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Why Do Semi Trucks Get Weighed? (11 Essential Facts)

Semi trucks are vital in all parts of the world and it plays a huge role in a countries economy. 

For this reason, various legislations are in place to ensure that the drivers are safe and cargoes are appropriately delivered.

Some important statutes involve weight parameters. 

In this article, you will discover more about the importance of weigh stations and load scales for semi trucks.

Here’s a quick answer to Why do Semi Trucks Get Weighed?

Semi trucks have to get weighed for the enforcement of taxes and to determine whether it’s compliant with the DOT standards and guidelines. Such procedure is a safety check to ensure no injuries to personnel or damages to the road will occur due to a truck’s overloaded or overweight situation.

What are Truck Weigh Stations For?

Truck weigh stations are mandatory stops imposed by the federal regulations for commercial vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds. At a weigh station, trucks are inspected and weighed to ensure that they are compliant with safety guidelines and state laws.

However, initially, weight stations were established for tax purposes. Most states in America impose taxes based on the weight of a semi truck’s cargo. 

So, nowadays, weigh stations are not only for collecting taxes.

Weight stations are in place to check if the vehicle is compliant with ELD rules or Hours of Service Laws, Fuel Tax laws, equipment safety, and weight restrictions.

Why do Semi Trucks get Weighed?

Semi trucks are weighed to prevent overweight vehicles on the road. 

As we know, semi trucks beyond the weight limit of 80,000 pounds will cause severe damage to the vehicle, roads, and bridges.

The US Department of Transportation is responsible for examining the semi truck and its freight to determine the vehicle’s gross weight.

If a vehicle exceeds the weight limitation, a driver may be required to reduce the vehicle load or may not be permitted to travel at all.

Weight stations are not meant to make the lives of the drivers miserable. It’s a safety measure to ensure that the vehicle is not posing a danger to the driver and other people.

Why do Some Trucks Stop at Weigh Stations and Some don’t?

Semi-truck stops at weigh stations because they are required by law. In contrast, other trucks avoid the station for several reasons: the weigh stations are closed, the driver wants to avoid it, or the driver has a bypass device.

The safest way to avoid weigh stations is through a bypass device.

The gadget will notify the driver of the weight results of the truck without stopping at the weigh stations.

What Trucks have to Stop at Weigh Stations?

The general rule is any truck and commercial vehicle weighing 10,000 pounds is obliged to stop at weigh stations. The only exception is when the vehicle is using a bypass device. However, state laws are not uniform, and some states impose different gross weights in their respective jurisdictions.

For instance, the State of Colorado provides a weight rate of 26,000. As such, any vehicle below the weight rating may choose to disregard the station.

Meanwhile, in Montana, for as long as the vehicle weight rate is 8,000 pounds, it must pass over the weighing scale.

To be sure, check the state law in your area to determine if your semi truck needs to be weighed. 

Do Trucks have to Stop at Every Weigh Station?

Trucks weighing 10,000 pounds and more are required to stop at every weigh station. In most states, all commercial and non-commercial trucks are obliged to stop at every weigh station, provided they weigh 10,000 pounds. The weight rating may vary depending on the law imposed in a particular state.

The average weight of a semi truck is approximately 35,000 pounds. Hence, it’s most likely that the majority of semi trucks need to be weighed.

Drivers should keep an eye on signs indicating the location of weigh stations. If they missed one, even unintentionally, they have to face legal consequences.

If you’re not sure whether your truck needs to be weighed, you should stop at weigh stations. Either way, the patrol officer will inform you that the truck need not be weighed if that’s the case.

How often do Trucks have to Stop at Weigh Stations?

The number of weight stations a truck may come upon the road will determine the number of stops it has to make. The law requires that trucks shall stop at every open weigh station they encounter on the road. The only time a truck may be allowed to avoid is when the station is closed.

Failure to do has legal implications such as fines and confiscation of drivers license.

It will also affect the records or scores of the driver and the operator in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) programs. Worse, the driver may lose his job.

However, it’s implausible a driver will miss an open weigh station unless the driver makes it intentional. 

DOT officials or law enforcement officers handle the weight stations. If they catch any truck avoiding the weigh station, they will pull the truck back to the station. There are also CCTVs in place to record each vehicle if the officers fail to catch the violators.

What is the Weight Limit for an 18 Wheeler?

The 18 wheeler truck has a weight limit of 80,000 pounds with or without cargo. It’s also the same maximum gross weight imposed by the federal regulations in all types of vehicles.

The weight limit is already huge enough. However, there are truck operators who force their drivers to overload to maximize their profit.

This practice is dangerous when caught by law enforcement in charge of the weigh stations. The driver may face a legal suit when injuries occur.

What Happens if a Truck is Overweight at a Weigh Station?

In general, if a truck is found overweight at a weigh station it will be subjected to consequences such as travel restrictions, delay of deliveries, fines or higher taxes, and lawsuits. Laws vary by state, and some consequences may or may not be severe than other states.

Travel restriction

As we already know, any vehicle beyond 80,000 pounds is prohibited from traveling on the road. Hence, once your truck exceeds the maximum weight requirement, you won’t be allowed to travel. 

You will be permitted to reduce your cargo, but many drivers won’t choose this route. After all, if something happens to any freight, it’s the truck drivers’ liability.

For cargoes that cannot be reduced into smaller shipments, the DOT may issue an overweight permit. The permit is issued if a semi truck is the only means to deliver the cargoes.

Delay of deliveries

Time is precious for any truck driver. For them, time is money.

Drivers have delivery deadlines to meet, and the time spent on weight stations alone may affect their delivery time.

Falling in line to the weigh stations and the process of getting weighed takes time. It will consume more time if found that the vehicle is overloaded.

Fines and higher taxes

Fines and taxes also vary by state. This is the most expected consequence once your semi truck becomes overweight.

Some states impose unreasonable fees while some don’t. Typically, total fees range between $100-10,0000.

Some states may charge you $100 and up per pound.

Check this link to know the overweight fines for each state.

Lawsuit

Some states will put the driver behind bars once caught driving an overloaded truck. The jail time may last up to two months. 

Moreover, once an accident occurs, you may have to face civil liabilities and damages.

The employer may also be primary or subsidiarily liable, depending on the case charged.

Why do Truck Drivers Avoid Weigh Stations?

Like other rules, the safety regulations for vehicles are far from perfect. There are still truck drivers who knowingly or unknowingly avoid weigh stations. 

Some of the reasons why most drivers avoid weigh stations are the following:

Weigh stations are closed

A driver can avoid any weigh stations that are closed. However, this doesn’t mean that one is allowed to skip on weigh stations during the entire trip. 

There are a lot of open stations a driver may encounter along the way, and this time, stations cannot be avoided.

Overweight/Overloaded trucks

Mot drivers avoid weigh stations because they know that the vehicle is overweight or overloaded. To prevent liabilities, they intentionally skipped every stations.

As bad as it may sound, sometimes operators advise their drivers to avoid them so they can deliver more cargoes and earn more profits. 

Truck drivers also have radios to communicate with fellow drivers. They inform each other that there’s an open weigh station that he must avoid on such a highway.

Overall, the reason why they skipped is to avoid getting caught that they travel whilst being overloaded.

Drivers have availed of the bypass programs

For those operators and drivers who haven’t availed the bypass programs yet, they are missing out.

This is the number 1 solution to avoid all the hassles of the weigh stations protocol. This will solve deliver delays and traffic problems brought by weigh stations.

Some popular bypass service include Prepass, NORPASS, and Drivewyze.

The bypass service will let you know your weight results through the electronic reader as you approach the weigh stations. 

However, once you get a red light, you may be required to stop at the weigh stations for manual procedure and inspection.

Is it Mandatory for Semi Trucks to Get weighed?

All semi trucks, commercial or not but weighing at least 10,000 pounds, must be weighed. The weight can be lower or higher in some states, but one thing is for sure – it is mandatory. Whether you like it or not, it’s an inevitable aspect of freight vehicles.

The purpose of the mandate is to make sure that semi trucks are not too heavy that it may cause hazardous effects on the road. 

No matter the brand, dimensions, and cargo, semi trucks must be weighed.

What is the Weigh Station Procedure for Semi trucks?

Since state laws aren’t the same, the weigh procedures may vary, too. But the standard process are the following:

Step 1. Check the signal light

Once you arrive at the weigh station, check the signal light. It will inform you of the next step you should take on. Typically, it will advise you to pass over the weighing scale. 

Step 2. Getting weighed

There’s no need to stop the scale from getting weighed for those who are using a bypass service.

As you approach the weigh station, the driver will be informed of the weight result through the bypass device.

To get your weight rating, you only need to pass the rolling scale. The scale will tell you the weight results and whether the vehicle is under or over 80,000 pounds.

Step 3. Pay attention to the green light.

After you get weighed, the DOT inspector will inform you if you didn’t pass or are required to undergo inspections. 

The inspector will then record the results to the computer and logbook before giving you the green light.

Once you get the green light, you can proceed with your journey.

If you get the red light, it means the vehicle is above the weight limit and will not be allowed to travel unless you’re given the overweight permit. 

Step 4: Inspection (Optional)

Inspection may or may not happen. The DOT inspector may check the ELD and the overall condition of the truck.

If the DOT inspectors observe any fluid leaks, tire wear, broken or missing springs, malfunctioning brakes, flat tires, and other vehicle malfunction, the driver may be required to flag down to resolve the issues before continuing the trip. 

As you may have observed in the procedure above, weigh stations are crucial for everyone’s safety.

Truck drivers cannot avoid weight stations throughout their career life, but sure, there are many ways to make the journey less hassle.

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