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What Is the Purpose of a Weigh Station?

If you’ve ever driven on a highway and read the signs along the way, you have likely seen a sign for a weigh station. The purpose of a weigh station is to protect roadways from damage that would be caused by overweight vehicles. 

If you’ve ever crossed a bridge with a posted weight limit, the sign exists with the intention of reducing the risk of the bridge collapsing. Truck weigh stations help the Department of Transportation maintain roads and highways by ensuring that large vehicles adhere to weight restrictions on the road. 

Vehicle weigh stations also protect roadway users because they ensure that vehicles are properly maintained, which should reduce the risk of breakdowns. Any commercial vehicle that weighs over 10,000 pounds is required to enter the weigh station and be weighed if the station is open. The purpose of weigh stations is to improve safety and increased efficiency across America’s highways. 

What Are Weigh Stations on the Highway?

Weigh stations are an important part of the trucking industry. They are found at designated locations off of highways all across America. 

At a weigh station, officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation or the highway patrol will be the ones who weigh the vehicles. They will also sometimes perform additional safety inspections. 

There are a few other tasks that drivers may encounter because they have usually performed at truck weigh stations. Here are three examples of tasks drivers might experience at a weigh station: 

  • DOT-provided wide-load escorts
  • Flagging vehicles for additional evaluations
  • Submission of any outstanding fees or paperwork

Why Are They Needed and How Are They Used?

Any commercial vehicle with a weight over 10,000 pounds is required to stop at a weigh station unless the driver has a pre-approved pass. Weigh stations protect highways from damage caused by overweight vehicles. They also protect truck drivers and other road users by increasing vehicle safety. 

At a weigh station, weight is calculated using two methods, including axle weight and gross weight.

  • Axle Weight: The axle weight is the amount of weight carried by each axle on a truck. To calculate the axle weight, take the total weight of the load and the trailer. Then, divide that value by the number of tandem axles. The weight of the tractor or pick-up is then added to the total. 
  • Gross Weight: Gross weight is simply the total weight of the load, trailer and tractor or pick-up, along with the weight of any accessories carried by the tandem axles. 

Who Has To Stop at a Weigh Station?

Any commercial vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds has to stop at a weigh station. The only exception is vehicles that have a pass. Weight requirements vary by state, so there are often weigh stations at state borders. A trucker that does not stop at a weigh station will run the risk of being pulled over by law enforcement or a state trooper. 

Where Are Weigh Stations Located?

Weigh stations are located just off the highway. There is usually a scale house where officers or inspectors will sit and wait. Depending on the weigh station, trucks will either drive slowly across the scale or stop to be weighed. 

Why Do Trucks Get Weighed?

Trucks are weighed for two reasons. To start, weighing trucks is a way of ensuring compliance. The other reason is that weigh stations increase safety on the road. 

Understanding Weigh Station Inspections

At a truck weigh station, officials may carry out inspections of the vehicle or the driver. All inspections begin with a reading of the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). There are six levels of inspection. Level one is the most comprehensive type of inspection, whereas level six is the simplest inspection. 

Level 1 Inspection

Level 1 inspections include both the driver and the vehicle. Inspectors will check all paperwork as well as check for hazardous materials, drugs, or alcohol. Drivers need to have their licenses, hours of service logs, and driver and vehicle inspection reports (DVIR) ready. Inspectors will then check various parts of the vehicle to ensure that proper and safe operational protocols are being followed. 

Here are some of the parts that must be checked during a level 1 inspection: 

  • Brakes
  • Coupling devices
  • Electrical cables
  • Emergency exits
  • Exhaust and fuel systems
  • Frame
  • Lights
  • Headlamps
  • Brake lamps
  • Tail lamps
  • Tires
  • Rims
  • Hubcaps
  • Turn signals
  • Safe loading
  • Seatbelt
  • Securement of cargo
  • Steering mechanism
  • Suspension
  • Windshield wipers

Level 2 Inspection

A level 2 inspection is similar to level 1. The inspector will walk around the vehicle, but the main difference between level 1 and level 2 is that the inspector will not climb under the vehicle during a level 2 inspection. That means they will not check the suspension or the frame. 

Still, drivers need to have their licenses, hours of service logs and driver and vehicle inspection reports (DVIR) ready to present to the person conducting the inspections. Inspectors will then check various parts of the vehicle, including the following: 

  • Brakes
  • Coupling devices
  • Electrical cables
  • Emergency exits
  • Exhaust and fuel systems
  • Lights
  • Headlamps
  • Brake lamps
  • Tail lamps
  • Tires
  • Rims
  • Hubcaps
  • Turn signals
  • Safe loading
  • Seatbelt
  • Securement of cargo
  • Windshield wipers

Level 3 Inspection

A level 3 inspection is an inspection of the driver only. The inspector will look at driver credentials and driving record, which may include the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Record of Duty Status (RODS)
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • HAZMAT requirements
  • HM/DG requirements
  • HoS documentation
  • Medical card and waiver
  • Seat belt
  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate
  • Vehicle Inspection Report

Level 4 Inspection

A level 4 inspection looks at specific aspects of the vehicle, which varies annually. The Department of Transportation may focus on common violations from the previous year or any other violations that they choose. Level 4 inspections allow the DOT to ensure that improvements on common violations are being made from one year to the next. 

Level 5 Inspection

A level 5 inspection is a vehicle-only inspection that is typically conducted after an accident or an arrest takes place. The driver is usually not present for a level 5 inspection. While a level 5 inspection is similar to a level 1 inspection, level 5 inspections don’t include anything pertaining to the driver or their record. 

The parts that are checked during a level 5 inspection typically include the following:

  • Brakes
  • Coupling devices
  • Electrical cables
  • Emergency exits
  • Exhaust and fuel systems
  • Frame
  • Lights
  • Headlamps
  • Brake lamps
  • Tail lamps
  • Tires
  • Rims
  • Hubcaps
  • Turn signals
  • Safe loading
  • Seatbelt
  • Securement of cargo
  • Steering mechanism
  • Suspension
  • Windshield wipers

Level 6 Inspection

A level 6 inspection is a special inspection that any vehicle carrying radioactive materials or Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) must undergo. Materials of this type can include the following: 

  • Enhanced out of service criteria
  • Radiological requirements
  • Radiological shipments

Weigh Stations Increase Safety

While weighing stations used to exist solely for the purpose of collecting taxes, they are now intended for the sake of increasing the safety of all drivers on the road. As a driver, they might seem like a hassle, but weigh stations can save drivers a lot of time and even more money down the road. 

Weigh stations focus on a truck’s weight for safety purposes. They help the DOT monitor roadway wear and tear, making it easier for them to keep up with the maintenance of roads over time. 

Weigh stations also ensure that drivers take the weight and the maintenance of their vehicles seriously, leading to fewer breakdowns and accidents on the road. Ultimately, weigh stations are essential for truck drivers on a daily basis, but they benefit everyone in the long run. 

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Instant access to track every shipment, run reports across all locations, and view your dashboard in real time