Leveling Portable Scales

Some things in life are common sense. Some things are not. Sometimes common sense prevails, other times it fails. In this conundrum of worldly imperfection, it is quite apparent the laws generated by the elected officials at all levels of governance do not always employ common sense. Some laws are in direct conflict with common sense, some laws simply leave common sense out of the equation. In Illinois truck enforcement world, the law forgets to include common sense in a very critical area: portable scales.

Here’s what any truck officer or trucking professional can tell you – the use of portable scales is a ceaseless debate. Truckers will tell you portable scales are unreliable, inaccurate and abused. Correct. Police officers will tell you portable are reliable, accurate and used appropriately. Also correct.

So in a world when two parties’ beliefs are diametrically opposed, who is correct? The answer? No one. Or wait, they both are.

The truth belongs in the hands of the operator. Police officers or other government agents who deploy portable scales have a burden to make sure they are using the instruments with common sense. And by common sense, this author actually means integrity.

It would seem integrity goes without saying, but much like common sense, it’s an imperfect world with imperfect people. There’s always “that one guy” who puts himself and his agenda ahead of the cause for his own personal gain. He can feel free to refrain from ITEA membership.

Here’s what Illinois law says (paraphrased): portable scales are lawful for enforcement by qualified personnel, and the scales must be certified annually by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That’s it. Done.

Here’s what Illinois law does not say: the ground must be level. The temperature must be above or below a certain temperature. The officer must weigh all axles simultaneously. Portable scales can’t be used for tag axles. This list could go on forever, but it’s all words, ideas, rumors, speculations and innuendo.

However, this non-statutory list reflects common sense. Unfortunately, many truckers, police officers, attorneys and judges have spent a lot of time arguing and debating over things which do not exist in the law.

Should these things be in the statutes? Probably, but they are not, so quit trying to prove a point which is objectively false. The argument should be over the subjective integrity of the officer or highway worker using the portable scales for enforcement.

Should portable scales be used on reasonable level ground? Of course, but the law does not say so. (quick point – there is no such things as perfectly level ground). Should the driver be able to release the brakes and the truck not roll off the scale? Of course, but the law does not say so. Should one side of the truck be higher (or lower) than the other side on portable scales? Of course not, but the law does not say so. Should the scale operator allow the driver to get out and see the weights on the portable scales? Sure, but the law does not require him to do so.

The police officer with integrity will take great care to make sure the ground where he chooses to weigh vehicles on portable scales is reasonably level. He will make sure the truck will not roll off the scales with the brakes released (static weight). He will allow the operator to get out of the vehicle to look at the weights provided it is safe to do and the delay in time is not creating a traffic problem.

There is a reason why the good book says unequal weights are an abomination and false scales are not good. Those who choose to cheat will be held accountable.

Veteran truck officers (with integrity and common sense) who have used portable scales for a long time know portable scales are accurate when used appropriately. Sorry truckers, it’s true.

The ITEA trains and certifies police officers to use portable scales with a code as if it was written into the law. This is something which must be kept on the level.


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