Another Fine Mess
By Henry E. Seaton

October 2004
Reprinted from

Q We dispatched a truck to Illinois that does not go there ordinarily. We received a $3,000 overweight ticket for a 73,000-pound load. I discovered that we got the ticket because we had not registered the truck in Illinois through IRP. The fine seems steep. Is this right?

A I have received several questions recently concerning fines in various states for not base plating a truck to run in those states. Many of the formulas for fine assessment seem excessive based upon the nature of the offense. Drawing a fine for unregistered equipment is one more pothole in the road for the unwary.

During a carrier’s first year of operations, it estimates mileage in each state and at little additional cost can obtain a portion tag to run throughout the scope of its authority on possible operations. In later years, the carrier typically base plates a truck based on the actual mileage run in states for the previous year and is less likely to include random states outside its ordinary scope of operation. But it is all too easy to send a local truck on a long-haul move without remembering that the base plate did not include a pro rate for the states it will be traversing.

Because each state seems to enforce its own system of fines for this offense — and there is no federal preemption — you are left with pleading for mercy before the judge and asking for a fine abatement based upon good cause shown.

In your case, I would explain that you were not tearing up the roads of Illinois by operating an illegally overweight load. Rather, you had failed to pro rate this particular unit for Illinois and dispatched it there in error. If you can show that some of your other units are permitted for Illinois and that the state represents a small portion of your total, this argument will have more equitable appeal. You may want to demonstrate that you took the appropriate remedial action by immediately including Illinois in the IRP registration of that particular unit.

States are inconsistent in matching the fine to the offense. Upon discovery of the offense, some states merely make you add their state to the unit’s IRP registration at a cost less than $50. Other states — reportedly including Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Texas — require the offending carrier to purchase a state tag (good for a year) for $1,000 or more, even if the carrier doesn’t plan to send that unit back into the state.

You might have trouble finding a local attorney to represent you in the citation cases. But if the fine is $1,000 or more, you should at least try to negotiate in advance with the prosecutor or have your driver appear in court to offer an explanation.

Recognize also that even if circumstances call for you to use an unregistered truck, you have options. If you must dispatch a truck through a state in which it is not apportioned, you can obtain an “emergency trip permit,” usually good for about 72 hours, through the Transceiver Network for approximately $50. In view of the substantial fines being imposed by numerous states, this is a valuable alternative.
(703) 573-0700
Copyright© 2006 Law Office of Seaton & Husk, LP. All rights reserved.