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Weight watching: Highway patrol monitoring truck traffic in the west

This weigh station near Beach is used for vehicle inspections until the scale is repaired. All commercial motor vehicles must enter weigh stations like this one off of I-94 near Beach, when the sign reads "open."

In response to the increase of truck traffic in the area, the North Dakota Highway Patrol is concentrating weight and commercial motor vehicle monitoring in the west.

There are 14 motor carrier troopers who specialize in weight monitoring in the state and 10 are stationed in the western half, said NDHP Lt. Jody Skogen.

"Which is a pretty heavy balance compared to the normal balance we would like to keep," he said. "In 2007, we had a total of 10 motor carrier troopers and we were evenly divided with five in the east and five in the west."

The shift has been gradual over the last few years, he added.

"We have to utilize our resources as best as possible based upon the needs that are currently present," Skogen said. "We've had to pull from the east and slide to the west. That has now left needs in the east that we need to try to figure out."

Troopers use nine fixed weigh stations, two of which are located in the southwest near Beach and Bowman, said NDHP Capt. Eldon Mehrer.

Though the Beach location has not been used to weigh vehicles for about a year, the station itself is being used, he added.

"The scale platform itself right now is under repair, but we will still use it for doing inspections on commercial motor vehicles," Mehrer said. "We've got a bid out for repairs."

Each weigh station is staffed on an interim basis, Mehrer said.

"As our resources will allow, through normal scheduling of our personnel, we'll just assign a trooper or an inspector to man that facility," he said.

When a weigh station's sign says it's open, all semis and trucks pulling a trailer weighing 1,000 pounds or more must enter, Mehrer said.

"If they go past a scale when it's open and the sign says they must enter, it's a $20 citation for disobeying a traffic control device for not entering the scale when they're supposed to," he said.

In addition, 12 sensors located in highways across the state, called weigh-in motion sites, are also used to monitor truck weights, he said.

In the southwest, those are near Belfield, Bowman and Watford City, Mehrer said.

"The troopers have their laptops or computers in their cars and they basically, if they get relatively close to those sites, they can log onto to these sites and monitor the weights going across," he added.

NDHP will continue monitoring truck traffic and assign personnel as they see fit, Skogen said.

"We're well aware of the impact that the trucking industry has in the western part of the state and we know we can provide services and enforcement to help protect infrastructure and serve some of those needs," he added.