Since police began focusing on the number of overweight trucks rolling through the village, officer Tom Hall said the fledgling program has proven to be a significant source of revenue.
Hall is the department’s lone officer trained in spotting over loaded tractor trailers that can take a serious toll on roadways. And according to Hall, the village may have only scratched the surface in terms of the benefits of stricter enforcement.
“I think we will expand the capabilities of the program,” Hall said. “If I have a full year with this kind of enforcement, I can conceivably bring in $175,000 in bonds and get $100,000 in profit. But, it all depends on what my assignment is. If we dedicate days to this kind of enforcement, it could be more.”
Hall attended a week-long class to become authorized for this type of traffic enforcement, and typically spends three or four hours per shift searching for overweight trucks. Since the village received its own set of scales in late February, Hall has written more than 100 citations on 76 trucks. In total, the Forest Park Police Department has taken in $100,000 in bonds, translating to $52,000 in profit that is returned to the village after paying clerk and automation fees, according to Hall.
“I’ve become more efficient with this kind of enforcement,” Hall said. “In the beginning when I first started, I stopped everything, always fishing for an overweight truck.”
Though complicated, Illinois law basically states that a truck may not exceed its designated limit of weight, which is indicated by the truck’s license. Trucks that surpass a certain weight limit can significantly damage the conditions and lifespan of roads. If the truck’s weight surpasses that specified amount, police may issue a fine based on how overweight the truck is.
The money earned from these fines is deposited into a general fund for the village that pays for various expenses, such as salaries, benefits, and insurance, within the village.
Each year, the police department brings in approximately $1 million from traffic tickets, according to Judy Kovacks, the village’s finance director. This means that since February Hall single-handedly brought in 5 percent of the projected revenue while focusing only a portion of his patrols on the effort.
Only those funds accrued through drunk driving convictions stay within the police department’s budget, Kovacks said.
While profitable, the program’s purpose is to protect and prolong the conditions of the roads, and Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas said only time will tell if this enforcement will prove valuable.
“It’s still too early to tell at this point,” Aftanas said. “This is a long-term plan. We may try to get one more officer out there, but the other officer would probably not work the same shift as the other as it takes him or her away from the normal responsibilities.”
Though Hall believes citing overweight trucks occurs mainly in spurts, he said the enforcement has made a dent in the trafficking transgressors and expects the weather to affect future citations.
“Weather has something to do with [the amount of trucks cited],” Hall said. “When it starts becoming colder the excavation projects slow down, which means those trucks use the roads less frequently.”
Forest Park’s lone truck-weight regulator also said truck drivers have become aware of the police’s presence on the roads, representing a double-edged sword for the village.
“Now some overweight trucks know I am out there,” Hall said. “So they have decided to take another route, and now there are slimmer pickings. This saves the streets, but it also keeps the police department from receiving an income.”
Though the overall efficiency of the program is yet to be determined, the future of the program appears promising. The police department will receive a truck outfitted with special features that will aid Hall in determining the weight of suspected trucks.