State starts work on on-the-fly vehicle weighing, inspection system

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A new electronic screening system planned for Alaska's busiest stretch of highway will allow weight- and safety-compliant commercial vehicles to truck past a state inspection station.

The $1.2 million project features a scale imbedded in a northbound lane of the Glenn Highway between Anchorage and Eagle River that will weigh commercial vehicles at freeway speeds.

The system also will use transponders from participating truckers to relay safety and registration information on the fly to state commercial vehicle inspectors at the station.

Construction is scheduled to begin in late spring with the project coming on line in September 2003.

The system will reduce stops for model carriers while allowing vehicle inspectors more time with higher-risk rigs, said Paul Varady, commercial vehicle operations program manager with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Fewer illegal oversized loads traveling on the highway will cause less damage to the asphalt and make driving safer for everyone, Varady told the Alaska Journal of Commerce. The new system also is designed to ease traffic flow and reduce emissions.

Similar prescreening systems are being used in the Lower 48.

The ''weigh-in-motion'' device will be installed in the right lane of the Glenn Highway about a half mile south of the weigh station. A 100-yard stretch of the pavement will be removed and replaced with concrete to install the device, which measures truck weights and axle configuration.

Concrete is more stable than asphalt and provides more accurate measurements for the weigh-in-motion device, Varady said.

Sensors also are being installed in the other two lanes of the Glenn Highway to detect trucks that bypass the weigh-in-motion lane, Varady said.

Weigh-in-motion devices already are in use in Anchorage on Minnesota Drive north of Dimond Boulevard and at the Port of Anchorage, where about 100,000 containers are shipped out annually by truck. Eleven more weigh-in-motion devices are planned on the state's highway system over the next few years, at a cost of about $10 million, according to state transportation officials.

The other sites only collect weight and traffic data.

Truckers welcome the new technology, said Frank Dillon, executive vice president of the Alaska Trucking Association.

To participate on the Glenn Highway project, trucks must be equipped with a transponder that will relay information regarding the vehicle's size, weight, load, safety rating and other credentials, such as insurance.

For about $40 truckers can buy a transponder, a short-range communication device that can send and receive radio signals containing vehicle information, Varady said.

Trucks equipped with transponders will automatically send information to vehicle enforcement personnel at the weigh station ahead. Within seconds, the information is checked against the state's databases. Truckers that meet weight and safety requirements are signaled with a green light on their transponders and are allowed to bypass the weigh station.

All trucks now must pull into the weigh station to be checked for weight, safety equipment and information from a driver's logbook. Trucks can spend valuable time waiting in long lines at weigh stations, Dillon said.

Varady said that when lines get too long, the weigh station is temporarily closed, which allows some vehicles with poor records to bypass the station. Meanwhile, a weight-compliant commercial vehicle with a good safety record may have to wait needlessly.

''There is no question it's a benefit,'' Dillon said of the electronic screening. ''Within five years, I think you'll see 99 percent of the trucks participating.''

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