PrePass Benefits Carriers, States

For 850 trucking companies, the intelligent highway has become something real, not just a concept dreamed up by Washington bureaucrats. These companies have enrolled in the PrePass weigh station bypass system.

A review of the PrePass system was given during the 50th anniversary National Tank Truck Carriers conference, which was held May 18-20 in Washington DC. Speakers were Lane C Kidd, president of the Arkansas Motor Carriers Association, and David Brodie, national sales manager for Lockheed Martin IMS.

Kidd praised the PrePass system for improving efficiency at weigh scales. "This is important because Arkansas is a bridge state between the East and West Coasts," he said.

"In April, 9,615 trucks passed through the scale in West Memphis. Trucks with the PrePass system are recorded by the weigh station, but they don't have to stop. It cuts down on congestion and delays."

Kidd cautioned that there could be a downside to the PrePass program. "This could open the door to new weight-distance taxes in the states," he said. "However, we believe PrePass gives some leverage to the industry in dealing with such moves. It gives us much more detailed information."

PrePass was launched in 1995 in California, and the popularity of the program has grown steadily. "With each new site, we're one step closer to achieving our goal of a seamless, efficient transportation network for the trucking industry," said Lockheed Martin's Brodie. The PrePass technology was developed by Lockheed Martin, which installs and maintains the equipment. The program is managed through Heavy Vehicle Electronic License Plate Inc (HELP), a public-private partnership.

The PrePass system is operational at about 35 weigh stations in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wyoming. More installations are planned in the near future, and several more states have announced that they want to join the program.

Tennessee was expected to have its first PrePass installation up and running by June 1. Montana and Nevada also have stated their intentions to add the PrePass system. PrePass transponders are in more than 55,000 trucks, and the numbers are growing rapidly. "Truckers understand that they can save time and money if they don't have to stop at weigh stations," he said.

The program is totally voluntary for carriers. To qualify, a carrier must have a satisfactory safety rating. Carriers have six months to bring a safety rating back up to satisfactory if it is lowered for any reason.

When a carrier is approved, it is supplied with transponders for each tractor. There is no charge for the transponders.

Reporting details related to insurance and taxes are entered into the PrePass computer system. That information is recorded on the transponders that go in the tractors. When a truck passes a weigh station with PrePass installed, the transponder triggers a green or red light. If it's green, the truck can continue past the station. If it's red, the truck must stop.

A 5% random pull-in rate is programmed into the system. In addition, some states require all placarded loads to stop at every weigh station.

In a fully operational PrePass station, weigh-in-motion equipment is installed under the main lanes of the highway a few miles before the weigh station. Trucks are automatically weighed as they travel at normal speed.

The cost of the weigh station equipment is around $300,000, and the equipment is supplied at no charge by HELP. Total annual cost to the state for participating in the program is around $30,000.

Carriers pay for the privilege of using the system. Each time a registered truck bypasses a PrePass station, the carrier is charged 99 cents. However, no truck is charged for more than four bypasses a day.

"This is a win-win program," Brodie said. "State weigh stations can become more efficient, and enforcement personnel can focus more resources on non-complying carriers. Accident opportunities are reduced because fewer heavy trucks are changing lanes in the vicinity of weigh stations.

"Carriers see lower operating costs and increased productivity. Fuel consumption is reduced (weigh station stops are estimated to burn about 80 cents of fuel per vehicle, per stop). Driver morale is improved."

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