Overloaded trucks pose at least two dangers: physical harm to the occupants of other vehicles, and costly damage to the nation’s roads. A relatively new use of sophisticated technology is designed to put the brakes on such dangerous commercial vehicles.
Every state has weigh stations along major highways. Large, over-the-road trucks must stop at weigh stations and get inspected to ensure they’re meeting proper weight guidelines. These weigh stations were originally designed to help states calculate and collect fuel taxes owed by commercial vehicles. Now, they’re primarily used for enforcing weight restrictions and conducting safety inspections.
There are, however, a couple of problems with weigh stations. One, they can get crowded at times, putting anxious truckers behind schedule. Two, not all commercial trucks required to stop at weigh stations actually do. This is especially true for truckers and trucking companies with a history of safety violations.
So, many states – including Missouri – have put into place what are known as “virtual” weigh stations. If you’ve ever driven by one, you probably didn’t know it because it’s nowhere near the size of a traditional weigh station.
Sophisticated System to Catch Overloaded Trucks
A virtual weigh station uses what is called a Weigh-in-Motion (WIM) system for weight enforcement. The components of a virtual weigh station include:
- The WIM sensor scales embedded in the highway
- Overhead cameras
- The roadside electronics – a box that contains the hardware and software to capture the information and transmit it over the Internet
When a commercial truck passes over the WIM scales, its weight is transmitted to the roadside electronics and a photo is automatically taken of the vehicle. This information is accessible by police officers using laptops. If the information suggests the truck is in violation of weight guidelines, law enforcement can quickly flag down the trucker and weigh the truck with portable scales.
Some virtual weigh station systems include electronic license plate readers and electronic DOT number readers, for better identification and tracking. This helps to more easily apprehend habitual offenders.
Stopping Illegal Trucks from Using Smaller Roads
Virtual weigh stations make catching overweight trucks more effective, as they help state troopers zero in on the most likely suspects. The placement of virtual weigh stations can also help apprehend dangerous truckers. Many drivers of overweight trucks use secondary highways, rather than Interstates, in an effort to avoid traditional weigh stations. That in itself is a potentially dangerous combination: big trucks, small roads. Without the “brick and mortar” of traditional weigh stations, the virtual models are more easily located on secondary roads to catch offending vehicles.
In 2010 Missouri installed its first virtual weigh station on Highway 67, near the southbound I-55 exit ramp.
Unfortunately, no system is fool-proof; able to catch careless truck drivers and prevent their catastrophic accidents 100 percent of the time. Negligent truck drivers and truck companies should be held responsible for the harm they cause, and that’s the role for an attorney experienced in taking on commercial trucking companies.