LONGS CREEK, N.B. – The old adage ‘time is money’ has become the rallying cry for the trucking industry.
Long waits at weigh scales along sections of New Brunswick’s Trans-Canada Highway, before a new twinned route was built between the cities of Fredericton and Moncton, meant a possible loss of revenue for transport companies.
But with the completion of Route 2 between New Brunswick’s capital and its fastest-growing urban area came the installation of automated truck weigh stations along the 225-kilometre, four-lane expressway.
“It’s a good system, no question about it,” said Dave Black, owner of Black’s Transfer of Saint John, N.B. “It takes away the need for the truck to physically stop and pull into the scale and be physically weighed.”
The first of these Weigh-in-Motion (WIM) systems was installed eastbound at Longs Creek, west of Fredericton, when the new highway opened four years ago. It was the first of its type to be installed in the province. Two more – westbound at Deerwood and Salisbury – opened last fall.
New Brunswick’s Department of Transportation states on its Web site that the three WIM systems are “increasing efficiency for the trucking industry by reducing the number of weight-compliant vehicles required to exit Route 2 and report to the scales. They are also reducing vehicle emissions and collision risks at access points.”
The WIM system allows commercial trucks that meet provincial size and weight limits to bypass weigh stations at highway speeds, thereby reducing the number of trucks required to stop at inspection stations.
Loops embedded in the roadway track the movement of each vehicle through the system, which registers the vehicle’s weight and axle configuration as it travels over the WIM scale at highway speed.
If the truck is determined to be overweight, a message is displayed on two roadside signs directing it to report to the weigh scales. This message is also displayed if the system detects an error such as a truck’s tires straddling the scale. If the truck is determined to be compliant, no message will appear on the signs and the truck can continue on its route.
Commercial vehicle enforcement officers at the scales see images of each truck on a monitor and the information related to that vehicle. An alarm will sound at the weigh station if a truck attempts to by-pass the scales.
According to a provincial government document, an evaluation of the Longs Creek site indicates that approximately $600,000 per year is saved by the commercial trucking industry as the number of trucks required to report to the scales has been reduced by approximately 55 per cent. But Black questions whether the scales have actually reduced the number of weight-compliant vehicles.
“As truckers we don’t necessarily plan to overload our trucks,” he said. “But we work on information given to us by shippers and it’s not always accurate. And we also put trailers into shipper’s locations where they load them without our supervision. Sometimes they wind up with the load not placed properly on the trailer and one group of axles is heavier than it should be.”
However, Black is a proponent of the scale systems. His company mainly operates short-haul truckloads, with flatbed work making up two-thirds of Black’s freight volume. Black said at least a dozen of his 38 trailers travel through the Salisbury station on a daily basis.
“I expect these systems will be in place on all major highways in this region,” he said. “It’s bound to come as technology improves. It saves the trucker from actually stopping; that would save the company money. And it avoids the lineup. When it’s a heavily travelled lane and you get a lot of truck traffic, if there is a problem ahead of you and he’s trying to get that problem solved, then you could be stuck there for awhile. Time equals money in this industry.”