Let’s be honest…there is probably no greater divide between law enforcement and the trucking industry than the use of portable scales. Police officers will argue till they are blue in the face about portable scale accuracy and necessity. Truckers will argue till they are blue in the face that portable scales are inaccurate and nothing but a revenue tool. This article is not going to explore either of those arguments, but a different problem with wheel load weigher scales will be discussed…a problem that should offend every red-blooded Illinois taxpayer.
Here’s some facts about WLW scales in Illinois:
1. They are expensive to buy. The most common scale is the PAT SAW-10 manufactured by International Road Dynamics. Since there is only one authorized retailer in Illinois, cost for one new scale floats around $4,000. The second most popular brand is Intercomp, and they cost in the $3500 range.
2. They are expensive to re-certify. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has regulatory authority governing weights and measures, and therefore they have sole statutory authority to re-certify scales every 12 months. If it passes, $200. If it fails, $200. If it passes the second time around, $200. If it does not have an $3.00 integrity seal, $200. No one can get around those charges.
3. Re-certification is limited. There are 3 ways for law enforcement to have their scales re-certified. Option #1 – drive them to the IDOA in Springfield at the state fairgrounds, and eat the cost of fuel, meals, miles, a day’s wages and lost productivity. Option #2 – have the ITEA do all that for free. Option #3, pay an extra $160 per scale to have a private scale company transport them to their shop and have IDOA come re-certify them at their shop (with a re-certification “guarantee”…see below).
With nearly 400 portable WLW scales in Illinois owned by local counties and municipalities, that is a lot of time and money spent on re-certification. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of local governments in Illinois have slashed their budgets, personnel and services. They are living lean and there is not a lot of discretionary cash.
Now go back to point #2 above. If a scale fails re-certification, the IDOA charges $200. Why do scales fail? The most common causes are lack or routine maintenance and abuse. The ITEA cannot police every officer and make sure they treat their scales with respect, but the ITEA can FOR SURE teach police officers how to maintain their scales.
Several members of the ITEA have been trained by International Road Dynamics on how to perform annual routine maintenance of PAT SAW-10 portable WLW scales. Armed with that knowledge, the ITEA is hosting training on June 12th to teach any owner of PAT SAW-10 scales how to maintain their scales. For too long, police officers have been told all they can really do is change the batteries. This is wholly incorrect.
Scales are sensitive instruments that need care. When they are not cared for, they fail, and repairs are expensive. If the parts and labor costs are not enough, the cost to have each scale transported ($160) to the only dealer in Illinois for repairs is. Add both of these to the mandatory cost of re-certification ($200) and possibly a new integrity seal ($200), and one scale needing to be fixed can easily eclipse $600. Almost all of these repairs (and associated costs) can be avoided by simple routine maintenance and a free trip from the ITEA to Springfield.
It’s the old “ounce of prevention or pound of cure” argument. The ITEA believes in an ounce of prevention, but to save a pound of taxpayer money. So if the argument is “pay the extra $160 because a private scale company guarantees certification”, realize you can pretty guarantee it yourself without paying the extra cost.
Over the last two years the ITEA has transported hundreds of scales to Springfield for certification, and guess how many have failed…two. Why? Because of problems that could have been corrected by easy routine maintenance. Maintenance training the ITEA is providing to save you money.