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Michigan enforcement under fire

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan authorities that monitor truck weights were called in on the carpet recently in a performance review by the state's Auditor General.Michigan is Ontario's biggest trading pa...


NEVER TOO MANY: Michigan's answer to everything has appeared, at times to be, add more axles.
NEVER TOO MANY: Michigan's answer to everything has appeared, at times to be, add more axles.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan authorities that monitor truck weights were called in on the carpet recently in a performance review by the state’s Auditor General.

Michigan is Ontario’s biggest trading partner, and as many as 9,000 trucks a day cross from the province to the state over southwestern Ontario’s bridges in Sarnia and Windsor alone. (That doesn’t even include the other major truck entry port at Sault Ste. Marie.)

Among other findings, the audit complains the Motor Carrier Division of the Michigan State Police didn’t make use of more than 20 weigh-in-motion (WIM) scales. Further, the auditing staff tested four such scales and found they were inaccurate. And, to make matters worse, AG staff found the division did not use 60 per cent of roadside weigh stations because of an overall state of disrepair … or because they were located in “unsafe areas”… or positioned on slanted surfaces, giving inaccurate readings.

“Failure to establish an effective program for weight enforcement increases the risk of causing damage to state highways by overweight trucks,” says the report. A 1992 estimate, cited in the audit, found these damages cost the state $54 million annually.

But state police, in a preliminary response to the report, stated the WIM scales are old technology, subject to temperature fluctuations and often in need of repair.

The fact the scales are inaccurate doesn’t worry the troopers any, they don’t use them for enforcement anyway.

Instead they’re simply used as sensors to relay data to the scalehouses.

Capt. Robert Powers, the division’s commanding officer, told Truck News the WIMs were, “never actually intended” for enforcement.

Instead they’re meant for vehicle counts, as well as determining axle numbers and truck speeds.

He said WIMs are most often used “to screen” vehicles, which subsequently are weighed on static, more reliable scales carried by mobile patrols. He insists these static scales, in stark contrast to their mobile cousins, “…give very accurate readings.”

He says his division agrees with the AG, road-side scales are, “highly effective and a preferred enforcement tool.”

They reduce the time it takes to weigh commercial vehicles and he says the division will encourage the state transportation department to work with it “to provide more operational” sites for such facilities.

The primary tool Michigan uses to enforce weight restrictions is the portable scale; these units are carried by mobile patrols.

All current mobile patrol vehicles are outfitted to be able to weigh trucks nabbed in roadside enforcement efforts.

Powers says, despite the criticisms, he thinks his department does an “excellent job” enforcing weight rules.

“We’re out there, we’re very visible,” he adds.

As for Canadian trucks, Powers insists they’re generally in better shape than those stateside.

He describes Canadian operators as, “Generally very safe and we have very few problems with them.”


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