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Trailer Plates Now In Litigation
Foreway Transportation CFO John Savage thought the state was out to get his drivers. Like many
What Savage didn't expect was to earn a spot on the Michigan State Police's most wanted truckers list.
Through the course of fighting 34 tickets that Foreway received for allegedly illegal plates in 2004, Savage heard a common complaint from his drivers.
"The cops were saying, 'Hey, we're just doing our job. You guys are on a list and we're told to stop you,'" he said. "We kept hearing that our names were on this list."
On behalf of Foreway, Farmington Hills-based law firm Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith PC filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain any documents relating to the MSP's Out-of-State Trailer Plate Investigation.
Through this, the Business Journal obtained a three-page document titled "Current Maine Trailer Plate Violations."Dated
"The list was just there for information," said Lieutenant David Ford of the MSP. "No instruction was given that if you see this truck going down the road that you should immediately stop it. It was just so that they had that information during the course of their normal patrol."
Ford explained that troopers were expected to investigate out-of-state plates on seemingly Michigan-based trucks, but determining where a company is legally based is not easily accomplished on the road.
"There was no expectation that every time that company pulled out on the road that one of our officers would pull them over," he said.
However, the list's subheading seems to tell a different story. It reads:
"Carrier confirmed to be in violation and roadside enforcement is encouraged every time they are encountered until they come into compliance."
Foster Swift partner Bob McFarland said that the MPS obtained from the state of
"That was their probable cause," McFarland said. "Our determination is that is irrelevant."
The International Registration Plan is an interstate compact among the 48 contiguous states,
McFarland said Section 404 of the plan states, "Trailers are to be provided full and free reciprocity as long as they are properly plated in a member jurisdiction and are pulled in combination with a tractor bearing an apportioned IRP plate."
The state of
On that basis, Foreway has had tickets dismissed by lower courts across
Kent County Circuit Court Judge Donald Johnston agreed as well, granting a moratorium against issuing any new tickets until the issues are decided in a pair of court cases: Van's Delivery Service Inc. vs. Michael Cox, in
Many of the dozen plaintiffs in the
Some, like Van Eerden Trucking and the lead plaintiff, Van's Delivery, are not.
"Quite frankly, it was a business decision," said Van's COO John Nieuwenhuis.
Many carriers have for years used five-year
Faced with changing over to the $300 non-transferable, lifetime plate — a cost of $45,000 — Nieuwenhuis switched to the
Statements from the Michigan Secretary of State say that the move was aimed at simplifying trailer registration. Calls for further comment directed to the Department of the Attorney General were not returned by press time.
If the pending decision and the number of dismissed tickets are any indication, the state's coffers may soon take a significant hit, as the path may clear for all carriers to seek the out-of-state option.
"It really comes down to budget issues," Savage said. "The state is desperate for revenue and they started down a road that they couldn't go back."
"The state chased us away," added Nieuwenhuis.
Most of the carriers mentioned still carry