to Skin the CDL Cat

Do you want to have your mind numbed? Well, there’s a lot of ways to accomplish that unlawfully, but if you want a legit method, study the requirements of commercial driver’s licenses. For years, local Illinois law enforcement received some bad advice on which criterion should be used to determine who needs a CDL and when. In those days, unauthoritative instructors taught three ways, when in actuality there was only one. Until now…there’s two! Here is what has absolutely nothing to do with driver’s license classification, whether it is a CDL or non-CDL: registration. License plates and driver’s licenses are like an old divorced couple. They don’t talk and want nothing to do with each other, and there is nothing anyone can do to reconcile it.  Registration is nothing more than a tax to carry weight upon a road. If a vehicle owner wants to pay $3191 to the Illinois Secretary of State to carry 80,000 pounds of registered weight on his F-150 pickup truck, he is more than welcome. That does not mean he needs a CDL however. Until just recently, the only thing that mattered – the only thing – was the manufacturers GVWR. That’s it. If International said a truck was rated to for a certain maximum loaded weight, that is the number used to determine whether the vehicle which class of CDL the driver needed. If Eager Beaver said a trailer was rated a certain maximum loaded weight, that number was all to be considered. While registration was once falsely taught as a criterion for CDLs, a second faulty criterion was to use the actual weight of the vehicle on the scale. While it seems like a logical method for determining the necessity of a CDL, it was not. Over time, the FMCSA adopted guidance that actual weight of the vehicle could be used, but only in absence of a manufacturers GVWR. Unfortunately many police officers were taught that you take the highest of the three (registration, actual weight or GVWR), and use the one which served your purpose. Oh how wrong. For the last several years, the FMCSA has been trying to find a way to make CDL determination and classification a true comparison between actual weight and GVWR. Effectively April 18th, 2014, this became so under federal law, which meant in Illinois only the Illinois State Police could enforce the law as such.  Effective July 1st however, Illinois statute adopts the federal statute, which means all Illinois police officers (who are trained appropriately) will enforce the law uniformly. In simpler terms, a police officer will be able to use the higher of either manufacturers GVWR, or actual weight, to determine if a CDL is needed and what class of CDL is required. What this does not mean is that non-CDL vehicles are subject to the same comparison. Trucks which do not require CDLs are managed under administrative rule of the Illinois Secretary of State. The administrative rules require the GVWR to be used only, exceptactual can be used only with a trailer that is missing the GVWR. For instance, a truck has GVWR of 15,000 pounds which would normally require only a Class-D non-CDL. If an officer stops the truck and it weighs 16,500 pounds on the scale, the driver still only needs a Class-D non-CDL. There can be no comparison as the vehicle has not crossed over into the CDL world of regulation. However, if a truck has a 25,000 pound GVWR, it would normally only require a Class-C non-CDL. But if the officer puts the truck on the scale and it weighs 26,500 pounds, the driver just made the magical leap into the world of CDLs. The true comparison is at work.  What’s important to understand is this new rule is about enforcement only. Those who go to test for a CDL will still be required to show up in a representative vehicle for the class license they desire based upon GVWR. That means if you want a Class-B CDL, you must test in a vehicle with a manufacturer’s GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more. You cannot show up to the CDL facility in a 25,000 pound GVWR truck that has been loaded to more than 26,000 pounds. For our membership reading this, the ITEA Standard of Practice (SOP 11) and the CDL flowchart resource document are being revamped to reflect the changes and will be available soon. This is important! To wrongly arrest a driver for a Class-A misdemeanor CDL offense cannot be excused by ignorance. To wrongly tell a driver he can drive a vehicle to which he is not properly licensed or classified is just as dicey.

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