What are Truck Weigh Stations for?
There are truck weigh stations scattered along most major highways in the US, Canada, Taiwan and other countries. Obviously they’re there to weigh trucks, but why do trucks need to be constantly weighed?
Vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds or have 3 or more axles have to pay fuel taxes. Motor homes and other private (non-commercial) vehicles are generally exempt. For example, if you see a race-car team drive by, you’ll often see “not for hire” on the side of the cab. That suggests the vehicle is exempt from the fuel tax charges and keeps other trucking companies from soliciting their services.
Truck weigh stations were originally developed for states to collect the fuel taxes they were owed by the commercial trucks using their roadways. It is similar to the licensing concept that I talked about in a previous post, Why U-Hauls Have Arizona License Plates.
In North America, weight stations aren’t directly used for that purpose anymore. There is now an International Fuel Tax Agreement which allows truckers to file a quarterly tax report. Weigh stations are still used to enforce the tracking and submission of the logs and the payment of the fuel tax.
The scales are still used to enforce weight restrictions. The federal weight restriction is 80,000 pounds. Trucks need a trip permit to transport a load exceeding that weight.
Some weigh stations are pretty high-tech, supporting “weigh-in-motion” technology. This technology can allow truckers to bypass weigh stations entirely. This involves the truck driving over a scale that is built into the right lane of the road, usually about a mile before the weigh station. Depending on the weight of the vehicle, its history and the history of the trucking company, the weigh station operator or an automated system will decide if the truck needs to pull into the weigh station.
Truckers who use these systems have a transponder in their truck, similar to those used for electronic toll collection. If they can skip the weigh station, they will usually get a green light on the transponder. If they need to pull in, they will get a red light.
Weigh stations are also used for safety inspections of vehicles. Truckers often refer to weigh stations as “chicken coops.” Check out my post on trucker signals for more trucker slang.
Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton
Photo: OregonDOT (cc)