BUCKHORN, Pa. — Pennsylvania State Police have begun implementing a sure-to-be-controversial tactic for fer reting out noncompliant motorcoach operators by requiring all motorcoaches to stop at weigh stations along Interstates in the Keystone State.
Last month, installation of signs that read “All Trucks & Buses Must Enter Weigh Station” began at state weigh stations. The first were installed at a weigh station on I-80 near mile marker 232, Buckhorn Exit. By the end of the year, the signs are expected to be installed at 26 exits for weigh stations in 15 counties. The weigh stations are along Interstates 70, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 90 and 95.
At a meeting with the board of the Pennsylvania Bus Association in March, the State Police revealed it planned to begin requiring buses to pull into weigh stations across the state. PBA board members were told that mandating all buses pull through weigh stations would increase the State Police’s ability to find noncompliant operators by providing a visual check of their equipment. State Police officials indicated the requirement would not begin until PennDOT had changed signage at weigh stations along the highways where the requirement would be implemented. Until now, only trucks have been required to stop at Pennsylvania weigh stations.
While the State Police did not need the Pennsylvania Bus Association endorsement of the equirement, officials asked to address the PBA board to answer questions and listen to concerns from operators. Most of the discussion centered on issues related to passenger safety — what would happen if the weighstation pull-through resulted in a full-blown inspection, and sensitivity to the time constraints of buses reaching destinations, particularly airports. According to the Pennsylvania Bus Association, State Police officials assured the PBA board “they were well aware of operational and safety concerns” and would emphasize those factors in their training of enforcement officers.
“PBA’s board discussed the proposal and unanimously endorsed the (State Police) efforts” to get noncompliant operators off the highways by requiring buses to pull into weigh stations for visual and/or full inspections, the association told its members in its spring Bus Digest.
Pennsylvania has 32 state weigh stations but only those along Interstates will be requiring buses to stop. Of the 32 stations, two have permanent locations with stationary scales. Those are on I-80 in Clarion County. Other state weigh stations are in rest areas or areas where PennDOT brings out a van and sets up a station using portable scales.
The Pennsylvania Bus Association has informed its members that the following procedures will be used for checking buses at the weigh stations: Bus drivers will drive into the weigh station, at the reduced speed posted on the entrance ramp, to the rest area where the weigh station is set up. Drivers will not be allowed to stop on the ramp because it will back up traffic on the highway and cause a safety issue. The bus traveling through the weigh station will be weighed. Enforcement officers will visually inspect the exterior of the bus as its pulls through, looking for obvious violations. State Police say they have instructed enforcement officers not to detain a bus unless obvious problems are evident.
All buses with any kind of bus tag must stop, including vans with bus tags. However, school buses are not required to stop because they have a different definition in the state vehicle code. If a bus does not stop at a weigh station having a visible sign, the driver is in violation of the state vehicle code, and will be fined $25, plus court costs ($100 plus). No points are associated with the violation.
The PBA told its members that if a bus driver encounters a problem at a weigh station, the driver should contact the association through his or her employer.
Corporal Richard Koontz of the Pennsylvania State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Division has been assigned to work with the association to handle any problems that develop. PBA to help
Elaine Farrell, executive director of the Pennsylvania Bus Association, also reminded operators that buses need only stop at weigh stations where new signs, saying “trucks and buses must enter the weigh station,” have been installed. “If you have any questions, please let me know so I can obtain answers for you,” Farrell told PBA members in a notice issued last month. Contact Farrell via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (717) 236-9042.
It could not be immediately determined if part of the motivation for the new initiative stems from the federal crackdown on overweight buses. (See Aug. 1, Sept. 15 and Nov. 1 issues of Bus & Motorcoach News.)
This article was published in Bus & Motorcoach NEWS September 1, 2013.