Trucking accidents frequently result in a lawsuit being filed against multiple parties. A truck driver or commercial trucking company may be liable for the injuries of a victim. Both federal trucking laws and Illinois trucking laws may impact the ultimate outcome of a trucking accident case. Federal trucking laws have been designed to regulate service hours, rest hours, safety checks, hiring process, weight limits, licensing requirements, testing requirements, insurance coverage and general safety standards. Federal laws ensure that non-commercial drivers and passengers stay safe on the roads. State trucking laws define specifics like weight requirements, designated truck routes, construction plans, registration process, taxes and penalties.
A failure to comply with federal or state trucking laws can result in civil and even criminal liability. Those who have been injured in trucking accidents generally have two years under Illinois law to assert a negligence claim. Also, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date in which the injury occurs.
Illinois Trucking Laws and Safety Requirements
Unlike federal trucking laws, state trucking regulations are administered by several agencies and departments. Federal trucking laws are administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In Illinois, the many state agencies that create trucking regulations and govern specific aspects of the trucking industry are:
- The Illinois Department of Transportation
- Department of Revenue
- Illinois Commerce Commission
- Illinois State Police
- Secretary of State
- Illinois General Assembly
- Illinois EPA Bureau of Air
- Illinois Pollution Control Board
The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) maintains many of the regulations that are applicable to the trucking industry. The Illinois Department of Transportation maintains detailed information about designated trucking routes, weather conditions, road construction, weight limits, weight station locations and road closures. Truck drivers can easily access this information and may be able to avoid serious accidents by reviewing it.
Illinois truck driving laws are subject to change by the General Assembly and Illinois Supreme Court. Truck drivers have a duty under the law to be aware of changes in regards to size & weight limits, license plates, designated routes, fines and permits.
Size & Weight Limits
Under Chapter 15 of the IVC, Illinois laws require that a 5 axle tractor-semitrailer must be 8’6 for Class I and II vehicles. The height requirement is 13’6. In previous years, a truck could not carry more than 73,280 pounds. However, the Illinois legislature recently amended this provision to implement a uniform law allowing all trucks to hold up to 80,000 pounds on a majority of roads. In prior years, a truck could only hold up to 80,000 pounds on Class I, II, and III truck routes.
As trucks increase in the number of axles they contain, the IVC permits increased gross weight limits. A truck axle is a component that serves as a link between wheels and supports cargo.
Three Classes of Routes
Illinois has three classes of routes, and truck drivers should be aware of how speed and weight limits may vary on these roads.
- Class I Route: This is an interstate type of route, and it is approved for load widths of 8’6 or less.
- Class 2 Route: This is a major state highway, and it is approved for load widths of 8’6 or less. Trucks may be longer on Class 2 routes, but they may not have a base greater than 55 feet.
- Class 3 Route: This is a local road, and the maximum allowable load width is 8’0. Also, the wheel base may not be greater than 55 feet.
Illinois laws were recently amended so that trucks may only drive up to 65 mph on rural interstates. This is the same speed limit of automobiles on rural interstates. On urban interstates and limited access roads, trucks may only drive up to 55 mph.
Licenses & Permits
To obtain a trucking permit, truck drivers should apply for permits at the Bureau of Traffic of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Those who want to operate a commercial truck must obtain either an interstate CDL or intrastate CDL. Drivers over 21 can qualify for an interstate CDL, while drivers 18 and older can qualify for an intrastate CDL. Those who operate farm vehicles may be exempt from the CDL requirements.
Fines & Penalties
Truck drivers may face fines for overweight vehicles. For trucks up to 2,000 pounds overweight, the fine is $100. The fines increase by about $100 for every 500 pounds for which a truck is overweight.
In Illinois, truck drivers may receive tickets for driving too closely, speeding, operating a vehicle without a CDL, reckless driving, or driving a rig without the required endorsement. Major traffic violations include refusing a drug or alcohol test, using a truck to commit a felony, trucking while a CDL is suspended, DUI or fleeing the scene of an accident.
Truck drivers may face severe penalties for these offenses that include a CDL suspension, CDL deprivation, points, temporary or permanent loss of job, increased insurance costs, fines and even possible jail time.
As of January 1, texting while driving is a traffic offense. Truck drivers may be convicted of a moving violation if they are stopped for texting while driving. Wireless phones are prohibited for use in school zones or work zones.
Enforcement of State Trucking Laws
Illinois state troopers are rigorous in enforcing trucking laws. In 2009, the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association was founded to support police officers in enforcing trucking laws. In recent years, the Illinois Department of Transportation has also increased funding to promote increased enforcement and inspections of trucks. Illinois police are paying particular attention to maintenance of trucks, overweight trucks and cracking down on distracted driving.
The Role of Federal Trucking Regulations
All truckers should take care to be aware of trucking regulations in Illinois. A violation of a single trucking regulation could result in total liability for the injuries that a person suffers in a trucking accident. Trucking regulations are intended to keep all drivers safe on the road, and a violation of one could be the support one needs to prove a negligence claim.