Alberta updates fleet of mobile scalehouses

by James Menzies

HIGH RIVER, Alta. – Alberta Transportation has purchased two new Kenworth T-300s which will serve as scalehouses on wheels within the province.

In the past, Alberta’s inspection officers have had four mobile scale units at their disposal, but the province has since updated the fleet with a much more modern setup.

“Our mandate and our role has changed since we built the old units in 1992 so the decision was made to update the fleet,” says Dale Howard, the Inspection Services transport officer in charge of the High River, Alta.-based unit.

He says the new units have more capabilities and also deliver a better bang for the buck thanks to new technology.

“We’ve gone from 3.5 miles per gallon on our old units to over 10 miles to the gallon with these units so there’s considerable fuel savings for the taxpayer,” Howard points out.

One of the new trucks is housed at the High River Fire Hall where it’s also made available to the fire department in the event of an emergency.

Mobile command centre

“It’s made available to them to be utilized as a command centre at major incidents,” Howard says. The truck is fully-equipped with communications equipment that can prove invaluable at the site of a major accident, fire or hazardous materials spill.

The second identical truck is kept in Red Deer.

While the High River-based truck is used to enforce compliance from Carstairs, Alta.-south, the Red Deer unit is used for enforcement in the northern regions.

“Anything we can do at a (permanent) weigh scale we can do out of this truck,” says Howard.

The trucks include plenty of storage for tools such as creepers, wheel chocks, traffic cones, lighting systems and roadside signage. Inside, there’s a fridge, microwave and washroom for enforcement officers.

There’s also a waiting area for drivers and a separate office that can be closed off from the rest of the unit.

“If it’s utilized at a disaster site as a command centre, you have a place where decisions can be made and information processed that is separate from everyone else,” Howard says.

The office has a laptop with a wireless Internet connection so inspection officers can access licensing and permit information from anywhere in the province.

It also has a scanner, printer, photocopier and fax machine so officers can process information on the spot.

“Everything we have at a scale is neatly compacted into this unit,” Howard says.

Safety isn’t compromised in any way and the mobile scalehouses also feature a fresh water supply and external shower so a driver or officer can be decontaminated in the event of a dangerous goods spill.

The Kenworth T-300 was selected because Howard says after shopping around it was determined to be the best vehicle for the application.

It’s paired with a 3126 Cat engine and a six-speed Eaton automated transmission.

Surprise backroad blitzes

Howard says Alberta Transportation uses it for inspections between five and 10 days per month including all the major inspection blitzes.

“To the drivers that have been roaming around Alberta it’s no big surprise because we’ve had four mobile units in the past,” Howard says, but adds some drivers are surprised to encounter an inspection blitz on a back road where Inspection Services was previously unable to enforce weight regulations.

“The beauty of this unit is we can take a scale anywhere in the province,” he says.

“We’ve got portable scales on-board so we can monitor some of the secondary highways and measure compliance where you traditionally don’t expect to find us.”

Static self-weigh scales such as the one in Cochrane, Alta. remain the most popular places to use the mobile units, since it has a safe pull-off area, however the mobile units can be taken virtually anywhere in the province.

The mobile scalehouses are the only ones of their kind in Canada. Others have been built on ambulance chassis or other bodies not specially-built for the application.

“This unit was designed from the ground up strictly for compliance checks,” Howard says.

The truck weighs about 8,000 kgs and has a 15-year lifespan. Although Howard wouldn’t speculate as to whether or not mobile units will eventually replace permanent scalehouses, he said enforcement officers enjoy working in them and they are just as functional as any stationary scalehouse.

Three to four officers man the mobile units during the inspections.

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