FOX13 investigates: How highway truck weigh stations help avoid serious accidents

HAYWOOD CO., Tenn. — Most people pass truck weigh stations while driving down the highway, but not as many know exactly what goes on.

FOX13 hit the road and went to Haywood County to learn more about what troopers investigate daily. There doesn’t ever seem to be a quiet moment at the Haywood County Scales.

“It’s very busy here,” said Sgt. Chris Richardson with Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Busy enough that Richardson estimates 3,500-4,000 trucks pass through the Haywood County station every single day – and that’s only on the westbound side.

“We make sure they’re not violating anything on the federal level, and they’re safe to be around other motorists. We save lives doing that,” Richardson said.

FOX13 took a look at a few photos Tennessee troopers have snapped during truck inspections so far in 2019.

Download the FOX13 Memphis app to receive alerts from breaking news in your neighborhood.

Trending stories:

Four inspection photos reveal trucks were driving along I-40 with broken frames, a deflated air suspension, flat tires, broken leaf springs, and broken air springs.

Tennessee troopers require truckers to service their vehicles at the weigh station site before they can continue down the road.

“We verify it is fixed on site. They’ll call someone for help,” Richardson said. “We ensure that it is fixed before they leave.”

FOX13 Investigative Reporter Leah Jordan asked if it’s likely the trucks would continue driving on Tennessee highways with unsafe defects if it wasn’t for the weigh station.

“We hope not, but that’s what happened here,” Richardson said, referring to the vehicle with a severely flat tire. “We saw it and shut him down.”

Richardson also cited a Tennessee case where a truck’s broken leaf spring ejected on the roadway, hit another vehicle, and killed a young girl.

“We’ve absolutely seen lives lost due to unsafe trucks,” he said.

In 2018, troopers at the Haywood weigh station totaled 7,139 truck inspections. Nationally, there were 2.3 million inspections.

FOX13 talked to a spokesperson with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The official said, nationally speaking, roughly one out of five large commercial vehicles inspected roadside are placed out-of-service for serious safety defects.

That spokesperson also said studies have proven that human factors cause more crashes than vehicle defects. Because of this, extra emphasis is placed on ensuring that truck drivers are properly licensed, qualified, and not tired on the roads – all things Tennessee Highway Patrol Troopers are trained and certified look for.

FMCSA data shows that Tennessee and national statistics align very similarly.

Nationally, 4.93 percent of inspected truck drivers are placed out of service for various reasons. At the Haywood weigh station, 4.8 percent of inspected drivers are placed out of service.

Nationally, 20.42 percent of inspected vehicles are placed out of service – and in Haywood County, that number is 21.5 percent.

“It’s something people may not know is done every single day, but it’s done with them in mind,” Richardson said.