Truckers and other industry
professionals appreciate any effort to streamline truck weight
enforcement procedures – but Missouri
has gone where no weigh station has gone before.
A recent state audit revealed
that the Barnhardt southbound weigh station, which sits on
Interstate 55 south of St. Louis, reported weighing 426,465
trucks during the 2,161 hours the facility was open in 2002.
That figures out to be an average of 197 trucks per hour – or
one truck every 18 seconds.
The median number of trucks inspected at the state's weigh stations
is 24 per hour, or one every 2.5 minutes, meaning the Barnhardt
weigh station is moving eight times faster than average.
The science-fiction level of speed at Barnhardt was among a
number of problems in Missouri's handling of truck weight enforcement
pointed out by State Auditor Claire McCaskill and her staff pointed
in an audit that was released Sept. 24.
The audit reported that the methods used by patrol officers
for counting vehicles weighed is not consistent from one scale
location to another. Some officers use a manual hand counter,
while others estimate the number of vehicles weighed. In addition,
some personnel at scale locations counted the vehicles driving
through the bypass lane as weighed vehicles, while other locations
counted only the vehicles crossing the static scale.
Auditors found two stations, including Barnhardt, that admittedly
inflated vehicle counts. However, the audit did not name the
“Enforcement personnel said they inflated the counts out of
concern the weigh stations would close for inactivity,” the audit
report stated. “These personnel received this impression from
inflated counts at some stations, plenty of trucks are being
weighed. But that doesn't mean that Missouri officials are
catching all the overweight tickets. In fact, the audit indicated
that the way the stations operate might cause them
to miss the best times to catch heavy loads.
The state's permanent weigh stations operate during predictable
hours, the audit said, often open during midday and closed late
evening and early morning. However, overweight traffic is more
likely during nights and weekends.
For example, auditors found that at the Mound City weigh station,
which sits on Interstate 29 north of St. Joseph, the percentage
of overweight vehicles increased from 16 percent at 8 p.m. to
23 percent at 4 a.m., even though truck traffic in the area was
This coincides with Federal Highway Administration research
that indicates, the auditors said, that permanent weigh stations'
hours of operation should include nights and weekends, when overweight
percentages may be the highest.
During the auditors' discussion
with commercial vehicle enforcement officers,
a number of supervisors admitted the scale station schedules
do not vary much from month to month, and that most overweight
tickets – 64 percent – were
issued between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The trend gets worse with portable scales, which auditors found
operate less frequently in the evening and early morning than
permanent scale locations.
The auditors recommended that to catch more overweight trucks,
weigh station personnel should vary their hours of operation.
“Variable schedules and targeting of overweight vehicles would
eliminate predictability and provide more effective enforcement,” the
To sum it all up
audit placed the blame for many of the problems on the management
of the Missouri Highway Patrol and its decentralized
nature. Current management policies at the patrol, the auditors
said, do not target overweight vehicles; Use traffic data when
scheduling officer work hours; or provide guidance on hours
However, the audit did say that overweight vehicle enforcement
could be improved within the patrol's current management structure.
The superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol did
take issue with some of the report's criticisms.
In comments contained
within the auditor's report, the superintendent, Col. Roger
D. Stottlemyre, said, “Although a larger percentage
of truck traffic may be in violation at 4 a.m. due
to small traffic volume, a larger actual
number of trucks can be in violation at midday due to a much
greater volume of traffic.”
He also pointed out that weight enforcement is not the only
job commercial vehicle enforcement officers have, saying they
must also deal with trucks on motor carrier authority, log books
and other matters.
However, Stottlemyre indicated the patrol has started the process
of making improvements.
“The Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division has recently implemented
an improved method of reporting commercial vehicle activities,” he
said, including “a more accurate method of tracking the number
of vehicles weighed.”
--by Rene Tankersley, feature editor
Rene Tankersley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the full auditor's report, visit http://www.auditor.state.mo.us/press/2003-93.pdf.