Aaron Widmar
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What Are Highway Weigh Stations For?

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truck entering a highway weigh station off the interstate
Giles Weigh Station
TruckPR via Flickr/CC 2.0

No doubt you’ve been traveling on the highway and passed by a mysterious pull-off that leads to a solitary building lit up by red and green arrows. This mysterious truckers-only wonderland is a magical place that only those who drive big rigs can enter.

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If you’ve ever yearned to know what lies beyond the gates of this freeway firmament — or simply wondered why it exists — here’s a look behind the curtain.

The purpose of truck weigh stations

In America, weigh stations are operated by each state’s Department of Transportation or Department of Motor Vehicles, collaborating with state patrol or police. These stations can be found throughout U.S. states but are most common along major highways right after entering a state (known as ports of entry).

According to Trucker Path, the purpose of highway weigh stations is to regulate and verify the compliance of semi-trucks or other large commercial vehicles on the road. Thus, these checkpoints have two roles: for tax purposes and for safety purposes. Originally, these stations were created as collection kiosks for commercial trucks to pay fuel taxes. Now, with trucking companies paying such fees quarterly instead of case-by-case, the stations allow highway officials to enforce the submission of collection fees and paperwork.

Other tasks performed at weigh stations include ensuring carriers don’t surpass federal weight limits (checked by massive on-site scales), verify paperwork and equipment conditions, and provide wide-load escorts if necessary. A vehicle can be flagged for additional evaluation for items such as tire condition, fluid leaks, cracked parts, or other condition violations.

Essentially, weigh stations serve as Department of Transportation inspection points to make sure big rigs are following the rules.