Illinois bills would boost fines for idling violations and end truck fee

| Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two legislative efforts at the Illinois statehouse that are likely to elicit different responses from truckers are on the move.

The House Vehicles and Safety Committee unanimously approved a bill that would boost the fines for idling violations. In what could be considered a win for Illinois truckers who made their voices heard about the bill, the panel voted to significantly reduce the fine amount for first offenders.

Illinois law now prohibits diesel-powered vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 8,000 pounds from stationary idling longer than 10 minutes per hour in areas that include Chicago and East St. Louis, IL.

Violators currently face $50 fines for first offenses. Second or subsequent offenses within any 12-month period result in $150 fines. Certain exceptions apply.

Sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, the bill would increase the first-offender fine from $50 to $90. Repeat offenses would increase from $150 to $500.

As introduced, the bill called for boosting the fine for first offenders to $250. It also allowed for the ticket writing agency to keep 60 percent of the fine.

The version that advanced from committee would allow local law enforcement to keep $20 of the $90 ticket. But for repeat offenses, the agency would get more than 50 percent – $262. The rest of the money would be routed into the state’s general revenue fund and into a fund to educate truckers about the idling rule.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are particularly concerned with the bill’s intent to boost fines with lucrative incentives being offered for tickets written.

In place since 2007, the idling rule is waived when temperatures are less than 32 degrees or higher than 80 degrees. Truckers are allowed to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners, or other equipment necessary “to prevent a safety or health emergency.”

A separate provision in current law addresses truckers who many times are forced to wait for extended amounts of time to conduct business. Illinois law specifies that while waiting to weigh, load or unload cargo or freight, truckers are limited to idling for no more than 30 minutes per hour, “unless they are in a line of vehicles that regularly and periodically moves forward.”

The bill – HB2664 – is awaiting consideration on the House floor.

Another bill on the move is of significant interest to the pocketbooks of truckers with Illinois base plates.

The Senate Revenue Committee unanimously approved a bill that would repeal collection of the commercial distribution fee for trucks in the state. The amount is a 14.35 percent surcharge of the annual registration fees.

For truck registrations of 80,000 pounds, truckers are required to chip in another $400 to cover the CDF. On top of the $2,790 they already pay for base plates, truckers pay nearly $3,200 a year to tag their trucks in the state.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer was glad to hear about the action that sought to eliminate the fee that he said amounts to a tax on a tax.

“We think it’s wholly appropriate that it should be eliminated,” Spencer told Land Line.

Sponsored by Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero, the bill – SB1434 – awaits consideration on the Senate floor.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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