Here’s a bit more detail on how to use a truck stop scale, following up on our previous article “How To Weigh Your Airstream, part 1“.
“Don’t be intimidated by the truck stop and the Big Truck dudes there,” says Lexie Kensington, an avid vintage owner. Here’s more you need to know about weighing your rig:
“A weigh costs money. Usually about $10, but each additional weigh for the same equipment is only $1 extra for a 24-hour period at the same scales. The weigh will come to you from a licensed weigh master and is a legal document. Sometimes it will be stamped or embossed like a notary seal. It will show the individual scale sections and the total of the entire combination of equipment.
Never drive on a scale the wrong way. Wait your turn if there is a line which almost never happens. It’s painless, easy, and the employees at the truck stop will be glad to help. They work hard for lousy money. By just being a cheerful customer you’ll make their whole day.
The scales platform you drive onto is in two or three sections. Usually each section is marked by yellow or white stripes. These sections are for semi trucks to place the steering axle, the driving (rear) axle of the tractor, and the actual trailer on individually. The tractor and the trailer are weighed in two sections, on two scale platforms.
For best results, go onto the scales all packed for your intended trip, tow vehicle along, with your Airstream, kids, pets and spouse.
Unhook and park the Airstream in a section of the lot out of the way of other traffic. Note: It is considered poor form for a semi-trailer driver to “drop” a trailer and unhook at a truck stop, evidently abandoning a load, or engaging in some other suspicious behavior. As an RVer, you have more latitude, but be courteous in using up blacktop space.
Drive onto the scale platform when clear, with your passengers. If you can, park with your steering axle on the most forward platform, and your driving (rear) axle on the platform just behind it.
Your rig might be too light. Some scales are are set up so that the modest weight of your tow vehicle divided between the two platforms does not register on their equipment. In this case you may need to get both of your tow vehicle’s axles on the most forward platform. It will fit, but you may need to get out and inspect it.
Call for a weigh. There will be a push button call box located for the semi tractor driver to push and ask to be weighed. Since most of the calls for weighs are by semi drivers, it will be far out of reach from your tow vehicle’s window!
An almost unintelligible person (many times a young overworked lady) will holler “COMPANY NAME?” meaning to which trucking company should the bill for this weigh be sent to. You should respond “private weigh,” meaning you are going to come inside and pay for this on the spot. While this is unconventional, they will understand that you are not a big semi tractor.
After a few seconds, they should call back or signal you that they have the weigh. Pull off the scales, go inside to the Fuel Desk and identify yourself as the person with the “private weigh” and they will charge you and hand you the certificate.
Now is a good time to review the weigh and see what your different axles are bearing. With your tow vehicle’s published data, you’ll see what each axle is rated to carry and what it is actually carrying. Also you can see what your tires are carrying per axle, and if you need to unload or leave a family member at home after all. If the numbers are all inside the published guidelines you can proceed. If not: UNLOAD SOME STUFF! Some like to leave a safety margin of +/- 10%
You’re half done. Now hook up your trailer and again drive onto the scales, with steering axle, driving axle, and trailer axles sets all on their own platform if possible. Ask for a Private Weigh again, wait for the weigh master to get the data. Pull off, park, and get your additional weigh (it should be only $1 this time) and review the data. You can now deduce the following:
The hitch weight (the static pressure on the hitch ball) is your second driving axle weight subtracted from the first. Have you overloaded your hitch? Check against the published numbers of your hitch.
The gross weight of the trailer is the trailer platform weight plus the hitch ball weight. Are you within the weight range of your trailer’s gross weigh limit? If you exceed it, your brakes will be mighty unhappy.
The weight on your trailer tires is the trailer platform number. Are you over? Are you inflated correctly to manage this load?
The weight upon the rear tires of your tow vehicle (the driving axle platform number). Are you over your driving axle or tires limit? It will be different (heavier) now that you have the trailer hooked up!
And finally—how much weight has your front axle lost by the weight of the trailer pushing down on the rear? (Second front axle weigh subtracted from the first.) Do you need to adjust your weight distribution system? If driving feels uncomfortable with that weight loss on the front axle, you can fine tune it by successive weighs. At only $1 per, it’s cheap insurance. Insufficient weight on the front axles can make steering feel weird, and in an emergency, leave you without good control if you have to make a sudden-avoidance maneuver.
Don’t be intimidated by truck stops, folks who use them, or those who work there. They all wish they could be you: enjoying RVing with an Airstream!