Computer weigh-in may speed truck traffic down East Coast

Transponder to collect information instantly

May 07, 1999|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Relief for highway traffic congestion may soon be just a few computer bytes away.

Aiming to move truck traffic more efficiently, the state Department of Transportation unveiled yesterday a computerized inspection system that allows a truck to be weighed in Maryland and not have to stop for another inspection anywhere on the East Coast.

"It saves time and congestion because you don't have trucks going in and out of the weigh station," said Joseph H. Foster, a special assistant with the state Department of Transportation who attended a demonstration of the system yesterday at Perryville Truck Weigh Inspection Station in Cecil County.

Six carriers participate in a pilot program in which they complete registrations and pay fuel taxes by computer, Foster said.

Officials say the system, called the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks, is cost- and time-efficient because the information from a weight inspection in Maryland is entered into a computer and shared among different facilities.

Foster said the system allows for safety information to be exchanged, with inspection data entered into a laptop and fed into a central computer within an hour. Foster said workers used to keep all records on paper.

"The cycle time was anywhere from three to six months," Foster said. "So the data was out of date before it was used."

Officials hope to have the final portion of the program in place by the middle of next year.

Foster said trucks will be equipped with a transponder, similar to the newly introduced M-TAG electronic toll system, that will contain all of the truck's information.

A reader on the side of the road will record the information, and the truck will drive over a portion of the highway that will automatically weigh it, eliminating a stop at the weigh station.

Kenneth Harry, director of services for Maryland Motor Truck Association, said such innovations are vital for the trucking industry.

"We want safe highways, and this helps us to achieve that," Harry said. "The majority of the goods moved in Maryland are moved by truck, and we want to change the image of trucks as the bad guy."

For truck driver Lewis Eby, the new technology means being able to make deadline safely and efficiently. Yesterday, as Eby waited while officials inspected his vehicle, he reflected on how the industry has changed in the 21 years he has been hauling.

"These days you sometimes have tight time limits on your shipment," Eby said. "They order it and they want it there yesterday."

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