Weigh stations struggle to remain open with too few troopers

Dan Bates / The Herald File Ernie Brown, a commercial enforcement officer with the State Patrol, checks the weight of a truck during a 2007 surprise inspection in Stanwood.

Dan Bates / The Herald File Ernie Brown, a commercial enforcement officer with the State Patrol, checks the weight of a truck during a 2007 surprise inspection in Stanwood.

Tim Vesely of Lake Stevens writes: “What was the point of wasting taxpayer dollars refurbishing the weigh station in Everett on the I-5 southbound, when it is never open?”

The commercial vehicle weigh station at the southbound I-5 rest stop near Silver Lake was closed for about a year until last spring so that the truck scale could being rebuilt. Upgrades to roadside equipment that tells which big rigs to exit for inspection are still ongoing.

But about those open hours: It’s a source of consternation for the Washington State Patrol, which is tasked with enforcing rules about overweight semi-trucks in an effort to spare roadways and keep other drivers safe.

Washington has 52 fixed inspection sites, including five “Ports of Entry” that serve as gateways for interstate and international traffic (the closest one to us is in Bow).

“Those facilities we would like to have open 24/7/365,” said Capt. Michael Dahl, commander of Motor Carrier Safety Division. But “we can’t even do that.”

Staffing is down across the board at the Washington State Patrol, and by about 22 percent in the commercial vehicle division alone. The state is strained keeping troopers on the roads for their primary mission, making it difficult to pull them off the road for the specialized jobs.

“We’re trying to hire as much as we can,” Dahl said.

The Legislature recently approved an increase in trooper salaries. That should help with retention and hiring in general, Dahl said.

For now, specially trained troopers and inspectors man both the Everett inspection station and a similar one in Stanwood. Troopers also work from the road.

“It’s not realistic for us to have them open all the time,” Dahl said. So the stations are generally opened at days and times based on statistics for the heaviest truck traffic (for both volume and physical load).

Statewide, weigh stations in 2014 logged 1.9 million screenings and 82,400 inspections on roads that see 40 million trucks per year, according to a recent report for the Washington State Joint Transportation Committee. There were about 113,000 weight and safety violations from those inspections, totaling about $1.9 million in weight fines.

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