Overweight and Underpaid

March 4, 2011 11:42 AM
ashley gulke jan11
Ashley Gulke serves as market analyst and
legal counsel for the Gulke Group market
advisory service. Contact her at Ashley

In fall 2009, my father got himself into some legal trouble. He was pulled over by the DOT [Department of Transportation] and issued an overweight ticket. His truck wasn’t really overweight, but his axles weren’t evenly distributed.

At that time, being the family attorney, it became my case. Illinois law has limits on axle weights, and my dad violated them. In my mind, my only bargaining tool was offering to make him attend some driving school. To prepare for what the judge might throw at me, I read the Illinois Vehicle Code and found my defense: Article 625 ILCS Section 5, Chapter 15, Article III (e) and (e-1).

This rule of law shows:

e) The state can issue permits for harvesttime giving a variance of 20% on permitted axle weights (this would be up to 24,000 lb. on the defendant’s truck).

e-1) In a state of emergency harvest, there is no need for the permit to have the 20% variance so long as the truck does not exceed the maximum gross weight.

Fortunately for my father, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made a declaration on Sept. 1, 2009, stating that due to excessive water in Illinois, there was a disaster during harvest. Winnebago County —where my dad was pulled over—was included in the disaster area.

My dad was cited for a weight exceeding 20,000 lb. per axle during harvest season. But because of the emergency declaration, as per Article 625 ILCS Section 5, Chapter 15, Article III (e) and (e-1), my client was allowed a 20% variance on his axle weight. This would have allowed his axle weight to be up to 24,000 lb. Therefore, he should not have been cited.

Lesson to Learn. While Dad got out of the fine this time, the advice I now give is that he should look up the rules if he is at all concerned about heavier hauling weights at harvest.

In most states, a farmer can purchase an overweight permit for his or her truck that will allow a variance of up to 20% per axle. The cost of the permit in Illinois is just $5 per axle. That is a small price to pay if you consider that the fine for being overweight when hauling can be in excess of $6,000.

In most states, DOT offers a downloadable copy of the weight permit for harvest on its website. In some states, such as North Dakota, that permit is found on the state’s website. Try an online search to find the downloadable permit.

Many Farm Service Agency offices also keep copies of these permits on hand. This year, when you go to the office to sign your paperwork, pick up a permit and fill it out. You will be happy you did.

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