Weigh Stations & Truck Scales
Commercial Truck Weight Regulations in the U.S.
Weigh stations are checkpoints for large commercial vehicles that are placed periodically on interstates and highways so trucks can pull over and be checked by highway patrol. Primarily, these stations are for the purpose of checking weight limit compliance. To weigh a vehicle, these weigh stations come equipped with truck scales. Depending on the station, this scale may be a type of bridge fixed to concrete where the truck will stop while the weight is measured. More advanced scales will allow truck drivers to keep their trucks in motion while they are being weighed. This is called "weigh in motion," which eases and quickens the process.
What Is Checked at a Weigh Station?
Depending on what state a truck is traveling in, what particular weigh station, and even what time of the day it is, inspections at these weigh stations will differ. However, there will be some standard, routine checks.
What is normally checked at an average weigh station includes:
- Freight Paperwork – Shows legitimacy for his or her truck and the cargo inside it.
- Vehicle Paperwork – Directly aimed toward the specifications of the truck, when it was last inspected, how old its tires are. Some stations may even check the truck’s brakes and other equipment.
- Trucker Logbooks – Because trucker fatigue is such a widespread problem in the industry, the Department of Transportation has imposed strict driving and resting times for truckers nationwide.
All commercial drivers are required under federal regulations to record their driving hours, as well as their resting breaks. Because falling asleep at the wheel and truck driver fatigue is such a widespread problem in the industry, the Department of Transportation (DOT) imposed strict driving and resting times for truckers across the country.
Weight Limits & “Dodging the Scales”
Trucks' massive size and weight makes them more dangerous to drivers than any other vehicle on the road. The federal weight limit for all 18-wheeler trucks is 80,000 lbs., or 40 tons.
Some truckers have what is called an “overweight permit,” but otherwise, truckers are limited to 80,000 lbs. Even under legal weight limits, the average large truck needs 40% more time to brake than a normal vehicle. For these reasons, accountability to weight regulations is vital. In recent years, law enforcement has had an issue with truckers “dodging the scales." Many truckers admit to doing this when they have violated rest requirement or carry too much weight. One officer pulled a truck over for attempting to dodge a weigh station by taking a miles-long detour. The fine was $200 for carrying too much weight. The second fine for that company in two months.
Why Weigh Stations Matter
Efforts to make weight station detours illegal have been opposed by the trucking industry nationwide. The Texas Motor Transportation Association, for example, successfully fought a bill in the Texas Senate that would have illegalized dodging the weigh station. Weigh stations are currently the only way for law enforcement to make sure trucks are obeying federal safety regulations. When there is a lack of federal oversight, truckers have the potential to cause serious damage. Asking drivers to work longer hours, make more deliveries, and skip rest breaks can lead to heavier loads and slower reaction times. In 2013, a young woman was killed when a truck struck her vehicle on the highway because it could not stop in time. It was later found to have a load 8,000 lbs. over the legal limit.
Truck Height & Weight Limits
Federal trucking regulations limit the size and weight of a truck; however, truck length limits will vary depending on the state. Per these regulations, a truck can weigh no more than 80,000 pounds and must be no more than 102 inches wide and 14.6 feet tall. Although these limits are in place, there are situations where a truck may seek an oversized permit. The regulations for oversized trucks, including their weight and size limits, vary per state.
How an Oversized Truck Can Cause an Accident
The same factors that may cause a truck accident may also affect an oversized truck; however, these factors are more likely to have an impact on the ability to safely operate the vehicle when it is an oversized commercial big rig. An 80,000 pound truck takes 525 feet to stop when traveling 65 mph. An oversized truck weighing 100,000 pounds will take 25% longer and a truck weighing 120,000 pounds will take 50% longer.
These numbers paint a clear picture of just how dangerous an oversized vehicle may be in an emergency situation, when a truck driver needs to avoid a collision. The sheer weight of an oversized truck may also put additional strain on the braking system and tires; tires may even explode while the truck is traveling at high speeds. When you take into consideration the fact that an oversized truck may be improperly loaded, all of the potential hazards associated with these vehicles are compounded.
Contact Our Leading Trucking Accident Firm
Oversized trucks may present a serious hazard to motorists. If you have been injured in an accident with an oversized truck, you need a competent Houston big rig accident attorney who can fight for you. The trucking company may try to deny liability-even claiming that the accident was your fault. At Arnold & Itkin, we are highly experienced in handling claims involving oversized vehicles. Our understanding of trucking regulations enables us to accurately determine whether a violation has occurred or whether another issue caused the accident.
If you have been hurt in a truck accident, our attorneys can investigate your claim to see what caused your accident. Contact Arnold & Itkin LLP today for a free consultation.