What’s So Gross About Ratings?

Let’s play a game of word association. We’ll say a word that has to do with trucks, you respond with the first word that comes to your mind. Ready? Driver’s, LICENSE. Good work! Let’s try another: semi, TRAILER. Excellent. One more: Gross Vehicle, WEIGHT? WEIGHT RATING? That’s right. Gross vehicle weight and gross vehicle weight rating may only differ by one word, but the two totally separate things. When they are misinterpreted by policemen and truckers alike, expensive enforcement happens.

To make reading this article easier, the terms GVW and GVWR will be used. That “R” makes all the difference in the world. GVWR exclusively stands for what the vehicle manufacturer says the maximum loaded weight of the vehicle is. This definition is found in 625 ILCS 5/1-124.5 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC). When it comes to truck enforcement in Illinois, GVWR has only a couple useful purposes.

First, it is the primary criteria for driver’s license classification, which is enforceable by all sworn police officers in the State. Second, it is a qualification standard for the Illinois State Police to use in determining which vehicles are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Lastly, the article last week discussed a new law where in a very limited situation, GVWR can be used for weight enforcement.

That’s it. Done. The cousin term GVW is used in many places in the law. Sometimes it is under the acronym, other times it is spelled out as “gross vehicle weight”. Its official definition is found in 625 ILCS 5/1-125. Gross vehicle weight is the actual weight of the vehicle(s) and the load when it’s on the scale.

That’s it. Done. No crossing the streams. Two terms. Similar in text, completely different in definition and application. However, there are a couple myths out there which need to be clarified.

Myth #1: The law, and the Secretary of State, require a vehicle’s registered weight to cover the GVWR.

This is entirely false. Anyone who believes the contrary is welcome to produce a single shred of authoritative evidence. Oh wait, the ITEA has in its possession a document from the SOS dispelling this hogwash. You can read it HERE. It is handed out at the SOS registration facilities solely to combat this rumor.

Could an SOS worker be misinformed about this topic? Of course! Everyone makes mistakes. That is a far cry different than taking costly enforcement action against a driver with an overweight on registration citation. Using the error of a regulatory official as grounds to continue abrogating the law never acceptable.

Registration is a tax. It’s a free country, and you are welcome to pay as much or as little tax as you want. Buy too little? You pay the overweight fine. Buy too much? Thanks for the donation to State coffers.

Myth #2: A police officer can issue an overweight citation when the manufacturers GVWR exceeds the maximum registered weight.

Rubbish. The law NEVER says this. While it is advisable that an owner purchase enough registration to cover the GVWR, it is not required. The sister myth to this one is that when this scenario occurs, the police officer does not have to even weigh the truck!

The rationale is this: if the truck has a manufacturers GVWR of 11,500, and it is registered with an 8,000 pound B-truck plate, it is 3,500 pounds overweight on registration. Why would a police officer need to weigh that? Why? Because any overweight ticket, lawful or unlawful, statutorily requires the police officer to put the vehicle on a scale. Read more about that topic HERE.

These myths occur primarily because of selective reading. In 625 ILCS 5/3-815, the legislature demands that flat weight registration be based on “gross weight” in pounds. It never says gross vehicle weight “rating”. Unfortunately, many police officers have chosen to play the “it seems to me” interpretation game and extrapolate the very clear intent of the General Assembly.

Every time a police officer takes this wrong enforcement method, the myth spreads. The intent of the officer is irrelevant. It could be moneylust. It could be poor training. It could be a senior officer or supervisor who has believed the hype.

Any which way, it needs to stop.


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