As a commercial truck driver, no doubt you’re already familiar with weights and measures and other commercial driving laws. They vary by state to state, and they can be confusing. An even more confounding topic may be who exactly is responsible when such a ticket is issued. Is it you, as the driver? Your employer? Corporate? In this blog post, we’ll address who exactly is responsible for paying New York overweight/oversize commercial traffic tickets.
These laws are extensive and often complex, but a general rule of thumb is that the more overweight a cargo is, the higher the fine.
As a commercial truck driver, your commercial driving license (“CDL”) is quite literally your bread and butter. It’s easier for you to lose your CDL privileges than for a regular driver, and you have much more to lose. Luckily, overweight cargo violations are generally considered non-moving violations, and thus do not carry points. However, they may carry up to thousands of dollars in fines. It’s important to understand who exactly is responsible for paying those fines.
An Overview of New York’s Overweight Cargo Law
New York Statute VTL § 385 codifies weight and dimension restrictions on commercial vehicles. It outlines how different roadways and sections of the State will have different weight and size restrictions.
What may be a lawful load on one highway, may be illegal on another. VTL § 401(7)(F)(b) may also be charged as it is not uncommon for police to issue multiple tickets for alleged weight and dimension violations.
Who is Responsible for Paying a Commercial Truck Overload or Oversize Ticket?
As a commercial hauler, you are often relying on others to ensure compliance with applicable weight and dimension laws. For instance, you may need to trust that your coworkers have properly loaded and weighed your cargo. It may or may not be your responsibility to “scale the load,” but nonetheless you will likely be considered legally responsible if your vehicle is deemed overweight.
You may also be provided with a specific route plan, which company logistics may have created to (hopefully) ensure compliance with the law. If you’re carrying a heavier load, you should be redirected to highways with higher legal weight capacities.
You know all this, but with such reliance on others before you even take the wheel, it can be frustrating if you are personally issued a ticket for alleged overload or oversize offenses. However, that is what most frequently occurs: you will be issued a ticket for any overweight or oversized violations, the same as you would for a driving violation or any maintenance issues with your commercial vehicle.
Now we must move beyond the letter of the law, and to matters of contract.
Will Your Company Reimburse Your Oversize Load Tickets?
As an employee or independent contractor, you should have a specific contract with your company. Part of that contract should outline your rights and responsibilities, including who is responsible for these types of tickets. Some companies reimburse their drivers regardless, but others only pay such fines on their drivers’ behalf if it is determined that the driver was not negligent in any way.
For example, if an employee or independent contractor ignored the route and was issued an overload ticket, then the contract would generally state that they are responsible. Conversely, if the driver was provided the wrong route, then it would generally be the company’s responsibility. But every contract is different (if there is a contract at all), and so it may be your company’s policy to always pay, or to never pay for such fines.
In addition, for long-haulers it should be noted that certain states, such as Virginia, may issue tickets directly to the company. Just as traffic tickets vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so do defendants named for alleged infractions.
If tickets are issued in your name, however, the court system doesn’t particularly care whether you will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses or not. Traffic court judges cannot concern themselves with who was responsible for loading the cargo, or with the terms of your employment contract. All they will care about is whether the law was broken or not. You will be expected to attend court, and to pay any fines associated with the charges, or you may lose your driving privileges.
Perhaps the best time to protect your legal interests is not when you’re making a run or even loading the cargo, but when you negotiate your contract as an employee or independent contractor. But if you’re already charged with these types of violations, it’s time to discuss your case with a legal professional.
Are You a Commercial Driving Facing an Overweight Cargo Charge?
Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C., emphasizes New York state traffic ticket defense, including alleged commercial driving infractions. Our lead attorney, Martin A. Kron, Esq., is a former traffic court judge with more than thirty years of experience, and who has been trained by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.