Having recently been on a long road-trip to Chicago for a Straight Dope gathering, I encountered something along the highway that I frequently see - a place for semi-trucks to stop and have their weight checked. It was, of course, closed.
Despite my thread title, I am aware that these stations are, occasionally, open. But why are they so frequently closed?
They do not operate on a predictable schedule. If they did, then trucks over the weight limit would learn to avoid the sections of highway that they are located on. Instead, the police open them by surprise for no more than a few hours at a time. Otherwise, it would take too many people to staff them and to chase the illegal trucks that try to slip by. It is the threat that they are there and that they MAY open at any time that is used a deterant.
Also where I am, they tend to not open the same one all the time. Some truck drivers will take back roads to try to get around weigh stations if they know which ones are open in advance, usually because the driver is pulling too many hours. (If he left a pickup point 16 hours away [which usually give a cargo ticket with the time and date on it] 16 hours ago, that means he’s been driving 16 hours.) - MC
Here in Massachusetts, I quized my state representative about a certain weigh station (I-495, Taunton) that appeared never to be open four years after construction. She responded that it was built with federal funds, but had to be operated with state funds. It had only been used ONCE in its first four years of operation. It has now been another 7-10 years, and I’ve yet to see it in operation.
And wring, although my road trips are typically more weekend-oriented, I have seen this phenomenon during the week as well. And it would seem to me you would want this enforcement component in place seven days a week.
I have heard that states must have a certain number of weigh stations to qualify for federal highway money but there is no law that says they have to be open. The weigh stations in Massachusetts do not even have scales at them, the state has a couple (not sure how many) portable scales that they can set up if the want to open a weigh station. I would think having to bring a scale to the weigh station makes it even more trouble to open one, the are open very rarely.
Other states have weigh stations that are open on a more frequent basis, I guess this depends on the funding they have.
An unrelated rant – All trucks on the road should be safe and checked with quick inspections but how would you like it if someone came into you office and made you stop working for an hour or more so he could check your equipment and records, of course you wouldn’t get paid for this and it would set your schedule behind.
As for overweight trucks ruining the highways, this is of course wrong but the majority of highway funding comes from taxes on big trucks. (wish I could find the statistic somewhere)
The two on I70 through Colorado pretty much never close, it seems. As I recall (& I quit trucking in 1989) there are some states that NEVER seemed to have open coops, like MA & NV.
And as Jimshep points out, they’re an absolute pain in the neck, although I agree there have to be enforceable safety & weight standards. The OPEN sign alerting truckers ahead of the coop was referred to as that “four letter word.” Now with onboard satellite systems, random drug testing & so on, its even more intrusive, I guess. Used to make me wonder. The trucking firms entrust you with equipment worth often over $100,000, plus what the load is worth-can be ALOT- and then don’t trust the driver not to drive more than 10 consecutive hours, or whatever it is now.
One of my youth group advisors worked at the ‘Port of Entry’ on the western stretch of I-70 in Colorado, about 12 miles from Utah. He worked full time, indicating that it indeed was open full-time. (It was probably a nice revenue generator.)
I-70 is the only E/W interstate route that goes through Colorado. Truckers would have to go up to Wyoming or down to New Mexico to get another interstate route. (The US routes in Colorado are pretty much dinky 2-lane roads that would slow truckers down too much.)
On a trip to Florida earlier in the year I saw Weigh Stations on I-5 that seemed to be run automatically. There were signs instructing the drivers to proceed at a slow pace (5mph?). On the highway there were cameras and what appeared to be sonar machines presumably to test the height of passing vehicles and take their pictures if they illegally passed.
Is this what I saw or was it a figment of my imagination?
Well, if you were in Florida, the signs that said you were on I-5 were definitely figments of your imagination. Perhaps you were on I-95.
Many times I have seen trucks (sometimes in groups) pulled off on the side of the highway, then a mile or two down the road I see an open weigh station. Coincidence? Or are the truckers making sure their logs are up-to-date and all their paperwork & equipment is in order?
I humbily submit that you aren’t even close when it comes to MS. You can see and feel the ruts that develop in highways that have the misfortune to be heavily traveled. Out near Vicksburg, where there is one of the few crossings over the Mississippi river in our state, there are two busy weigh stations, open and lined up with Trucks pretty much all the time.
Which isn’t to say that they don’t cheat. I know Lisanti makes it corporate policy to run on Sundays in a lot of states, just so they can load their trucks down and run their drivers 18 hours a day.
All I know is that in the eighteen years I’ve lived, I have NEVER (and I really mean never)seen a weigh station open. Mind you, I have been on unterstates in many states. VT, MA, ME, NH, NY, CT, and all states between VT and FL.
I know for a fact that the five or so weigh stations in VT (we really only have ONE interstate highway) are ALWAYS closed. For the past five years I have frequently travled up and down it (for various reasons) and never seen any of them open. I frequently ask people I know if they;ve ever seen them open. Nope. I don’t even know anyone who has seen ANY station open. Go figure.
Latecomer – If there are two weigh stations directly across the highway from one another one is often operated remotely with cameras and sensors. There is a tunnel under the highway if you have to cross. Their is also a system where trucks transmit their registration information electronically, usually without getting off the highway. Some states weigh trucks at 55 MPH and call in trucks that are close for a more accurate stationary weight.
bouv - Pluto is a dog-dog and Goofy is a human-dog, Cecil already tackled that one here
He has also done “How does Teflon stick to the pan” and “Why do doctors use an alcohol swab before giving someone a lethal injection” but I am to lazy to look them up.