Commercial drivers need to follow regulations at state and federal levels to help keep themselves and others on the road safe. One of these rules is a weight limit for trucks. This helps prevent damage to roadways which can make them less safe over time. In order to ensure compliance, commercial vehicles need to stop at weigh stations, which some truckers call “chicken coops.”
If you’ve ever seen the green signs for these along a highway and wondered what they are for or if you’re a rookie truck driver and want to make sure you’re staying compliant, this article outlines weigh station basics.
Which Vehicles Need to Stop at Weigh Stations?
Each state has different requirements for which vehicles must stop at weigh stations. You should know the laws for any states you are traveling through on your haul. As a general rule, most states require commercial vehicles that have a gross weight of over 10,000 pounds to stop at every open weigh station on their route.
Some motor carriers use a bypass service for their trucks. If your vehicle is equipped with this, you may not need to stop at every station.
What To Do When You Stop
After pulling off the highway to enter a weigh station, follow all posted signage or instructions from officials. Some scales require you to come to a complete stop, whereas others work while your truck is moving at a slow speed.
The scale will verify whether your truck is under the maximum weight. Federally, this is 80,000 pounds, although some states do have a lower gross weight limit. In addition to checking the total weight, the scale will determine how much weight is on each axle.
If your truck is within the weight limits, you will be able to continue on your way.
If not, the officials will have you pull through so they can get paperwork from you and determine the solution for the issue. At this point, they can also choose to perform a DOT inspection. Depending on the level of the inspection, they can check your truck, your paperwork, and/or your electronic logging device (ELD).
What Happens If Your Truck is Overweight
If your truck is over the weight limit for one of its axles, you may be able to shift the load and/or axles to fix the issue. There will typically be a fine and points against your Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score, but you may be able to continue on your way after paying this and adjusting the axle weight appropriately.
If your truck is over the gross weight limit, you will get a citation, fine, and points against your CSA score. Depending on the state and how much you were over, there are a few different ways to resolve the issue. You/your motor carrier may need to purchase an overweight permit or a relief driver may need to come take the excess weight.
How to Avoid an Overweight Citation
To avoid the fines and other penalties associated with being over the weight limit for commercial vehicles, weigh your truck after loading. There are scales at many truck stops and you can locate these using a trip planning phone application or trucker’s atlas. Then, you can adjust your axles or go back to the shipper for reloading if the gross weight is an issue. If you do need to go back, be sure to let your dispatcher know.
You should also be careful to avoid roads with lower weight limits. Again, a trip planning app, trucker’s atlas, or trucker-specific GPS can help you with this.
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