Some truck drivers may see weigh stations as an inconvenience that keeps them from reaching their destination in time during their travel, but these stops are incredibly necessary for many reasons. A truck driver is responsible for many things, and that includes stopping at a weigh station during their travel to ensure that their vehicle is safe for the road with several inspections. There are also serious consequences for trucks that fail to meet the standards in place, which is why truck drivers need to be well-versed in everything there is to know about weigh stations as part of the job. Continue reading for what you need to know about weigh stations.
Why Weigh Stations Are Necessary
Semi-trucks are notoriously massive vehicles that carry a ton of weight and, because of this, some roads, bridges, and overpasses might not be able to handle the weight. This can not only pose a threat to others on the road, but it can also lead to structural damage for the surface a truck travels on. Weigh stations used to collect taxes if a heavier truck passed through because of how much more harm it can cause the road. Today, weigh stations are a way to make sure that semi-trucks are safe for the road ahead with an inspection to ensure the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines are followed. Without weigh stations, the road’s various risks would be much higher for all drivers.
Law Requirements Vary by State
One important thing you need to know about weigh stations as a truck driver is that there are different law requirements in each state. These requirements have to do with when you must stop at a weigh station, with some states being stricter than others based on the road conditions. Truck drivers should be aware of what every state is looking for if you are taking a long haul that crosses several states. This is partially why having a planned route is key. Typically, trucks that weigh over 10,000 pounds will be required to stop at a weigh station.
Weigh Station Procedures
At weigh stations, there will be several procedures followed to ensure that guidelines are met. There are two major parts of a semi-truck that are inspected: the total weight of the truck and the safety of the truck and the trailer. A visual inspection can also be inspected by DOT at a weigh station as a part of the procedure.
Weigh Station Etiquette
To make the process go as seamlessly as possible, it’s important for drivers to have proper weigh station etiquette. As a driver, understand that when you follow the procedure, the process will go faster, so you can get back on the road sooner instead of holding up traffic. Don’t waste time arguing over what might have occurred because it can lead to a delay in service time. A weigh station is meant to be as efficient as possible, but you have a role as well, so be professional.
How Do Weigh Stations Work?
Weigh stations are normally located right off a major road or highway with a sign that will point you in the right direction as you approach it. Once you reach the checkpoint, a DOT representative or a member of the state highway patrol will check the weight thanks to the scale you park over. Other safety features will also be inspected to see if they fit the requirements of the state. Going through a weigh station is a quick and efficient process that will get you back on the road in no time.
Virtual Weigh Stations
Virtual weigh stations are another type of mechanism you may come across as you travel on the road. With this method, records and weight can be detected by simply passing through and not causing any disruption to the flow of traffic. A virtual weigh station is very similar to a red-light camera at an intersection. Virtual weigh stations can check how much a truck weighs based on the truck’s axles, eights, and spacings.
What Happens to an Overweight Truck?
If you go through a weigh station and the truck doesn’t meet the legal requirements, there are a variety of consequences a driver may face. The punishment can differ in each state, but here is what a truck driver could potentially face:
- Fines - An overweight truck can lead to a major fine or a ton of small fees and is all based on the state you are in. The fine can fall anywhere between $100 to $10,000. The fine you receive can also be based on how many offenses you have had in the past, with second offenses potentially costing double or triple the amount of a fine. Some states will even charge you based on how much you are over the limit.
- Jail Time - The most severe punishment for driving an overweight truck could land you in jail with a sentence up to two months. If you are sentenced to jail time, states will also revoke a truck driver’s CDL license once legal proceedings take place.
A truck’s weight is a serious matter that a driver should be aware of when they are traveling. This is not just because it can cause harm to others, but also because of the expensive fines and potential prison time you could face.
How to Bypass Weigh Stations Legally
There are certain situations when you can bypass a weigh station without breaking the law. While this can also depend on the state you are in, you can get out of a station if it’s closed—which is the case on the weekends, during a holiday, or sometimes late at night. There are also devices like a PrePass that can get you past a weigh station situated on a highway.
A truck driver has many responsibilities to be safe on the road, and weigh stations are used to holding drivers accountable. Part of making sure your semi-truck passes the DOT inspections all starts with keeping up with proper care and maintenance, so you are well aware of the inner-workings of your truck. At Unitruck, you can find Freightliner M2 aftermarket parts that can help keep your semi-truck safe for the long haul ahead and pass weigh stations with ease.