Trucker gets socked with $16K fine

July 3, 2009 7:47:31 AM PDT
We've all seen them on the roads - big rigs hauling heavy, oversized loads. The operators of those trucks need permits, or they're subject to fines. Just ask truck driver Bill Carlson. He got hit with a fine that'll take your breath away.

Truckers pay significant fees for oversized loads. It's a system meant to protect our roads, and if truckers don't have the proper permits, they can get whacked with some pretty significant fines.

The fine structure, based largely on truck weight, is complicated stuff. But for Carlson, it went beyond complicated when he got an overweight ticket for $16,965.

"I thought the driver was joking. I never heard of anything so strange," said Carlson, trucking company owner.

Carlson has been in the trucking business for decades, and as the owner of a small firm that hauls heavy equipment, he knows about permits.

Earlier this year, one of Carlson's drivers, Jay McDonagh, was hauling an excavator from a job site in Naperville back to its owner in North Aurora.

Carlson has a state permit for overweight loads. He bought a permit to cover a two-block stretch in Naperville, but he did not buy an overweight permit for DuPage County, a mistake he admits.

As his driver headed west on Diehl Road, a DuPage County road, a Warrenville police officer stopped the truck and wrote a ticket based on the truck's total weight. Carlson's fine - $13,500, plus a mandated surcharge, plus court costs, for a grand total of 16,965 - all for the absence of a $15 permit.

Carlson said he thinks it's an effort to make money off his mistake.

"Absolutely not. If we want to do that, we could have officers devoted to truck or traffic enforcement all day long, and we don't and have never done that," said Cmdr. Patrick Treacy, Warrenville police.

While they insist Carlson's ticket was not a revenue generator, Warrenville police did acknowledge that the ticket amount was a mistake. The officer who wrote the ticket was reportedly relying on an old statute, one that did not take into account weight calculations covered by Carlson's state permit.

"We might have to dismiss the ticket. We might have to amend it, and the fine would be significantly reduced. But beyond that, we have to look to see if the same mistake has happened again," said Treacy.

Carlson said he would like to know that, too.

"Like I said to the policeman, the small man is supposed to be the backbone of the country, but you just broke my backbone," said Carlson.

Several law enforcement officials said that Carlson's ticket, if properly written, would've been a roughly $2,500 fine.

When he went to court in May, Carlson's fine was lowered by agreement to a flat $10,000. Carlson says he asked how the agreement was reached, but got no answer from his own attorney. All this begs the question, did the lawyers and the judge in this case make a mistake, too?


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