What are Weigh Stations for & Does my Truck Need to Stop?

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Drivers regularly see signs for weigh stations along the highway. While passing they’ve asked themselves “what are weigh stations for?” And, “what trucks have to stop at weigh stations?” These questions can be just as confusing for fleet companies, especially after changes such as the new ELD mandate. The ELD mandate is just part of an overhaul of transportation industry rules. The changes came with the passing of MAP-21, or "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century". MAP-21 altered highway toll collections and safety rules, and tolls and safety are exactly what weigh stations are for.

We’ll take a deeper look at the purpose of weigh stations and who needs to stop at them below.

What is a Weigh Station?

A weigh station is a location off the highway, where officials weigh vehicles. The Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, or highway patrols are in charge of these duties. Fleet drivers park their vehicles over a stationary or portable scale. Alongside the scale is a scale house or office, in which the official reads the weight.

These officials also carry out an inspection of the vehicle and the driver. The inspection begins with reading the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). This includes the tractor and the freight. They will then do a walk around of the vehicle for the inspection. Inspections range from level 1-6, with the most comprehensive inspection being level 1.

Level 1 inspection:

A level 1 inspection is the North American Standard Inspection. It’s a comprehensive inspection and includes both the vehicle and driver. Inspectors must check all paperwork and search for drugs, alcohol and hazardous materials. Drivers need to have the following documents:

Inspectors will check various parts of the vehicle as well. Ensure that the following parts are operating properly and are ready for inspection:

  • Seatbelt
  • Coupling devices
  • Brakes
  • Tires, rims, hubcaps
  • Exhaust and fuel systems
  • Emergency exits
  • Electrical cables
  • Frame
  • Lights, headlamps, brake lamps, tail lamps
  • Securement of cargo
  • Steering mechanism
  • Safe loading
  • Suspension
  • Windshield wipers
  • Turn signals

Level 2 inspection:

A level 2 inspection is a walk-around driver/vehicle inspection. There is little difference between level 1 and 2 inspections. You will still encounter many of the same checks. The difference is that the inspector will not climb under the vehicle. This removes items such as the suspension and frame from the inspection. It’s still a fairly comprehensive inspection, but less so than a level 1.

Level 3 inspection:

A level 3 inspection is a driver-only inspection. It encompasses driver credentials and inspection of the items below:

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

Level 4 inspection:

A level four inspection is an inspection of specific features of the vehicle. The features they inspect depend on DOT research. The Department of Transportation may decide to focus on a common violation from the previous year. As a result, they may check these common violations year after year to track improvement.

Level 5 inspection:

A level 5 inspection is a vehicle-only inspection. It's usually conducted after an arrest or accident. This typically means the driver isn’t on-site at all. The inspection is rather thorough. In fact, it’s on-par with a level 1 inspection, minus the driver aspects of the inspection.

Level 6 inspection:

A level 6 inspection is for any motor vehicle carrying radioactive materials or Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ). The inspection is similar to a level 1 inspection, but also includes a check of:

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

What are Truck Weigh Stations for?

Originally, weigh stations were a method of collecting taxes. Fleet vehicles typically pay a higher tax because of their weight and the stress they put on the roads. This is why weigh stations now focus on a truck's weight for safety purposes. Roads and bridges can only handle so much weight and stress. When a truck is over the weight limit, it poses a greater risk of bridge collapse or compromise. In addition, the constant heavy weight on the roads leads to a higher rate of repair of these roads. In the United States, the maximum weight permissible for a truck with a full trailer is 80,000 pounds.

During weighing, trucks are also inspected to ensure drivers and trucks are safe enough to be on the road. The passing of MAP-21 called for the creation of new HoS rules via electronic logging. This ELD mandate ensures that HoS numbers are correct and manipulation isn't possible. Officials check these records at weigh stations to ensure compliance.

Other tasks performed at a truck weigh station include:

  • Provide wide-load escorts
  • Submission of any outstanding fees and paperwork
  • Flagging vehicles for additional evaluations

What Trucks Have to Stop at Weigh Stations?

In many states, any vehicle over 10,000 pounds must stop at a weigh station. The only exception to this is if the driver has a PrePass or other bypass service. These bypass services are helpful, especially in the event of a closed weigh station. This is all common knowledge for those in the fleet industry. However, the lines get a little blurry with the differences in state to state weigh station laws. For instance, in Colorado, the law states:

“Every owner or operator of a motor vehicle having a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of over 26,000 lbs. shall secure a valid clearance from an office of the DOR, from an officer of the Colorado State Patrol, or from a port of entry weigh station before operating such vehicle or combination of vehicles in the state.”

As you see, the weight is set at 26,000 pounds in Colorado. On the other hand, the law in Montana states:

“Vehicles transporting agricultural products and trucks with a GVW of 8,000 lbs. or more and new or used RVs being transported to a distributor or dealer must stop.”

Weigh station requirements vary by state. Check the requirements for each state on your route to be sure. You can check each state’s requirements at AAA Digest of Motor Laws.

Truck weigh stations are a means of ensuring safety on the road. Azuga telematics ensures the same for your fleet. We keep you ELD compliant, efficient, and safe with GPS fleet tracking, dash cams, and eLogs. Learn more about how to stay compliant and avoid penalties with Azuga.