2 NEWS Investigates: Weigh stations by the wayside

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)-  A harsh winter is not the only reason our roads are beaten up.  Heavy trucks are taking their toll on the highways as weigh stations are falling by the wayside. Right now more than half of all of Ohio’s weigh stations are closed and only a couple of those are expected to ever reopen.

Every morning Trooper Tom Murphy is out on the road he has a heavy load to bear.  Murphy told 2 NEWS Investigates, “Overloads, it’s a big problem.  It’s tearing up our roads.  Safety-wise, it’s a big problem.”

Murphy and his partner Bill Frank are responsible for weighing trucks in twelve counties.

“You might be able to see the actual load coming out of the truck, pulling hard up the hill. That’s what I look for,” said Murphy.

Murphy decides when to stop a truck and once he does, he has to find a safe place within three miles to meet Frank and pull out portable scales.

During a ride-along Murphy radioed Frank, “You can 20 with me down on Benchwood. I’ll be in route with this one for weight check.”

Murphy says at best he travels through five to six counties a day. One of them, Preble County, has a weigh station but it’s been closed for three years. The Ohio State Highway Patrol says finally now there is money budgeted for costly repairs.

Lt. Craig Cvetan of the Ohio State Highway Patrol told 2 NEWS Investigates, “At this point you know especially when we have small teams covering a large area I think it it’s important to have a balance of both.”

When I rode along with Trooper Murphy, he pulled over two trucks in three hours. One driver got a ticket. “Yes, he’s heavy. His inner bridge was heavy and so was his rear tandem,”  explained Murphy.

Murphy says the combination of too much weight and excessive speed can be deadly because together they can make it difficult to brake.

Adam Goble was the driver cited.  Goble told 2 NEWS Investigates, “Getting pulled over cost me about 50 minutes to an hour. By the time I got my ticket, got weighed, and I have to take the back roads home.”  Goble added it would probably not change his behavior.

The weigh station in Richmond, Indiana is operating.  You can see it takes minutes for semis to come and go.

When Murphy and Frank work together it usually takes more than a half hour to stop a truck, guide it to a safe location, and measure and weigh it.

“All that takes time away from the driver,” said Kevin Burch, President of Jet Express, Inc.  “It takes away the productivity, and lord knows we are the most regulated industry for a deregulated industry,” Burch added.

Kevin Burch is the president of Jet Express in Dayton.  Even with all the regulation, he admits there are truckers who go around weigh stations because they know where they are. Kent Winchester is his driving instructor.

“I’m kind of on the fence. We do need to catch these so-called hot dogs that give truckers a bad name, but at the same time it’s time and money for me to go into even regular scale on the interstate much less a portable,” said Winchester.

Portable scales measure only a fraction of the number of trucks platform scales can handle. 2 NEWS Investigates obtained numbers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  In 2013 more than 2,258,681 trucks were weighed on platform scales, 8,521 were found to be too heavy. During that same period portable scales weighed 4,750 trucks of which 3,838 were overweight.

Lt. Cvetan responded to the numbers, “To me what that’s saying is that those portable scales are being more effective. In other words, they’re targeting the actual truck drivers and the actual commercial motor vehicles that are overweight as opposed to weighing as many trucks as we can and hoping to get a couple of those violations.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation is weighing whether to allow heavier trucks on interstate highways. Recommendations are due to Congress in November.

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