Q. I was stopped for speeding, but there was no posted speed limit that I saw and the officer was unable to tell me where the speed limit sign was. How can an officer give me a speeding ticket when there is an unknown speed limit or no posted speed limit?
A. The easiest way to explain this is to ask if you have ever noticed a speed limit sign that basically says every road or street in this community/town/city is “25 mph on all streets unless otherwise posted.” That one sign is sufficient under the law to inform you that every street in the town is 25 mph unless posted otherwise so the city/town does not have to spend money posting signs all over town every time the speed limit changes or for all the roads.
Every state road and highway has a designated speed limit assigned to it by the state. Ensuring that everyone is informed of that speed is the duty of the state Department of Transportation. That is why the cities and townships must petition the state DOT to change any speed limits, either up or down. The DOT must survey the road to determine the lowest and highest speed that a vehicle may safely travel on that particular road or part of the road. They must also put notices (speed limit signs) on the road to inform the public. They must also put signs up to notify the public that the speed limit is changing so the driver may safely slow or accelerate to accommodate the upcoming speed zone. States have laws that dictate how far the signs must be apart so the driver can safely modify his speed. This is where many speed traps do their best work, catching drivers before they have completely slowed to the new lower speed limit.
So the question becomes, how do you know a speed limit on a roadway if it is not posted? The answer is you can’t. However, since all roads have a designated speed limit the answer becomes simply that you did not know the posted speed. That is why most roads have speed limit signs when you enter from a different speed zone. Otherwise, you may conclude that the speed limit where you were traveling did not change. Also, since the officer may not know that you just entered the speed zone, he may conclude that you have been on this road for several miles and were notified of the speed limit by the posted signs. Of course, there is always the old adage, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Knowing the posted speed limit is important under the new CDL laws. Any moving violation will go on your CDL MVR plus it will also increase your personal auto insurance. Starting with the fine and court costs you pay, you should also consider the increase in insurance premiums for three to five years. If you have to take off work to attend a hearing, you will need to include your lost work and travel expenses for that hearing. Now, all that money is just that, money. The most important thing you have to consider is not the expense of that ticket, but the impact it may have on your future earnings. That single ticket may cost you your job, depending upon your company; it will certainly influence any future employers that might consider hiring you. Remember, you do not know what the future holds.
As I sit here, I believe the economy is turning around and there is a pent up demand from consumers for products that trucks haul. I expect 2010 to require more drivers, more loads and more trucks. This increase in demand means that a truck driver will be needed more and paid more this next year, but only the good truck drivers.
The new CSA 2010 laws and regulations will start between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2010. Those new laws will seek to remove drivers with traffic convictions on their MVRs from the current driver population, which may cause a significant shortage of qualified drivers over the next year. The shortage of drivers with good MVRs will increase the amount of driver pay, which is the old supply-and-demand theory.
Today is the time for you to consider fighting any and all traffic violations you receive. Make sure you are one of the CDL holders with a good record and able to secure any job you want. The better your MVR, the better job you can have and keep. That means more money, better loads and a brighter future.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the 48 states on both moving and nonmoving violations. He is also president of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. A former prosecutor, he is a lawyer who has focused on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking and life over-the-road and has his Commercial Drivers License.