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Portable scales help keep weights in check, reduce overweight fines

BRIDGEWATER, N.S. - Payload is vital to a log hauler's productivity, but to Matthew Ritcey, it's only part of the equation. To be successful, he says, you need to load with precision, efficiency, and...


BRIDGEWATER, N.S. – Payload is vital to a log hauler’s productivity, but to Matthew Ritcey, it’s only part of the equation. To be successful, he says, you need to load with precision, efficiency, and confidence that you’re in compliance with vehicle weight rules.

Ritcey operates Ritcey & Sons, a family-run log truck operation in Bridgewater, N.S. He and his seven-axle tractor-trailer unit haul stud wood out of the bush in southwestern Nova Scotia. He’s been doing it for the better part of a decade, so when Ritcey slips into the seat of his loader, he has a pretty good idea how much timber he can pile on.

But nowadays, he says, the cost of trucking is so high and enforcement so strict, gut feel or air gauges aren’t good enough.

“If we’re overweight, the fine can eat up our profit,” he says. “Now, with our weight tolerance going away, there’s extra pressure to run legal.”

Nova Scotia allows a 500-kilogram tolerance per axle, the only jurisdiction in North America with a tolerance written into regulation. That will end on Jan. 1, 2007, when tolerances will be left to the discretion of enforcement officers.

On a seven-axle vehicle, that’s a loss of 3,500 kg.

“If you’re used to loading logs to the tolerance all these years,” Ritcey says, “and you don’t have a way to verify your weight when you leave the bush, you’re risking big fines and safety infractions.”

A year ago, Ritcey deployed a wireless onboard scale called Smart Scale, an inexpensive, accurate on-board scale for vehicles with air suspensions. Made by TruckWeight of Halifax, it is the only wireless on-board scale for commercial trucks, tractors, and trailers.

The payback was immediate. Ritcey averaged six overweight fines a year ranging from $150 to $210 each, but hasn’t had one since Smart Scale was installed.

“It not only helps us maximize our legal payload, we’re more efficient than anyone else because we can quickly and easily check our axle weights in the bush and fine-tune the load distribution,” Ritcey says. “While other guys are eyeballing it and repositioning logs or sliders, we’re strapping down and getting ready to go.”

TruckWeight introduced Smart Scale in 2005 following three years of development and field trials. It’s comprised of a sensor with an integrated antenna and 3/8-inch fittings; a tee fitting for the vehicle’s air line; and a wireless handheld receiver.

The sensor measures temperature and pressure changes in the air suspension and relays this data to the handheld receiver using a low-powered radio transmitter. A small computer in the receiver interprets the data and provides an axle weight and gross vehicle weight measurement that’s accurate to within 68 kilograms or 150 pounds. It produces readings once per minute, and every three seconds during a 15-minute span when the sensors detect the truck being loaded.

The wireless receiver has a range of 100 feet, allowing readings from the truck cab or loader.

Ritcey installed and calibrated the scale himself in about 30 minutes, with no special skills or tools.

“Other scales require you to run wires to a readout in the cab,” he says. “I can’t afford to have the truck down for a day, let alone to pay an installer for that time.”

Also, wires, cables, and electrical connections can be maintenance headaches when they’re exposed to rain, snow, ice, mud, and off-road debris. Smart Scale’s waterproof, weatherproof, shock-resistant, and non-corrosive housing requires no regular maintenance. More information about TruckWeight is available online at www.truckweight.com.


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