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What Happens If You Skip A Weigh Station?

Semi-trucks are governed by various laws, which includes both federal and provincial/state legislation on weight limits, driving hours and more. Weight distribution in trucks is a significant factor for lawmakers, as it impacts safety and road infrastructure. When you're traveling interstate, a weigh station is the last thing you want to be missing. While weigh stations are an unpleasant part of the job, avoiding them could lead to numerous penalties.

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Weigh stations, or "the scales", are in place in order to maintain safety standards within the trucking industry and ensure that roadways are not left damaged by too heavy of vehicles. The weigh stations measure the weight of semi trucks, to ensure that when loaded, the trucks are not overweight or breaching weight limit per state or national regulations. While guidelines are subject to change, currently there are a few key guidelines on truck weight limits, per the US Department of Transportation:

  • Gross total Weight Limit: 80,000 lbs
  • Single Axle Weight Limit: 20,000 lbs
  • Tandem Axle Weight Limit: 34,000 lbs

There are multiple ways to measure a truck’s weight, but the most common is usually gross weight and axle weight. With gross weight, you will find the measurement of the total weight of the truck including any accessories being carried by tandem axels. In the axle weight system, the weight measured is the one which is placed on each of the tandem axels.

If you fail to stay within the weight requirements, you are subject to several levels of consequences. There are different penalties for being overweight, as well as consequences for missing a  weigh station, thus it's important to familiarize yourself with them, in order to avoid problems later on.  Here are the different consequences you will potentially face if you miss a weigh station: 


The most common consequence for overweight trucks at the scales, or those missing the weigh station, is a fine issued. This is a straight forward consequence to deal with, though it may cost you financially. Fines for being overweight depend on the amount of pounds overweight and the state or province you are in. This is not a habit you want to form, as repeat offenders may be charged double the fine or more, for their infractions, so the total amount can be upwards of thousands of dollars if you continue to make mistakes.

For the US and Canada, you can access the state by state index of  the general fine amounts, per state or province. 

Safety Score Impact

Failure to comply with weigh station regulations can also lead to an impact on a fleet’s safety score.  The CSA (Compliance, Safety and Accountability) score is important for business and it affects the entire trucking company and other drivers, not just the driver who was overweight at the scales or the one who missed the scale. The CSA safety score is used for screening for bypass programs, and can identify high risk carriers, so it is important to keep a good score.

Wasted Time

Drivers who end up missing a weigh station may be asked to turn back and go toward it again, which is time wasted and potential delivery delays.  Those who are overweight may face delays while they sort out all the details regarding the fine or they need to offload and redistribute extra weight, before they are cleared to leave. If you are sent back to the weigh station for missing it, there are also greater chances for inspection to occur and this adds to the potential risk element of fines or infractions being found.

Serious Penalties

Some of the more major consequences relating to the scales or weigh station may be suspension of license of the driver. This occurs usually in extreme cases or for repeat offenders. If you are wondering “can I go to jail for skipping a weigh station?”, odds are that you are fine if this is your first offense, but don’t make it a habit.

Weigh stations can also contact companies of drivers and this can result in getting fired or even being put on probation by their companies for failing to comply. Fines will vary based on severity of the infraction, but there is also an added risk of the truck being impounded or ordered to unload excess cargo, which can be a costly and time consuming endeavor.

What Are The Consequences If You Miss a Weigh Station?

Usually, if you do not stop at the scales, a law enforcement officer may come after you and order you to go back. This process will also likely lead to a Level 1 inspection once you're at the scales, which can increase the potential of other infractions or violations being discovered. 

Fines for skipping a weigh station are also usually higher than they would be if you were overweight. This can become time consuming and very expensive for you. Drivers who are caught missing the weigh station multiple times, will likely have further legal actions taken against them and may lead to some of the more severe or serious consequences mentioned above. 

If you pass a weigh station for whatever reason and keep going without being pulled over to go back, the odds are that you may have gotten lucky. Usually somebody would come after you or stop you and issue a ticket right there, or within 5 minutes of passing it. If you do not get a ticket right then, there is a chance you may not receive one at all.  However, it is not a habit you want to make, as this can become a serious problem once you are caught. 

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Who Pays Weigh Station Fines?

The responsibility of paying for the fines accumulated for either missing the scales or for being overweight will depend your job or role. Drivers, however, need to be aware that they are responsible for ensuring that their vehicle is within weight limit, and thus needs to be aware of any restrictions on specific roads when they are trip planning.  

In Canada, the owner of the truck or the operator will usually have to pay the fine. If the truck is operated by an owner-operator, then the fine would fall on that individual. If a company driver is fined at the weigh station, then the fine technically can be attributed to the company. The company takes responsibility for their fleet and ensuring compliance. However, the driver will likely face potential issue or consequences within the company, if they violate regulation.

In the United States, the fines for overweight trucks can also fall either on the driver, owner or the company, similarly to Canada. If the truck is owned by a company, then the company will be responsible for the fine. Owner-operators will be responsible for any fines they incur.

How To Avoid Fines At The Scales

The best way to avoid fines or penalties at the scales is to comply and stop when you see one. It costs less to pay a fine for being overweight and to redistribute some weight, than it does to face a Level 1 inspection and other legal ramifications from avoiding the scales. If you find yourself in an area where you can’t safely merge for whatever reason, it is best to drive further and then turn and go back yourself. The sooner you go back, the less issue there will be.

To avoid overweight issues at the weigh stations, it is important to distribute all cargo properly and load everything correctly, keeping the guidelines and rules in mind. Remember that you can be under 80,000 lbs in gross weight but still be overweight on an axle, so it will be important to distribute your weight properly. You can slide axles as a way to adjust the load distribution. In some special cases, however, you can also secure a permit for being slightly overweight, which does cost some money, and which would usually be the job of the company, if you are a company driver.

Weight regulation is a big part of being on the road. In order to avoid costly mistakes, it’s important to know the various penalties which could be imposed if you miss a weigh station. In addition, it's also important to know what penalties apply to overweight loads, so that you stay prepared and can redistribute your load when needed. When you’re on the road, there’s a lot to keep track of. Staying aware and prepared will help you stay on the right side of the law.