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Winter Exemptions

Hurricane Sandy battered the eastern seaboard last week.  As the region began to recover, it became readily apparent trucking into the New England states was of the highest priority.  Without fuel, food and other vital goods, the work could not be accomplished.  In order to get trucks into the area, governors and other regulatory officials east of the Mississippi made allowances so trucks could get to their destinations without delay.  As is so often found in the tug-of-war between government oversight and industry expectation, there are times when regulations have to bend.  Natural disasters are the poster child for this.  What about other times when Mother Nature wreaks havoc, but the weather is not classified as a disaster?  For instance…mid-west winters.  Are there exceptions to trucking laws for snow and ice?

The place to find these exceptions is in 625 ILCS 15-101 of the IVC.  First, in subsection (b), all government vehicles involved in the removal of snow and ice are exempt from size, weight, and load restrictions in Chapter 15.  This means government plow trucks can be overweight on axle or gross.  Their plow blades, either nose or belly plows, can extend beyond the legal width of 8’6”.  There is no ceiling on the width or weight.

What is not covered by this law are private trucking companies supplying salt to government agencies.  Starting in the fall season, it is not uncommon for truck officers to stop dump trucks hauling road salt.  When the officer begins inquiring about the weight of the load, they are quickly met with verbal justifications and written documentation showing the load is destined for government use.  The driver does this in hope and expectation the police officer will let the truck go without any enforcement action.  Every truck officer needs to work within the political climate of his jurisdiction when it comes to discretionary enforcement.  Regardless though, the law does not provide these vehicles an exception…even during a snowstorm.

Subsection (c) of 15-101 does give private industry some leeway.  Many landscapers and snow removal businesses are hired by various property management organizations to keep their parking lots clear.  It makes no difference if the lot is commercial or residential.  As trucks travel from one destination to the next, it is unreasonable to expect them to disconnect their plow blades for transport on another vehicle between each job.  Further, it is unreasonable that during a snowstorm, the truckers have time to make sure every load of road salt is perfectly legal weight.  If the parking lots do not get clear, a safety hazard is created.

These exemptions do come with a cap though.  Plow trucks cannot just run willy-nilly with massive blades.  The plow blades cannot exceed 12’ in width, whether canted on an angle or squared off.  This width exemption is predicated on two things as well…there must be an 18” square flag on the driver’s side of the plow and an amber light flashing, visible 500’ in all directions during daylight hours.  If all these conditions are not met, the driver could face a $500.00 overwidth citation.

Private trucks engaged in snow and ice removal are also exempt from the weight laws of Chapter 15 (axle, gross, bridge formula)…but they are not always exempt just because a truck has a snow plow blade. If a police officer can prove the driver was not engaged in snow and ice removal, the truck will only receive legal weights.  For instance, a truck with a 10′ plow blade in the heat of July would not be exempt from weight law.  Also, this weight exemption does not apply to ton and legal weight structures.  Trucks must be legal to those standards when crossing weight limited structures.

Finally, the exemption from weight only applies to “this Chapter”, meaning Chapter 15 of the IVC…registered weight is found in Chapter 3.  Even if a truck is legal gross and axle with 5,000 pounds of excess road salt, the Secretary of State demands appropriate fees and taxes to cover registered weight.

Winter is rapidly closing in…whether you are law enforcement or industry, it is best to brush up on your winter snow and ice exemptions.

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