As you haul freight over the highway, all you want to do is get on down the road. You have a deadline and unexpected stops add to your stress. Then you approach a weigh station and get the red light. Time to pull over! Whether you are seeing red at this point or you just want to get it over with, it helps to know what to expect. To cover this base, here is a complete guide of everything from how weigh stations work to state rules for stopping at weigh stations.
A weigh station is a stationary or portable scale situated alongside the highway. This scale is typically adjoined to a scale house or office where employees man the scale. Truck drivers operating commercial trucks may be inspected by state or federal officials at the scales. An inspection is carried out by the Department of Transportation and begins with getting the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the tractor and freight. The DOT inspector will also do a walk around and if they decide to pull you over for an inspection, you are subject to this review. Inspections range from a Level 1 inspection to a Level 6 inspection. The most comprehensive inspection is the Level 1 inspection that covers both the driver and the truck and freight.
How a Weigh Station Works
The way these weigh stations work is that the scales weigh the axles of the truck. Some scales are single axle scales and others are multi-axle. Whenever you are driving down the highway and see a permanent or temporary sign indicating a weigh station up ahead, pay attention. Temporary signs are used for portable scales, which are common in agricultural regions during harvest time. If you use PrePass, as discussed later in this article, you will get a red or green light in your cab as you approach the weigh station. Otherwise, follow the signs and lights indicated by the weigh station along the highway.
Once you drive up to a weigh station, follow the signal lights to determine what to do. Some scales are designed to weigh trucks that are in motion, while others require the driver to come to a complete stop. After you have passed over the scale, the inspector will give you a signal regarding whether you should go or pull over for an additional inspection. Never, in any circumstance, should you ever drive off if you are told to pull over for an inspection.
Truck Scales in a Nutshell
At most truck stops you can find truck scales that are open to commercial truck drivers. These scales are used to weigh your load at any time during your freight haul. For example, when you first leave a loading dock you want to find a truck stop scale to weigh your load. Certain types of freight may also require you to stop and weigh your load periodically throughout the delivery for security purposes.
Also, if you are transporting LTL freight loads, you may be picking up a partial freight load on down the road. You would need to reweigh your freight to ensure you are within the 80,000 lbs. or less weight requirement. Otherwise, you risk transporting an oversized load without permits, which is a DOT violation. Whenever you go through a truck scale, make sure to keep your ticket to verify your weight in your records.
Smart truck drivers know the value of bypassing scales whenever possible. You can do this without breaking the law by getting a PrePass device. This gadget lets you bypass some weigh stations along the highway but not all. However, any weigh stations you can avoid is one less roadblock that will cause you to miss your deadline for delivery.
So most trucking companies and owner-operators invest the few bucks a month in a subscription for PrePass. In fact, when you are looking for truck driving jobs, keep an eye out for companies hiring drivers and offering free PrePass services. It’s a good truck driver benefit to have in order to save both time and money. By the way, PrePass doesn’t have a monopoly on weigh station bypass technology. Another company offering this service is Bestpass which uses the same transponder as PrePass. Therefore, these devices offer the same service in regard to bypassing scales.
Best Behavior at Scales
As a truck driver, you understand all too well the importance of staying on schedule. But when you get stuck behind some trucker who decided to park it on the scales, then you can testify to this bad behavior. Be nice, pull up, and never leave your trucks on the scales unless you are told by the DOT to get out of your truck. And in that case, by all means, comply.
If you are told to pull over for a DOT inspection, remain calm. Trying to argue your way out of the situation, no matter what your issue, won’t help. These weigh station inspectors have heard every sob story out there. The fact that your customer demands that you arrive on time is not the inspector’s fault. It is a matter of life as a trucker that you may be subject to an inspection at any time.
Weigh Station Rules by State
You already should know the weigh station laws according to the DOT about when you are required to stop. However, every state has its own rules for when you must stop at weigh stations within those state’s lines. Here is a breakdown of each state and its weigh station rules and regulations for commercial truck drivers:
- Alabama may use portable or stationary scales to weigh trucks and/or trailers.
- Alaska requires all drivers hauling over 10,000 pounds to stop at weigh stations.
- Arizona requires haulers with more than 10,000 lbs. to stop, as well as anyone transporting agricultural commodities that need pest inspection.
- Arkansas requires agricultural haulers and truckers hauling more than a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- California requires all commercial truckers to stop and inspections cover everything from the size of the truck to diesel emissions; these scales are considered some of the most comprehensive in terms of inspection points; if you fail an entry inspection at the state line, you will most likely be unable to deliver your freight into California and another driver will be needed to complete the delivery.
- Colorado requires all truck drivers hauling more than 26,000 lbs. to visit a weigh station in the state lines and receive a valid clearance form from the state DOT.
- Connecticut requires all commercial truckers to stop.
- Delaware has no specific rules but is open to enforcement of regulations by local law enforcement and DOT inspectors.
- District of Columbia has no applicable rules for weigh stations.
- Florida requires truck drivers hauling more than 10,000 lbs. to stop at weigh stations, as well as truck drivers transporting hazardous materials, agricultural commodities, livestock, or motor vehicles.
- Georgia requires all drivers hauling over 10,000 lbs. and/or agricultural products to stop at weigh stations.
- Hawaii requires all drivers transporting more than 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- Idaho has 10 stationary weigh stations aka ports of entry, as well as 10 portable weigh stations, that are used statewide.
- Illinois allows law enforcement to pull over truckers who appear to be hauling more than the legal weight limit.
- Indiana requires all truck drivers hauling more than 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- Iowa requires all drivers hauling more than 10,000 lbs. to stop. In addition, the state allows all peace officers to stop truckers who appear to have an overweight freight load and require weighing the freight. If the freight is overweight, the driver will be required to pull over immediately and remove any overage before proceeding with the haul.
- Kansas requires all truck drivers to stop at weigh stations when signs say to stop. Portable scales may be used if police officers feel the driver is over the weight limit.
- Kentucky requires everyone hauling more than 10,000 lbs. or agricultural commodities to stop.
- Louisiana requires all truck drivers hauling over 10,000 lbs, agricultural products, or a trailer to stop.
- Maine can require truck drivers to go to a weigh station and get weighed upon request.
- Maryland requires truckers hauling more than 10,000 lbs., hazardous materials, and agricultural crops to stop at weigh stations.
- Massachusetts requires all drivers hauling over 10,000 lbs. and/or agricultural products to stop.
- Michigan requires truck drivers transporting more than 10,000 lbs., agricultural commodities, and construction equipment to stop.
- Minnesota requires anyone transporting more than 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- Mississippi can make truck drivers get weighed upon request.
- Missouri requires anyone hauling over 18,000 lbs. to stop at weigh stations.
- Montana requires anyone transporting more than 8,000 lbs. of agricultural products to get weighed.
- Nebraska requires any truck driver operating equipment weighing more than 1 ton to pull over.
- Nevada requires truck drivers pulling more than 10,000 lbs. of freight and/or agricultural products to stop.
- New Hampshire can require truck drivers to drive up to 10 miles to find a weigh station to get weighed upon request by law enforcement.
- New Jersey weighs all trucks over 10,001 lbs.
- New Mexico weighs all trucks exceeding a GVWR 26,001 lbs.
- New York uses stationary and portable scales for weighing trucks.
- North Carolina has six to 13 weigh stations in operation at any given time, and law enforcement can require a driver to weigh their freight upon request.
- North Dakota requires any truck driver transporting over 10,000 lbs. to pull over.
- Ohio requires all commercial truckers hauling over 10,000 lbs. to stop at open scales.
- Oklahoma allows law enforcement to require truckers to be weighed upon request.
- Oregon requires all trucks hauling 26,000 lbs. or more to stop.
- Pennsylvania requires all truck drivers to stop regardless of size or haul type.
- Rhode Island requires all truck drivers hauling over 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- South Carolina requires any trucker appearing to be overweight to stop and submit to weighing at a weight station or portable scales.
- South Dakota requires all truck drivers hauling over 8,000 lbs. and/or agricultural products to stop.
- Tennessee requires all truck drivers to pull over based on state and federal laws about size, safety, and DOT regulations.
- Texas requires all commercial truckers to stop if a police officer or sign tells them to do so.
- Utah allows any peace officer to require a truck driver to get weighed at a scale within 3 miles.
- Vermont enables any law enforcement to stop a truck and weight it using scales.
- Virginia requires all drivers hauling over 7,500 lbs. to stop.
- Washington requires all agricultural haulers and trucks over 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- West Virginia requires truck drivers to go to the nearest weigh station within 2 miles if there is a reason to believe the truck is overweight.
- Wisconsin requires all truck drivers hauling over 10,000 lbs. to stop.
- Wyoming requires all drivers to stop and be prepared for random inspections.
- Puerto Rico requires all truck drivers to follow local signs for weigh stations.
Keep in mind, state rules are always subject to change. Therefore, if you typically haul in a certain state or select region, pay close attention to these state rules and use them to better coordinate your freight hauls. For instance, if you haul agricultural commodities then chances are greater that you’ll be inspected at a weigh station. As a result, you would want to pay even closer attention to your weight, load, overall dimensions, equipment, and paperwork. This will help you get through these inspections faster so you can get on down that road.
Another final point to mention, weigh stations aren’t always operating on holidays, at nights, and during the weekend. If you are out hauling freight during these times you may be able to bypass the weigh station situation altogether. Of course, if you need to use scales during these off times, truck stop scales are always open and available for truck drivers.