Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eureka







This a screen shot I took of my cell phone as I was passing the New Mexico Port of Entry, or weigh station, in Gallup last night when I was coming back from Holbrook.

I've signed up for a bypass system that can run on a cell phone, tablet or dash mounted monitor. I downloaded their "app" last week and entered my US Dot number and truck license plate and even a photo of my truck into the system of a company called Drivewyze. They are hooked into the state DOT computers of whatever states they've made arrangements with so far. It doesn't work in Arizona, for example. I go past an Arizona weigh station every night, although by the time I get there it's almost always closed. All of New Mexico weigh stations are always open. We are very unusual in that regard. Florida does it, and there's a Virginia weigh station on I-95 south of Washington, DC that's always open, but in most states they close most of the weigh stations at night, opening up various ones on sporadic nights to keep truck drivers honest.

For 15 or 20 years there's been another bypass system, Prepass, which uses transponders mounted on truck windshields. These are private companies that have made arrangements with each state. Prepass covers pretty much the entire country. I started seeing articles and ads about this new one, Drivewyze, maybe six months ago. It has arrangements with about 40 states, I think. It uses the cellular network and GPS positioning. I get a warning sound and screen two miles before I get to the weigh station, then about a quarter mile before the off ramp to the weigh station I get either the bypass signal or get an indication to pull in.

Each state sets it's own "bypass rate." Around 90 or 95 percent of trucks that are using the system are usually given a bypass signal. Most of the big trucking companies use Prepass, and I had a Prepass transponder in my truck at most of the big companies I worked for. States can flag companies and give them a lower bypass rate if they've been having safety problems, which I suppose means the've had a lot of wrecks and undergone a safety audit.

And a state can flag individual trucks for more frequent pull ins. I got on California's shit list once and was getting the red light at every single open weigh station I came to. California is hard on truckers. They still have the 55 mph truck speed limit and for example I got two tickets out there in one year, around 2009, and they sent me and my copany a nasty letter saying if I got one more ticket I was kicked out of California. The company just stopped giving me California loads.

When I was on their weigh station shit list I'd get a red light, pull in and stop on the scales, them I'd sit there a minute or so, while they were looking things up on the computer, I suppose, perhaps calculating how long I'd been driving by seeing where I'd gone though the last weigh station, then they'd flash the sign on for me to pull around in back and bring in all my paperwork. I'd be given some level of inspection, I, II, or III, either a check of my log book and registration, or that plus a cursory truck inspection, or I'd get the 'you're going to be here awhile while we go over everything' level. That includes all the paperwork, the logbook, your safety equipment like triangles and fire extinguisher, and a thorough truck inspection where they get under the truck on a creeper or have you pull into a garage with a pit, if they have one, and check all your brake adjustments and look over the brake shoes and check the hubs for grooves and check all the brake lines and air chambers for leaks and all of it. They almost always find one or two or a few things to write you up for.

I was driving an old Freightliner and I wasn't paying much attention to it's mechanical condition, mainly because of Prepass. I was with Arrow out of Tulsa, a flat bed company, which is kind of a more laid back kind of trucking anyway, more informal, and I was driving lots of miles and kind of enjoying trucking. I had a refrigerator and knew of food co-ops and organic groceries all over the country, and I was jogging every other day and I'd discovered podcasts and audio books and I was just driving and listening to podcasts and books and staying out on the road all the time. I used to joke, "Why should I inspect my truck? DOT will inspect it for me and let me know what's wrong with it, then I'll call the company and they'll send someone out to fix it and I'll take a nap."

But when California caught up with me it wasn't fun being delayed and given the 3rd, 2nd or 1st degree at every open weigh station. I was doing a lot of back and forth between Los Angeles and Portland or Seattle at the time and it's probable that you're going to pass two or three open weigh stations as you come out of Los Angeles and drive up through the Central Valley.

I was on California's shit list for six months or so and only got off it because the time came for the company to trade that old truck in. They gave me a load going to Tulsa where I was moved into a brand new Kenworth and could go back to bypasing scales. It's the truck, and the company, they track; it's usually the same driver in the same truck all the time, although the tracking of individual drivers is probably coming, or may be here, with all the camera technology they're using now and with the facial recognition technology they have now.

It's of course much to my benefit now to maintain as good of a safety record as I can. My log book is always up to date and I take somewhat meticulous care of my 2007 International and spare 2006 Freightliner, which makes good economic sense, too, and it helps calm my nerves. I do pre and post inspections, take care of little things right away, and get the trucks serviced frequently.

But it will be nice if I get a lot of bypass signals. For one thing, it will save me several minutes, and I'm on tight time schedule. And it's just nice to not have to go into a weigh station. When you roll over the scales they're watching you, looking your truck over, calling your record up on the computer. Nothing good can happen at a weigh station, I've been known to say, only bad things. But god bless all the handsome, virile, charitable, good Christian DOT officers who are keeping our country safe, and just doing their jobs.




2 comments:

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  2. God bless everyone. Blessings and prayers are cheap and easy to give, god does the rest. My prayers are with everyone, sinners and saved souls, republicans and Democrats, believers and nonbelievers, LGBT and straight folks, pretty much everyone. Prayers for the sick, the well the rich and the poor, the right wingers and left wingers etc. They all have my prayers today. Snowing so not much else I can do, will be kneeling praying all day.

    Deleted the first post because I forgot 4 wheelers and 16 wheelers and everything in between.

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