April 2005

Equipment Spotlight
Truck Scales
by Mark Henricks

-View the list of manufacturers at the bottom of the page

The days of one-person weighing operations are upon us. As advances in peripherals and instrumentation breathe new life into an industry in which scale designs have evolved little over an extended period, onboard technologies are beginning at last to empower recycling consumers.

As Stephen Cole, OEM account manager for Cardinal Scale Mfg. Co. in Webb City, Missouri, says, “There are more and more unattended operations coming about. Drivers operate the scales using RFID tags that have chips embedded in them with unique ID numbers.” At weigh stations, the chips activate antennas and the weight and information of the container is transmitted to a computer database. “Once the information is recalled,” says Cole, “a ticket can be printed and the driver can go on his merry way without having to have an operator involved.”

Truck Scale Display UnitsLike bar codes, the tags allow companies to track individual containers or households —they are fundamental tools of the trade, as essential as plastic surgeons in Hollywood. Without the computer-based data management programs to complement them, however, they would be little more useful than a maxed-out credit card at a Red Apple sale.

“Since we process material and sell it by volume, by the ton, we need to know the volume of material coming in and going out,” says Bob Fernandez, division manager of Solid Waste Services in Austin, Texas. “If we have a lot of material coming in and not so much going out, we have a processing problem. If opposite, our processing is efficient.”

To this end, the city of Austin has incorporated Carolina Software Inc.’s data management system, WasteWorks, into its operations. “The waste system crunches the numbers,” says Fernandez, “tells us that a particular load came in at a certain time and date, and the volume of the material.”

Paired with the advanced WasteWizard automated system, drivers can handle the entire weighing process without leaving the air-conditioned truck cab. The driver rolls onto a scale and begins a transaction by entering codes for his route, truck and materials. After unloading one of the materials, he closes the transaction and makes another pass for the remaining load types.

“Typically you end up paying for this automation by cutting down on staffing needs quickly—the ‘What do you have?’, ‘How are the kids?’ sort of human interactions that always take longer,” says John Leeds, vice president of Wilmington, North Carolina-based Carolina Software. “With automation you can have after-hours operations since facilities don’t need employees on staff at night.”

The programs are compatible with most low-profile scales—the configuration of choice in waste weighing. Cardinal has its Ground Huggers series; RLWS its Survivor Series; Fairbanks its Titan Series; and so on. Each series offers a variety of models suited to specialized requirements: how the scale will be used; the size and axle weights of the trucks; the volume of traffic it will handle; etc.

Holtgreven Scale's Loadmaster

But, according to Dave Quinn, president of Weighing Consultants Incorporated in Southport, North Carolina, and retired vice president of regulatory compliance with Fairbanks Scales, there is very little difference among technology scale manufacturers use. “This makes it difficult for a buyer,” he says, “because they start to look at scales as commodities.”

Quinn sees one of the biggest problems in letting the customer know what the true service life of a scale is. “Truck scales have a concentrated load capacity (CLC),” he says, “the design mode designated by the manufacturers.” Reputable scale manufacturers utilizing sound engineering practice design for two million deflections, a capacity for one million truck passes.

Like highway bridges, truck scales g ive—deflect—under the weight of passing vehicles. “Unfortunately, the concentrated load capacity has become a marketing tool; some people just declare the highest load capacity,” says Quinn. “If Manufacturer A says the concentrated load capacity of its scale is 100,000 pounds, it should mean every pair of axles can weigh 100,000 pounds on four foot centers.” One million trucks should be able to cross that scale before it goes kaput.

“Then along comes Manufacturer B claiming a load capacity of 150,000 pounds,” he says. “There’s nothing to require this manufacturer to declare what the useable life of that scale actually is. It may have only been designed for 500,000 deflections.”

METTLER ToledoSince the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP), the legal-for-trade certification program for weighing devices, would have to put a truck on a scale 150 million times to truly verify the manufacturer’s claim, a value cannot be put on it. NTEP has to accept the manufacturer’s word, and so it goes for the buyer of truck scales.

Otherwise, in the truck scale market, NTEP holds considerable sway. One technology that was expected to revolutionize the industry—onboard truck scales—has not had the big splash many dawned raincoats for; such manufacturers have had difficulty earning legal-for-trade approval with NTEP.

“You’re weighing in variable environments, due to temperatures, inclines a truck is sitting on, etc.,” says Keith Lowe, national sales manager for LTS Scale Corp. of Twinsburg, Ohio, one of the few onboard scale manufacturers with legal-for-trade certification. “So many variables make it tough to get a good legal-for-trade weight.”

Without the ability to charge by weight, the industry’s raison d’être, large waste companies tend to scoff at pricey onboard equipment. “Hauling companies are not going to put an onboard scale on every one of their front-end loaders because it’s too expensive,” says Stephen Cole, “especially if they can’t use the weight to actually charge the customers.”

Instead, the scales are being used for random spot checks, as when dumping fees have increased and profit margins need be verified; for estimation purposes, to categorize customers based on weight and charge them accordingly; and, in the case of the city of Philadelphia, to encourage customers to recycle.

The for-profit company RecycleBank has teamed up with Philadelphia to, in effect, begin paying customers for recycling. “The LTS onboard technology allows Recycle Bank to record the data needed to reward residents for recycling,” says Ron Gonen, president of Philadelphia-based RecycleBank. “We can say, ‘This block of 20 homes, they always recycle. But then there are these 30 homes that never recycle, so maybe you want to target improvements there.’”

With this data, the city is able to monitor who is recycling, and how much, and convert that amount into “recycle dollars.” Participants can log on to the program’s website to see what they’ve earned and redeem their ‘recycle dollars’ for coupons to shop at participating retail stores in the area. It’s a convoluted and multifarious project, one still in its infancy; but it’s a promising indicator that truck scales, despite their limitations, stand to benefit others beyond the scope of the hauling operations that have long utilized them.

Company Name
Contact Person
A-1 Scale Company Scott Klesper 800-890-3555
B-Tek Scales, LLC. J.R. Patterson 330-471-8900
Cardinal Scale Mfg., Inc. Stephen Cole 800-441-4237
Holtgreven Scale & Electronic Corp. Bob Eisel 800-637-3326
Intercomp Eric Peterson 800-328-3336
LTS Scale Corp. Keith Lowe 800-423-4827
METTLER-TOLEDO Bruce Reierson 800-523-5123
Rice Lake Weighing Systems (RLWS) Laura Strapon 800-472-6703
Thurman Scale Co. Neil Copley 800-688-9741

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