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Watching your weight

HALIFAX, N.S. - Log truck owner/operator Richard Countway has earned a bit of a reputation among the enforcements folks in Nova Scotia. He's got the uncanny ability to load to the precise maximum gross vehicle weight allowed without going so...

HALIFAX, N.S. – Log truck owner/operator Richard Countway has earned a bit of a reputation among the enforcements folks in Nova Scotia. He’s got the uncanny ability to load to the precise maximum gross vehicle weight allowed without going so much as a pound over.

That’s a rare feat in logging, where two identical looking loads can cross the scales at vastly different weights depending on how waterlogged the wood is.

Countway’s secret is the TruckWeight on-board scale system from Smart Scale Technologies based out of Halifax.

“You could pretty much stand on the back of that trailer and I could tell you how much you weigh,” Countway boasted during a recent roadside interview.

Countway has been using the system since it was introduced in 2005. In fact, TruckWeight president Peter Panagapko said Countway was his first customer.

“It was the first installation I ever did,” he recalled.

Countway now claims he’d never be without the on-board scales.

“I don’t have to worry about going across the sales and being overweight,” he said. “And I can max it out. I’ll throw my load on; different nature wood and different cuts is different weight. It takes the guesswork out of it.”

Besides the obvious benefits of avoiding overweight fines, Panagapko says the real payback comes in the form of additional payload. He cited a study that showed log haulers routinely leave 5-8% payload on the table in exchange for the peace of mind in knowing they’re legal. With an onboard scale, truckers can load to their maximum allowable weight, which Panagapko said typically increases revenue by $10,000 to $20,000 per year.

Only once over the last five years has Countway run afoul of the enforcement officers at his local scale house. He later determined his trailer’s air suspension leveling valve got bent by some debris, giving him a false reading on his drive axles. Since Countway had built up so much goodwill with the enforcement officers over the years, they let him off with a warning and he made the repair to bring his scale back in synch.

The TruckWeight system consists of a set of strain gauges (sensors), transmitters and a handheld receiver. The receiver, which has a range of up to 500 feet, displays axle group and gross vehicle weight readings at three-second intervals, providing truck weights practically in real-time. Loggers, farmers and bulk haulers have been the quickest to embrace the technology, but Panagapko says heavy-haulers are now seeing the benefits as well.

“They can see the axle group weight as they’re positioning the equipment, so they’re optimizing their time,” Panagapko explained. “When they tie the load down, they have it right the first time. They don’t have to reposition or reweigh the load.”
Weighing a truck at a commercial scale costs about $10 per trip, but Panagapko pointed out there’s also a productivity loss associated with that.

“This will eliminate the half-hour of travelling to check-weigh the load as well as the $10 scale fee, so it doesn’t take long to pay for a unit,” he said. “A lot of people look at that $10 fee because they see it. What they don’t see is the half-hour they’re burning each time – and that’s more expensive. That’s a half-hour of productive driving time they’re spending every time to go check-weigh a load.”

Currently, TruckWeight has about 6,000 systems deployed in the field, most of them on air suspension equipped trucks and trailers. The company recently enhanced its mechanical suspension system, making installation easier and repairs more cost-effective. Previously, the strain gauge was mounted to a metal bar that had to be welded to the suspension. Now, the strain gauge can be mounted directly to the suspension providing greater accuracy and improved reliability.

“The strain gauge goes directly on the surface of the metal, no welding involved,” Panagapko said. “It gives a true measurement right from the source itself. Traditionally, that strain gauge was attached to a bar that was then welded to the axle or to a bracketing system. We got away from that because the measurement isn’t exact from the axle itself and any kind of offset from bouncing down the road is an issue. You had to correct the offset from time to time and the axle OEs were reluctant to give official authorization for welding on axles.”

The current system allows the strain gauges to be mounted directly to the axles using, you guessed it, super glue. Testing has shown the new solution to hold up better in rigorous applications and harsh environments, such as the logging roads Countway travels in the Nova Scotia bush. Preparing the surface area and installing a strain gauge takes about an hour and the process is demonstrated in a video on the company’s Web site at

Strain gauges typically last five years and are inexpensive to replace, Panagapko said. TruckWeight’s air suspension and mechanical suspension scales are fully compatible, so a truck with air suspension matched with a trailer with mechanical suspension will provide accurate weights. Both systems use the same transmitters and receiver.

Panagapko said TruckWeight’s on-board scales are accurate to within 1% of government-certified weigh scales. The handheld receiver is powered by two AA batteries that last six months to a year on mechanical suspensions and well over a year on air suspensions. Besides replacing the batteries every year or so and the strain gauges every five years, the TruckWeight system is virtually maintenance-free. But as Countway found out, a malfunctioning air suspension leveling valve can result in faulty readings.

“If you have an air sensor on there it’s important the leveling valve is functioning properly,” Panagapko warned. “If it’s not functioning properly it will throw the readings off and if that’s the case, the leveling valve has to be replaced. Leveling valves are maintenance items on trucks and in a lot of cases have to be replaced every five years.”

With its mechanical suspension on-board scale now perfected, Panagapko hinted TruckWeight is in the process of finalizing a new generation product that will take on-board weighing to the next level, providing telematics capabilities. While he doesn’t want TruckWeight to be confused as a telematics company, he said its next generation scale will be capable of integrating with existing telematics platforms, providing fleet owners with real-time weighing information back at the office. Fleets will be able to run reports and take steps to improve route optimization and maximize payloads…but Panagapko wouldn’t reveal any further details until the company is ready to launch the product later this year. For more info, visit or call 877-757-7888.

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