Wheels of Justice
Who owes the ticket for running over- weight: the driver or the company?
Question: One of our drivers got lost and ended up on a restricted road. The trailer was loaded legally, but the driver was given an overweight ticked for crossing a bridge with a 20-ton limit. The fine is $16,022 (45 cents for each pound overweight) Who is responsible for the ticket? Do we have a legal recourse?
Answer: $16,022 seems like a whole lot of money for anyone to pay. Who is responsible for the ticket? It depends on who the trooper wrote the ticket to, and in this case it looks like he wrote the ticket to your company, and you are responsible. The usual rule of thumb is whomever the ticket is written to is responsible. Usually in the state where you received the ticket, the troopers normally write all the overweight citations to the company. They like to go directly to the deep pockets, since most drivers would have a very hard time having an extra $16,000 on hand. Troopers expect a company to be able to pay the big bills.
What is your legal recourse? I recommend that you fight this overweight ticket, because your company policy is to permit the driver to determine his own route. My experience in this state has been that the fine can usually be reduced significantly, but the judge will still levy a fine. Usually, the fine can be reduced enough for it to be a good idea to hire an attorney.
Your defense can be that the driver was responsible for picking his own route, and your company provides him with accurate information regarding routes of travel where his gross weight is legal. You may also want to work out some payment plan with the court to pay any fines you may receive. You would also want to have some company plan to prevent this overweight violation from happening again that you can show to the judge. You want him to help you, so you can help him justify giving you a break by showing how you will prevent overweight violations in his state in the future. Even if the judge doesn’t reduce your fine this time, you may be able to prevent it from happening again.
And finally, your company policy could allow you to collect the final fine amount from the driver. However, you will need to think about this, as such a large amount may just cause your driver to leave your company. Then you would still have to pay the fine, or the state could stop all of your trucks from traveling on their roads until you have satisfied the fine, and you’d still need another driver for your truck.
In the future, make sure you have your company policy in writing and each driver knows and understands all of your rules and policies for your company. Train all your employees on what you expect from them and what they can expect from your company.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.