IDOT Reverses Its Opinion on Crane Counterweights

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Sean Connolly

Clarendon Hills, IL

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The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) changed its opinion on placement of counterweights on cranes effective January 1, 2011.  IDOT now considers mobile cranes to be non-divisible loads whether counterweights are “pinned” to the back of the crane or pinned to the deck.

According to IDOT, a load or vehicle is considered “non-divisible” if further dismantling would compromise the intended use of the load or vehicle, destroy the value of the load or vehicle, or require more than eight hours to dismantle.

In Illinois, vehicles over the weight permitted by the Illinois Vehicle Code, must get a permit from IDOT to legally drive on state roads.  For example, if a three-axle mobile crane, with a distance of 12 feet between the steer and tandem axles, is allowed by law to weigh 43,000 pounds on a non-designated highway, but actually weighs 74,000 pounds, it must obtain an IDOT permit to drive on state roads.  In this example, if a company failed to get a permit, or if the permit wass invalid, the company could face fines, surcharges, and court costs of $11,755.00 for being 31,000 pounds overweight.  Court fees vary depending on the county; fines and surcharges are set by the Illinois Vehicle Code.

Before January 1, 2011, some crane drivers received overweight tickets even though they had a permit.  Truck enforcement officers took the position that a crane, with counterweights attached, was carrying a divisible load because it could remove counterweights and lower the total weight of the vehicle.  This argument was flawed because after removing the counterweights the crane was still overweight, would still need a permit, and would still not meet IDOT’s definition of a divisible load.

Since IDOT changed its position, the divisible load vs. non-divisible load argument is moot; right?  Unfortunately, no; IDOT’s opinion only applies on Illinois state roads or on roads owned by jurisdictions adopting IDOT’s opinion.

The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association (ITEA), an organization comprised of police, attorneys, and trucking companies, adopted IDOT’s new opinion.  The truck enforcement officers who are members of ITEA agreed to follow IDOT’s opinion, however, not all municipalities and counties have officers who are members of ITEA.  Therefore, many municipalities and counties may not follow IDOT’s opinion.

As a result, trucking companies still need to be cautious and reach out to counties and municipalities to ask whether it follows IDOT’s opinion regarding counterweights on mobile cranes.  If a municipality or county does not follow IDOT’s opinion, it may issue an overweight ticket to a driver stopped on a municipal or county road if counterweights are attached.  Preventative steps can help crane companies avoid costly overweight tickets.

Sean P. Connolly is the principal of the Connolly Law Office, P.C.  He represents companies and drivers charged with overweight violations.  Mr. Connolly is a member of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association’s board of directors and is certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board as an instructor for Basic Truck Enforcement.

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