Most Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Scales

Over the past few years, we have received numerous questions and inquiries about truck scales and vehicle weighing related items. So, we thought it would make a perfect article called Most Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Scales. Below is a summary of the top questions that we have received along with some basic answers to assist you.

What is a Truck Scale and How Exactly Does a Truck Scale Work?

Truck scales are industrial scales built to weigh vehicles. The most common use of a truck scale is to determine the weight of bulk goods being bought and/or sold. You may have seen this mentioned before but in many cases, a truck scale functions figuratively like a cash register for a company. In addition to commercial use, many states use truck scales to check for a truck’s compliance with truck weight limits. The vehicle scales are very popular at feedmills, solid waste processing and metal recycling centers, etc….

As for how a truck scale works, basically you start with a foundation. This is normally a concrete foundation that the truck scale will be anchored to. The actual scale platforms are anchored onto the foundation. There are usually multiple platform modules connected to make up a 70 foot long truck scale. Inside of these modules are load cells. These are the sensors that measure the weight when you drive up on the scale. These can be analog, digital or hydraulic. The weight is then displayed on the digital weight indicator.

how do truck scales work?

How Much does a Truck Scale Cost? Should I Buy a Used Truck Scale?

This is a question that we have tackled before! This number has changed obviously over the years. At the time of this article, the typical truck scale costs are probably near $70,000 or more when you factor in all the various expenses. Remember, this estimate can fluctuate. For example, there have been multiple price increases during the past twelve months.

Regarding used truck scales…. In most cases, we are against buying used truck scales. The reason is these are weighing devices that have 80,000 lb vehicles driven over them constantly and endure all that Mother Nature can throw at them…. year after year. A lot can happen to a truck scale that’s been in use out in the elements for an entire decade.

That being said, sure there might be some good deals on a “low mileage” or “hardly used” used truck scale, but in our opinion, the best long term decision is to buy a brand new truck scale that you hopefully will get to use for two or three decades.

What is the Average Life Span of a Truck Scale?

In our opinion, most truck scales should last around 25 years. However, a lot depends on choosing a quality scale and one that is matched to the amount of truck traffic you expect. Weather elements can also factor into longevity as well. This is where consulting with your truck scale sales person can be a huge benefit when shopping for a truck scale..

All things being equal, a truck scale that weighs a couple of hundred trucks a day is going to wear out quicker than a truck that only weighs a handful of trucks a day. This is an important question and one that you need to discuss with the scale company(s) that you are working with when shopping for a truck scale.

How Accurate is a Truck Scale?

If you buy or sell goods based on the weight of the truck scale, accuracy is critical. Profit, Inventory Levels, and much more are at stake! On a typical 120,000 x 20 lb capacity truck scale, we typically tell folks the accuracy of your truck scale should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.1 of one percent.

How Long is an Average Truck Scale?

Most folks weigh typical trucks with trailer. The majority of the time, that means a 70 x 11 truck scale is typical. However, we have seen 80 foot long truck scales or longer utilized. You want to make sure that you choose a vehicle scale that will allow you to get all the tires on the weighing platforms. This is an important subject to consider when choosing a truck scale.

What is a Load Cell & How Many do I Need?

A load cell is the item(s) in a truck scale that measure the weight being applied. Most truck scales require ~ 8 load cells. In most scales, the load cells are wired through the scale platform & summed together in a junction box.

What is a Junction Box?

A j-box is a box with a summing card inside. Usually anywhere from (4) to (8) load cells are connected to the summing card inside the junction box. The card can then be adjusted by the scale technician when calibrating the scale. The signals of multiple load cells are adjustable and then once they are fine tuned, are capable of being wired to the digital weight indicator via the homerun cable.

Should I Purchase a Steel Deck Truck Scale or a Concrete Deck Truck Scale?

Steel deck truck scales have a quick installation time (usually one day) and they are lighter weight. This also is a benefit if you ever need to move or sell the truck scale, years later.

Concrete deck truck scales have a much longer installation time overall since the concrete must cure. The scales are also much heavier which can make moving them or selling them more difficult. On the plus side, a concrete deck typically has better traction than a steel deck.

So, ultimately either choice of industrial scale can be a good one. It depends on what your particular needs are and what your future plans might be with the scale.

I Keep Reading About Lightening. How can I protect my truck scale from lightning?

Most truck scale manufacturers offer weighing scales with grounding and industry standard protection which in most cases involves a single point grounding system with surge protector. This is an ongoing area where manufacturers are working improve their products for better protection. We’ve seen better protection being introduced for load cells and summing boards for example.

How Much Truck Scale Service Maintenance is there? How Often Should I Calibrate a Truck Scale?

With an investment like a truck scale, it makes good sense to have the scale checked & calibrated on a regular basis. Generally, we suggest that truck scale owners have their scales checked anywhere from twice a year to four times a year. Also, the scale owner can do a few things as well throughout the year like keeping the scale underside clean and debris free since buildup under a truck scale is a very common problem.

Another to consider when determining calibration frequency is how many trucks per day are weighed on the scale and the dollar value of what you’re weighing. If your 120,000 pound capacity truck scale is off just a hundred pounds, it can mean thousands of dollars of profit loss and/or a safety hazard. So basically if your truck scale weighs a lot of trucks every day, then you should consider a regular quarterly calibration program with your scale company.

We hope this article helps you to make an intelligent scale purchase. The truth is, there are numerous scale companies located throughout the United States that employee very smart and talented scale professionals who can work with you to recommend a great scale for your weighing needs. As for the scale manufacturers, there are multiple high quality scale manufacturers in the United States who build very good truck scales.



Truck Scale Cost Justification Guide

We were reading the cost justification guide from Cardinal Scale recently and they brought up a good point. It is surprising how many truck scales are manufactured by one company and use load cells from yet another company and a digital weight indicator from yet another company. So if something breaks, where does responsibility for the scale begin and end with each manufacturer? Cardinal Scale Manufacturing is one of the very few companies that manufactures not only the scale weighbridge structure but the load cells and instrumentation that go with it to complete the scale. With Cardinal you really do have single source responsibility and reliability. If you’re thinking about a Cardinal Truck Scale or better yet thinking about going with a hydraulic truck scale, read here.

◾As previously mentioned, lightning and water are the two most common sources of load cell failure. Often truck scales are placed in locations subject to flooding or are subjected to routine high-pressure washings. While digital and analog load cells are sealed against the entry of moisture, they often fail due to damage to a seal or abrasion of a cable jacket allowing entry of moisture. Analog and digital load cells are both subject to lightning damage. The extremely small strands on a strain gauge are especially sensitive to voltage surges. Hydraulic load cells have neither strain gauges nor electrical wire and are immune to damage from both water and lightning. If your scale will be in a location subject to spring time thunderstorms, you should give serious consideration to Cardinal’s Guardian hydraulic load cells.

◾Guardian hydraulic load cells operate by sensing weight via fluid pressure, which means that they require no power within the scale itself. You won’t lose any operational time when lightning or other power issues strike at the scale location. Guardian load cells carry a lifetime warranty against lightning and power surges.

◾Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that if something can be overloaded, it will. Same goes for shock loading on a truck scale. Whether you’re filling trucks with rock or ore, shock loading will take place. Both analog and digital load cells use a steel spring element to sense the load. Applying a shock load, even one less than the capacity of the load cell, can and will cause permanent damage to the load cell rendering it unusable. Cardinal’s Guardian hydraulic load cells, on the other hand, act much like a shock absorber on your automobile dissipating the shock load in the hydraulic fluid.

â—¾Hydraulic tubing from the load cells is terminated at the scale house by a non-conducting Goodyear rubber line. This creates an important barrier of protection, preventing lightning from traveling into the scale house where your load-sensing digital weight display is located.

◾If you’ve ever experienced costly downtime and repairs due to lightning or a power surge, the Guardian hydraulic truck scale can help you save in the future.

We can definitely confirm to you that customers are buying hydraulic truck scales. Yes, they are more expensive than traditional truck scales with analog load cells but for quite a few customers, they feel the added costs up front are worth it. Lightning and water are the two most common sources of load cell failure. Often truck scales are placed in locations subject to flooding or are subjected to routine high-pressure washings. While digital and analog load cells are sealed against the entry of moisture, they often fail due to damage to a seal or abrasion of a cable jacket allowing entry of moisture. Analog and digital load cells are both subject to lightning damage. The extremely small strands on a strain gauge are especially sensitive to voltage surges. Hydraulic load cells have neither strain gauges nor electrical wire and are immune to damage from both water and lightning. If your scale will be in a location subject to spring time thunderstorms, you should give serious consideration to Cardinal’s Guardian hydraulic load cells.

Keys To Success For Your Truck Scale

Cardinal Armor Truck ScaleIf you think about it, maintaining your truck scale calibration, keeping your truck scale clean and in good working order and watching out for any operational errors can help ensure that you keep your vehicle scale on track for a solid year of great weighing and perhaps a great year of profits for your business. As you can see from Steve Langford’s  article, a lot of this just makes sense. In some businesses a truck scale is the device that ultimately enables you get what you pay for when buying raw materials as well as making sure that you receive proper payment for your products. An accurate scale is not only necessary to maintain profitability but to comply with applicable local and state weights and measures laws. For most of us, the purchase of a truck scale is a major investment and, when you consider its use, it only makes sense to make sure the scale continues to do its job and to help maximize your profits for many years to come.  Let’s take a look at some of the ways to do just that.

Perhaps the best advice to ensure that your truck scales continue to meet your expectations is to be proactive. Don’t wait until your scale is out of calibration before calling your service company. Have your scale’s calibration checked at regular intervals. How often? How long can you go with an inaccurate scale causing you to pay for material you don’t get or to give product away? At a minimum, a truck scale’s calibration should be checked by a reputable scale service company at least once every six months. Between calibration checks, keep an eye on the readings to make sure that the readings stay within the ballpark and are not obviously wrong. If there’s any question, call your scale service company. It’s better to spend a few dollars verifying the calibration of your scale than to loose thousands or more with an inaccurate scale.

Truck scales are designed to maintain calibration, within predefined limits, over a range of temperatures but calibration can vary from winter to summer. If you are in an area subject to temperature extremes, it is a good idea to schedule the calibration of your scale to coincide with the temperature extremes. Granted, the scale may still be in calibration and only slightly high or low but, the greater the number of weighing operations, the greater the influence on your bottom line. Keep in mind that you are obligated to keep the calibration as close to a zero error as reasonably possible so that the scale favors neither the buyer nor the seller. Why would an honest business owner want it any other way? Continue reading

Product Spotlight: Rice Lake Survivor Truck Scale

Rice Lake Weighing Systems SURVIVOR® truck scales are commonly referred to as the Toughest Scales on Earth®. They are designed to provide reliable performance under the most demanding conditions. SURVIVOR truck scales are built with more structural steel, a superior support structure and innovative design features that provide consistent accuracy, less downtime and longer scale life. Each SURVIVOR is built with the exclusive five-step finishing process. Take a look at some of the different Rice Lake Survivor truck scale models below.

SURVIVOR® OTR
The SURVIVOR OTR Series truck scale is an outstanding design that incorporates the most advanced engineering and production technology to manufacture the highest quality vehicle weighing system in the marketplace.

SURVIVOR® ATV
The ATV is rigidly constructed for heavy-duty weighing, yet lightweight and compact for convenient portability. The pre-assembled modules (available in lengths from 10 – 30 ft.) and unique self-seating hinge connectors provide easy installation, expansion and relocation for your growing business.

SURVIVOR® SR
The SR concrete or steel deck modes are ruggedly designed with massive outboard beams available in a bolted or welded design. Load cells and mounting assemblies are easily accessed in the rugged, reinforced load cell pocket, through side access.

SURVIVOR® PT
The PT Series truck scale is available in many standard sizes to satisfy most requirements, but we also understand that pit-type installations often involve replacing and existing mechanical or electronic scale.

SURVIVOR® M-Series
SURVIVOR® M Series Levertronic Scales combine innovative features with time-proven durability that only a mechanical scale can deliver. In a market crowded with scales manufactured to compete on price alone, SURVIVOR M Series Scales are built from the ground up for lasting performance under the most extreme conditions.

SURVIVOR® Rail Scales
SURVIVOR railroad track scales incorporate Rice Lake’s best-in-class weighbridge design to create a rugged, accurate heavy duty weighing system. Used in static weighing operations, the SURVIVOR RT Pit Type railroad track scale and the SURVIVOR PL Modular Type railroad track scale excel in high-accuracy, legal-for-trade weighing and meet AREMA and Cooper E-80 design specifications.

SURVIVOR® Livestock Solutions
Rice Lake’s livestock scales are built from the ground up for lasting performance under the most severe circumstances. Whether you choose the RoughDeck™ SLV for single animal weighing or the SURVIVOR® AG, LV or LS, you’re getting the Toughest Scale on Earth®.

Take a look below at “Six Facts” regarding heavy capacity solutions from Rice Lake. Did you know for applications where steel is preferred or downtime is critical, a great choice would be the SURVIVOR® OTR Steel Deck. Operational within a day, this easy-to-install steel deck scale sets the standard for truck scale design and performance, keeping downtime to a minimum. Tightly spaced wide flange I-beams form the industry’s strongest weighbridge design, weighing as many as 250 trucks per day for 25 years without a trace of weighbridge fatigue.

Built to Withstand Extreme Use
Weighbridge design and the weight of structural steel used directly affect the life of a truck scale. Many truck scale designs incorporate low grade, non-certified steel and an inferior design to reduce the cost and decrease production time. These reductions also reduce the life of the scale. Rice Lake SURVIVOR® series truck scales utilize up to 30% more steel than most competitive models and incorporate a longitudinal highway bridge design. More I-beams are strategically placed longitudinally with the traffic flow to ensure tire support regardless of truck position.

Ultra Load Cell Protection
Load cell pockets that are welded or bolted to exterior I-beams allow excessive bending and flexing, causing damage to the weighbridge. Bumper bolts loosen and break. Check rods bind. Rice Lake’s SURVIVOR® series truck scales are designed with the load cell pocket integrated into the steel structure of the scale. The pocket is built inside the outer I-beam, offering a more durable, long-lasting load cell pocket. The SURVIVOR® series scales feature the G-Force™ self-checking mounting system, eliminating the need for check rods or bumper bolts.

Breathing Room Below
Closed-bottom weighbridge designs with both top and bottom plates, typically using lighter weight components, create cavities that tend to hold moisture causing rusting of internal components. Rice Lake’s SURVIVOR® steel deck truck scales feature an open-bottom design providing unrestricted airflow eliminating rust causing moisture buildup, which accelerates rusting of internal steel and imminent scale failure.

Tough, Start to Finish
Harsh environments and corrosive materials can quickly deteriorate improperly finished truck scale components. Rice Lake’s SURVIVOR® series truck scales are steel shot blasted according to the highest industry standards to remove mill scale and surface imperfections. An asphalt emulsion undercoating is applied to all non-visible steel surfaces on all steel deck models to protect against moisture damage. High-performance epoxy primer and specialized hard-coat alkyd enamel is applied to all visible steel surfaces for a car-like finish that protects the scale from the elements.

Custom Sizes are Customary
Replacing truck scales on existing foundations or fitting truck scales to unique locations or space limitations need not incur extra design fees. Rice Lake’s SURVIVOR® series truck scales can be custom-built to fit almost any application.

A Complete Solution for Any Application
These truck scales are only a part of the equation. Rice Lake offers not only the scale, but also the complete solution for your weighing application. From automated ticketing and truck transaction data collection systems to intelligent controllers like the 920i, to advanced cell diagnostics. And of course no truck scale is complete without a Ticketpress ticket printer and Laserlight Remote Display.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Cardinal EPR What are some other features metal recyclers need to look for inside a truck scale?

There are several attributes recyclers ought to take into account when making the decision to purchase a 70 foot long truck scale, which includes deck plate thickness. Recyclers are normally handling a high traffic frequency daily on their truck scales, so weighing machine strength becomes a important aspect. For instance, Cardinal Scale produces truck scales with 3/8″ thick steel decks for maximum strength and resiliency to handle hefty loads over the long haul for exceptional overall performance. An additional quality element to look for is factory-assembled load cells secured in the truck scale. Every Cardinal truck scale is 100 percent factory assembled and examined prior to shipping to a job location. This requires calibrating the whole 60 foot long truck scale to make sure appropriate set-up before shipping for exceptional accuracy. Usually, a 70-foot-long truck scale dimensions are sought after in the recycling business to be in a position to allow for weighing semi-tractor trailers. Stainless steel, USA-made load cells and a NEMA 4X stainless steel junction box for load cell wiring can also be important to check for when making the decision to buy a vehicle scale.

Cardinal Truck Scale Load Cells

SCA Series Stainless Steel Compression Load Cells from Cardinal are ideal for multiple load cell applications including truck scales, railroad track scales, and heavy-duty tank weighing systems. The USA-made SCA series are environmentally-sealed for absolute water protection. USA-made quality, capacities range from 50,000 lb/22,680 kg to 200,000 lb/90,720 kg, waterproof, NTEP and OIML certified. Learn more about the cell by clicking here.

Also, DB Series Stainless Steel Double-Ended Shear Beam Load Cells from Cardinal are available. These waterproof stainless steel load cells are environmentally-sealed for absolute water protection, providing a barrier against corrosive, caustic, and wet environments. They are ideal for multiple load cell applications such as truck scales and heavy-duty tank weighing systems. Each cell is furnished with 32 ft/10 m of integral multi-conductor cable secured by a strain relief seal. USA-made quality, capacities range from 50,000 lb/22,680 kg to 75,000 lb/34,000 kg, waterproof, NTEP and OIML certified. You can read more about the item by clicking this link.

How Much Does A 70 Foot Long Truck Scale 120,000 lb cost?

The following is a very popular question we hear all the time from various people in different industries. In this example we’ll use recycling but it could apply to anyone.

Now really, how much should a metal recycler expect to spend on buying a new truck scale?

Expense is really dependent on whether the recycling center is replacing an older pre-existing truck scale or if it’s a brand new installation. Installation and foundation labor is going to be different in each and every situation. Cost also varies from area to area.

Basically, you will have to pay for the cost to do the foundation or pit. You will have to pay to have the crane lift the scale off the delivery truck. You will have to pay for the scale, the digital weight indicator, and the ticket printer. You will also have to pay the freight costs to ship the scale from the manufacturer to your location. As you can see above, there is no way to give you an exact cost because any of the information above can vary from job to job.

The best advice is to contact a local scale company in your area who sells truck scales and also does regular service on them. The company also should have certified test weights, a weight cart and test truck. They should also keep replacement parts on the shelf in case one of your parts breaks unexpectedly. If you follow this advice at least if something does fail you can contact your local company for fast service and limited down time.

Load Cell Pocket Makes A Difference

Load cell openings that are welded or bolted to exterior I-beams make it possible for too much bending and flexing, leading to damage to the weighbridge. Bumper bolts ease and crack. Check rods bind. Rice Lake’s SURVIVOR® series truck scales are made with the load cell pocket incorporated into the steel framework of the scale. The pocket is built within the outer I-beam, offering a far more durable, long-lasting load cell pocket. Load cell pockets are made out of heavy-duty steel plates incorporated into the design of the scale. Large wide-flange I-beams encompass the pocket integrating it into the weighbridge structure. This adds extraordinary strength and dependability to a extremely critical section of the weighbridge.

Numerous competitive models implement either bumper bolts or check rods for centering the scale. Check rods will add to the initial price of the scale and bumper bolts require Continue reading

It is Important To Learn As Much As You Can During The Initial Buying Stage

Built to Withstand Extreme Use
Weighbridge design and the overall weight of structural steel used directly affect the performance life of a truck scale. Many “economical” truck scale designs incorporate low grade, non-certified steel and an inferior design to reduce the cost and decrease production time. These reductions also reduce the life of the scale. Rice Lake SURVIVOR® OTR truck scales utilize up to 30% more steel than most competitive models and incorporate a longitudinal highway bridge design. More I-beams are strategically placed longitudinally with the traffic flow to ensure tire support regardless of truck position. Continue reading

New Truck Scales versus Used Truck Scales

You don’t have to look at too many truck scale brochures to become thoroughly confused about what’s available and what is and isn’t important to you.
Full-length truck scales may be of either portable or permanent installation.  Portable truck scales include a lower framework that is placed on a prepared surface (either a concrete slab, wooden beams, or even dirt) and ramps are placed at either end for access. Portable scales are generally more expensive because of the lower framework but are much easier to move from site to site and are ideal for contractors or road builders. Scales that are permanently mounted may be mounted either in a pit (like the basement of a home) or of an above-ground low profile design where the scale is mounted on a concrete slab with ramps at either end. The advantages of a pit type scale Continue reading