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I-5 weigh stations are open randomly

Why do truck weigh stations on the interstates always seem to be closed in one or both directions? Why spend money on building them if they are not used?

— Oscar Z., via email

Good question, Oscar. On the freeway, it always seems like there's a weigh station when you're looking for a rest area.

Anyway, we wanted to know why those little buildings always seem to sit on the side of the road as empty as our coffee cups, so we checked with ODOT spokesman David House.

It turns out those stations do a lot more than tell truck drivers whether they've been sitting too much.

House explains that any truck weighing more than 20,000 pounds needs to be weighed to determine proper fees, to make sure the truck isn't overloaded, to ensure that the truck's safety equipment is operating properly and that the driver is operating with enough rest. Six ports of entry in the state are open regularly where drivers have to register, the closest one being in Ashland, while 87 fixed weigh stations are open intermittently.

Why aren't they open all the time? It comes down to using the element of surprise to keep motor carriers on their toes.

"We randomly monitor weights and equipment," House said. "We don't want (truckers) to know a schedule of when the weigh stations are operated."

If a motor carrier doesn't weigh in, the driver faces fines ranging from $472 to $2,500 and a court appearance.

"We don't have to have a staff for that (operating all weigh stations) and still we get the job done," House said.

Thanks to technology, ODOT can be even more flexible. House touted its portable scales and "Green Light" weigh-in-motion system for approved drivers.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.