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Whose Fine Is It Anyway?

If improvisation exposes the true talent of a comedian, then the short-lived Whose Line is it Anyway? should have been the king of all TV comedies. In truck world, it is not uncommon to find improvisational interpretation of law. One of the worst make-it-up-as-you-go-along legal interpretations (by enforcement and industry alike) is who is responsible for fines when truckers get overweight tickets. The article this week will help dispel some common myths about who foots the bill.

This article can be made real short if you can live with one answer to one question: Q: Who is responsible for paying truck overweight fines…the company or the driver? A: It depends.

If you are not satisfied with this, read on. But the question above is the truth. There is no absolute.

So what does the law actually say about who pays the fine? Two times in the Illinois Vehicle Code the legislature provides guidance:

625 ILCS 5/15-101(a): “It is unlawful for any person to drive or move on, upon or across or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved on, upon or across any highway any vehicle or vehicles of a size and weight exceeding the limitations stated in this Chapter…”

625 ILCS 5/15-113(a): “Whenever any vehicle is operated in violation of the provisions of Section 15-111 or subsection (d) of Section 3-401, the owner or driver of such vehicle shall be deemed guilty of such violation and either the owner or the driver of such vehicle may be prosecuted for such violation.”

The key word here is “or”. Both excerpts from the statutes say either driver or the owner shall be cited by the police officer. Not driver “and” owner. This is left to the discretion of the officer and refers to who is prosecuted, not who is responsible for the fine.

Who has to pay the fine is an internal issue within the trucking company itself. Multiple factors must be considered: Who loaded the truck? Who routed the truck? Did the driver know he was heavy? Did the dispatcher obtain the appropriate permits? Did the fleet manager register the truck for enough weight?

These are a few of the policy decisions trucking professionals must make, but it is not the job of the police officer to sort through them. His job is to stop, weigh and cite the truck. Does the police officer have discretion? Absolutely, and the ITEA will gladly encourage police officers to use good judgment when deciding who to cite and what form of bail to collect.

However, truckers, you are wrong to assume that police officer must cite the owner or your boss based on your interpretation of the law. It’s the officer’s call.

One of the difficulties a police officer has in citing an owner is figuring out who the owner actually is. An owner is not the immediate supervisor, manager, dispatcher or the grown child who is now running the shop for his retiring father.

When trucks are owned, titled and financed in the name of a company, obtaining owner information is difficult. Depending on how a company is organized, it may prove impossible to locate the actual “owner” as there may be several partners in the corporation.

Is it possible to cite a corporation for an overweight? Probably, but it not something which occurs at roadside or should be documented on a uniform traffic citation. This is an intense investigative effort which will need coordination with the State’s Attorney, and reserved for the most serious of overweight offenses.

At the end of the day, the police officer must write a name, address, driver’s license number, birthdate and other personal information on the face of the traffic complaint. It’s a lot easier to cite the driver in this case when his license, with all the pertinent information, is in front of him.

Drivers, make sure you know have solid assurances from your employers about who is going to pay for overweight bails and fines. You are the one who will most likely receiving the citation, which means you could very well be on the hook for the rest as well.

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