Weigh station, inspection station, chicken coop or scale house. Whatever you call it, it’s a prominent topic among CMV operators. Usually, when you are invited in, or just asked to go “around back,” anxiety starts to creep in.
Recently, Pinnacle Safety Manager Nick Johnson and I had occasion to visit the I-94 westbound weigh station in Chesterton, In. We met the Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers who work there, were shown some of the technology, heard some stories and were given some advice to bring back and pass on to you.
- One thing that all three officers mentioned more than once was that many violations cited during an examination are at the officer’s discretion. Lighting was an example. If you have a headlight burned out, you will be cited for sure. But if you only have an inoperable side marker out, you may not. The difference, they say, is the driver’s attitude. A driver with a good attitude will not get hit as hard as a driver who is not being polite and respectful. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
- If you have a permit for an oversized load, you must follow it exactly. In Indiana, the Department of Revenue (DOR) issues the permits. The DOR sets the standards for enforcement of the permits, according to the officers. “They are very strict and they expect us to be very strict,” one officer explained. He went on to say that if the permit says the width of your load is measured from the furthest protruding location to the furthest protruding location, then it must be measured that way. The CMV officers risk discipline if they don’t follow the permit rules exactly.
- There is a new brake checking machine that will be put into operation very soon. It will measure the distance the push rods travel before the brakes are engaged.
- They are big advocates of dashcams to protect good drivers. “Drivers are always targets and we see cases in which motorists attempt to get hit while moving slower so they can sue transport companies,” another officer said, “the dashcams often save the driver and the company.”
- They also explained that selection for inspection is purely random. They set their computer at a percentage—like 20 percent—and the fifth truck to go through the scales will get selected for inspection. “We don’t know their SMS scores or ISS until we plug the DOT number into the computer when we start the inspection.”
Weigh stations don’t have to be the intimidating experience they are for some commercial drivers. If you know what to expect, keep your cool, know your stuff is right and understand what is happening, good inspections will result. Be prepared and be confident.