April 5, 2016 3:30 PM, EDT

Arkansas Joins Virtual Weigh Station Revolution

Arkansas is becoming the latest state to join the virtual weigh station revolution. The state’s Highway and Transportation Department announced April 5 that it has a contract with a local firm to install a weigh-in-motion scale under Route 64 near Alma.

The contract with Township Builders Inc. of Little Rock is worth upward of $900,000 with work scheduled to begin within a month and the scale to be operative in mid-2017.

The virtual weigh station is supposed to be a solution to the problem of truckers getting off Interstate 40 before its weigh station in Alma by using I-540 and then Route 64 before returning to I-40 at the intersection with Route 71. It’s just a 4-mile detour but has raised flags for Arkansas officials.

“By 2009, we identified Highway 64 as a bypass route that was being utilized by numerous commercial motor vehicles,”  Major Jay Thompson of the Arkansas Highway Police said. “So we’re kind of excited about the installation of the virtual weigh station. Our officers will be able to monitor that traffic on a route that is used daily to bypass [physical] weigh stations on Interstate 40 and hopefully identify carriers that may or may not have been placed out of service or have violated state weight limits."

"Not every truck is violating the law, but the question always is, ‘Why are you bypassing 40, an interstate that goes straight across the state?’ It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the chances of them being in violation of some law are higher than those that are coming through the stations.”

The Arkansas Trucking Association didn’t object to the installation of the virtual weigh station as the state is in the process of adding license plate readers at actual weigh stations as well as inspection pads on some highways. Both are designed to save truckers time and to further ensure safety.

“Our association is supportive of any advancement that uses technology to enhance enforcement, especially those that support efficiency and keep compliant trucks moving,” said its president, Shannon Newton. “The industry in Arkansas enjoys a very good working relationship with law enforcement.  Highway safety is of upmost importance. If virtual scales can aid the highway police in ensuring that the roads are safe from overweight or unsecured loads, we certainly support those efforts.”

So does American Trucking Associations.

“Virtual weigh stations can significantly reduce downtime for carriers, producing significant savings,” said Darrin Roth, ATA’s vice president for highway policy.  “Furthermore, allowing law enforcement personnel to focus on those trucks most likely to have a violation will reduce the number of bad actors in our industry, improving roadway safety and lowering highway maintenance costs."

For the near term, the virtual weigh station near Alma will be the only one in Arkansas, but others might be on the way soon.

“This is something that we’ve decided to try and see how it works,” AHTD spokesman Danny Straessle said. “We had some funding to make it happen, and hopefully this will be a success and we can implement it elsewhere in the state. Our hope is that … once word starts spreading, trucks will be less likely to deviate just to bypass the actual weigh station.”