Sunday, June 01, 2008

Is it Safety or is it Revenue?

The grizzled old trucker repressed a groan of dismay as he saw the situation ahead of him.

"Right Lane Closed Ahead" the signs said. Such signs were a rather frequent occurrence since this was "construction season" . His load was oversize, but not THAT much oversize, only about twelve wide, but very heavy.

The construction signs weren't what caused him to groan in dismay. No, the problem was the OTHER sign. The sign that said "Weigh Station 1 mile".

The weigh station was right in the middle of the construction zone. If safety was a major concern then the weigh station would be closed. Trucks merging into high speed traffic from a weigh station was bad enough in a normal situation. When the weigh station was in a construction zone and the slow trucks had to merge with fast traffic into a single lane, well that wasn't safe. If , on the other hand, revenue was this station's major concern, not safety, then it would probably be open.

Closing in on the weigh station the old trucker remembered other encounters with "revenue centric" weigh stations in the past.

That time, maybe ten years ago, in Arkansas. He was leaving the state and had pulled into the Weigh Station at Ft. Smith. The weigh station was very near the border, a little further and he would be out of Arkansas. It was Christmas Eve and if he hurried he would be able to spend the holiday with his grandkids, a VERY rare occurrence. It seemed that he only got to see them every year or so, this year he might be lucky.

Nope, no luck. The weighmaster decided that his load was an inch wider than what the permit stated. The permit was voided and the trucker had to leave his load at the scale until a new permit could be purchased which would not be until after Christmas. There was a fine too. The Truckstop nearby was OK but he'd much rather spend Christmas somewhere else.

Then there was the time not to long ago when he was involved in a Bridge Reconstruction Project in New York. The piece he was carrying was fifty foot long, about fifteen foot wide and over a hundred thousand pounds. It was a bridge section. The piece was made of reinforced cement and sat on a steel saddle. Since steel and cement don't play well together bouncing down the road there were rubber "cushions" between the two. For some reason just about every other load was being rerouted to a state facility and inspected by the New York D.O.T. This inspection was about par. The D.O.T. trooper decided that since one side of the beam had a half inch thick piece of rubber cushioning it from the steel then the OTHER side must also, have a half inch piece. The three-eighth's inch thick piece which was there wouldn't do.

Fixing that little fiasco resulted in a huge crane bill, and a hefty fine.

And then there was that time in Nebraska. He had been hauling a combine or some such. It wasn't much of a load. He wasn't even grossing a hundred thousand and barely eleven foot wide. He WAS oversize though. He was within a mile of the scale on a narrow two lane road with no shoulder, when it started to rain.

When he pulled up onto the scale they just grinned at him, and told him to come inside. In Nebraska it's against the rules for oversized loads to travel in the rain. Big fine.

And then there was the time....., but he was just about to the scale. Yup. Revenue Scale. It's open.

To add to the fun another truck was parked crosswise across the parking lot.

This was Louisiana. Louisiana scales were mostly old and not designed for today's larger trucks. Nobody seemed quiet sure how to park in a Louisiana Scale. The scalemasters didn't even seem to know. This driver definitely didn't having effectively blocked the whole parking lot.

So just exactly how was he going to do this? It took a LOT of room to turn his rig. There wasn't a whole lot of extra behind that parked truck. Oh. Well. Play it by ear.

So he parked it, somehow, and then went inside and talked to the nice man. The weighmaster acted suspicious.

"Why were you taking pictures" he asked.

The Trucker replied "Oh. I was just documenting your little death-trap out there. If, when I pull out of here, and while I'm trying to avoid that other truck and my trailer drops off into that hole I'm liable to blow out some tires. I might even roll over. I'm kind of worried. What do you recommend?"

The weighmaster blinked, obviously conflicted. "Oh, I was wondering what those other guys was looking at earlier".

Meanwhile the driver of the truck which was blocking the parking lot was getting visibly agitated. He didn't speak very good English perhaps being from Eastern Europe.

"I OK! I move truck!" and he went running off to do just that.

The weighmaster checked the Old Trucker's papers. Visibly unhappy the weighmaster couldn't find anything wrong.

"Have a nice day" the weighmaster said, handing back the papers.

The Old Trucker walked back to his truck, got in, CAREFULLY updated his logbook, CAREFULLY donned his seatbelt, and CAREFULLY pulled out of the weigh station.

Is it Safety, or is it Revenue?
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