Any Pennsylvania resident will tell you: Our infrastructure needs a little bit of tender loving care (i.e.: millions of dollars in upgrades). Our bridges are deficient and our roads are pock-marked, at best.
For most motorists, the associated weight-limit signs don’t mean much because they don’t really apply. While those of us who own sedans, coupes and pickups might not pay much attention to them, for the commercial truck drivers among us, they need to be seen and respected.
Because if a truck driver gets busted for a violation on size or weight limits, it’s a really, big, messy, expensive deal.
How big, messy and expensive?
For one Florida long-haul driver passing through Pennsylvania for a delivery, it was four-days-in-jail-and-a-$17,000-fine big, messy and expensive.
Here’s what happened: Last month the truck driver allegedly confused an Alpine Road in Canonsburg with the more rural Alpine Drive in abutting Cecil Township. The problem? The guy’s 40-ton truck was way over the posted weight limit there, which was just 10 tons.
According to an Associated Press report on the matter, a local district magistrate threw him in jail after he was unable to post a $10,000 bond that would secure his appearance at his preliminary hearing regarding the more than $17,000 fine. But that’s not all: The judge also ordered the truck be impounded until that entire fine was paid.
I wish I could say this was an anomaly – but it’s not. As both a Pennsylvania and West Virginia criminal defense attorney, I routinely represent commercial truck drivers facing serious traffic violations similar to the one that landed our Florida driver in jail for a few days.
While police said a better GPS might have improved that long-haul truck driver’s fate, it’s worth noting that out-of-state truck drivers have to be ever vigilant in the Keystone State. That crumbling infrastructure I mentioned earlier? It causes detours, and those detours often meander onto less-traveled throughways with a lower weight limit.
And that’s to say nothing of the zoning laws (ones that could have a place of business located in a residential area with roads with posted weight limits too low for the tractor-trailers to be able to deliver there legally – and it happens. I represented a guy who had a similar experience).
Here’s another twist (file it under #truckerproblems): For long-haul truckers from states like Virginia and North Carolina, even if so-called lesser traffic violations such as going five miles over the posted speed limit (an infraction that compels no points on a Pennsylvania license) can make a quality criminal defense lawyer a necessity. That’s because, in those states, motorists begin accumulating points as soon as they go even one mile over the speed limit.
How would the driver’s home state even know about the ticket and fine? The answer is that most states in the U.S. are part of a thing called the Driver’s License Compact, which requires member states to share that information with a driver’s home state.
And points, while a concern for most motorists, could be like Kryptonite to a CDL driver. Too many points = bye, bye livelihood.
I know: I routinely represent guys like the Florida gentleman – people who don’t necessarily want to fight a traffic ticket, but who need to because, in some cases, their jobs depend on it.
To my long-haul driver friends, a bit of advice: Don’t tempt fate – get a quality GPS, keep the maps updated, and be extra careful on Pennsylvania roadways. Yes, the GPS units designed for truckers cost ten times as much, but a $600 expense is far better than the $17,000+ fine the guy mentioned above had to pay.
And as always: if you get into a jam, call me. I deal with this stuff all the time. I routinely represent both everyday motorists, as well as commercial truck drivers in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania and have routinely gotten great results – sometimes successfully getting fines lowered or points reduced.