FOX23 INVESTIGATES: Officials track overweight trucks in Oklahoma

FOX23 INVESTIGATES: Officials track overweight trucks in Oklahoma

Quick Facts:

  • Overweight trucks wear out roads faster and take longer to stop which can create a danger for drivers.
  • In Oklahoma, 90 people die every year in accidents involving large trucks
  • FOX23's Shae Rozzi got an exclusive look at new ports of entry weigh stations
  • She's looking into how the high-tech equipment is used to detect overweight trucks and why some trucks might be traveling undetected Oklahoma interstates.
  • See more: Photos from Oklahoma weigh stations 
  • WATCH the full report above.

Large trucks are involved in more than 5,000 accidents a year on Oklahoma roads, leading to 90 deaths annually.

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The state budget crisis might make it easier for truck drivers to break the law by carrying overweight loads, while at the same time putting other drivers' safety at risk.

FOX23 got an exclusive look at new technology to stop those overweight trucks and discovered thousands may be going undetected.

We launched the FOX23 Skyview drone to show how massive the new weigh stations are.

Weigh stations at Oklahoma's ports of entry are supposed to keep our roads in working condition and our drivers safe- but even renewed efforts fall short. Don't miss FOX23 Shae Rozzi's investigation: http://bit.ly/2oNPRHS

Posted by FOX23 News on Thursday, April 27, 2017

They're called ports of entry because they're located where truck drivers enter the state. They dwarf the size of the old weigh stations built back in the 1960s.

With bullet holes, flooding and others in disrepair, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission calls those weigh stations obsolete.

One weigh station on I-35 North is only open one to two days a week. Video from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation shows trucks can end up backed up on the interstate blocking traffic.

It can take so long to weigh a truck and check the driver's papers that they're often told to bypass the station.

Some drivers avoid it all together and go unchecked.

At the new port of entry, when big rigs enter Oklahoma from Kansas on I-35 South they're weighed, measured and scanned in multiple ways and at multiple points in an instant while driving highway speeds.

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Corporation commission officers can tell whether the truck is legally registered, whether there are any outstanding citations and whether they're overweight.

FOX23 talked to the OCC about safety concerns with overweight trucks.

Maj. Mark Combest/Oklahoma Corporation Commission

"Braking ability, tires, things like that. It takes a lot longer to get them stopped,” said Maj. Mark Combest, with the OCC.

Overweight trucks also wear out roads and bridges faster.

According to the General Accounting Office, a truck carrying twice as much weight as another doesn't cause twice the damage, but significantly more than that, and it costs taxpayers millions in road repairs.

If there is something further that needs inspection on the truck, the OCC said it contacts Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers.

FOX23 reported trooper shortages and their 100-mile-day limit.

Combest told FOX23 if a certified size and weight trooper isn’t available then they have to let the truck go.

FOX23 went inside the inspection bay operated by the Department of Public Safety. Their inspectors can get underneath trucks to do safety inspections. The problem is that there are only two inspectors right now, so it's not always manned, but they plan to hire 16 more by July.

The port of entry in Kay County flags or processes on average 20,000 trucks a month.

So do the other two ports of entry in operation on I-40 in Beckham County near Texas and Sequoyah County near Arkansas.

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Ports are not staffed 24 hours a day seven days a week, so thousands of trucks could be passing right on by.

The state planned to have eight ports of entry open by now but can't afford it. A fourth is under construction on I-35 coming in from Texas, but for now trucks coming from parts of Texas, Missouri and Colorado are driving in oftentimes without a closer look.

All of the high-tech tools are making a difference.

“We're able to focus on the trucks that aren't legal,” Combest said.

It's still not enough to stop them all.

FOX23 also reached out to the Oklahoma Trucking Association about this:

“The new POE’s are a vast improvement over the old style scale houses.  While recognizing the budget constraints of the legislature, the OTA supports their efforts to continue the completion of all planned POE’s.  This helps insure compliance and safety.”

FOX23: Does it do enough to help ensure truck drivers are operating safely?

OTA: The current POE system is the best available at present for enforcement given their finite resources.

FOX23: I've learned that each POE processes an average of 20,000 trucks a month with more than that being weighed in motion and going through. By this time there should've been 8 in operation but there are only 3 with a 4th on the way because of funding.

Is the OTA concerned about the number of trucks not being weighed and processed where there is no POE or an operational weigh station?

OTA: Presently the public must trust and rely on law enforcement’s ability to inspect and weigh, using portable scales, commercial vehicles anywhere in the state via roadside inspections and any other means at their disposal.  The Oklahoma Trucking Association supports those law enforcement efforts for the safe operations.

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