Podcast Interviews

On-Board Scales for Commercial Trucks and Trailers

Learn how onboard scales can boost the bottom line for commercial fleets.

Episode 104: If you run overloaded you are subject to fines and are unsafe. If you run underloaded you are missing out on revenue opportunities. How do you find the balance efficiently? Michael Ferguson is the National Sales Manager for Air-Weigh and in this episode he helps us better understand the overloaded/underloaded problem and explains his company’s solution.

Watch the Video

The Dangers of Overloading

“Whenever you have an overloaded truck, it becomes a less-safe truck,” explained Michael Ferguson, National Sales Manager at Air-Weigh.

  • Braking distance is decreased.
  • A big difference in handling and turning.
  • Spinouts are more common.
  • More prone to jack-knifes.
  • Everything is being built lighter, so it’s important to stay within the weight specs for safety.

The Problem of Being Underloaded

“What drives the issue of underloading is the fear of overloading,” said Ferguson.

Graphic of underloaded trucks
  • More trips necessary (more fuel, time, money, and wear on the vehicles than necessary)
  • No longer maximizing profitability.
  • Less efficient, and more emissions.

Maintenance Impact on Fleet

“When overloading or underloading trucks… you’re breaking things that you don’t normally break,” explained Ferguson.

Graphic of unbalanced truck.
  • Creates unscheduled maintenance and downtime.
  • Even if you use the best parts, they are not designed to be over-stressed beyond what their parameters are.
  • An unbalanced truck is an unsafe truck.

Solution for Tractors and Trailers

Air Weigh digital display

“It’s an onboard digital scale system. The simplest way to think about it is you are going to get your real-world weights, in real time, at the loading site,” said Ferguson.

  • Digital display that provides steer weight, drive weight, trailer weight, gross-vehicle weight, and the net weight.
  • Fixes the issues of accidentally overloading or being underloaded.
  • In cab display and available on the free app on smartphones that give you access to weight information on your phone.
  • Ability to email wights to back office through phone app.
  • Solutions for air-ride and mechanical suspensions.

LOADMAXX

  • Drop and hook system,
  • Goes on both truck and trailer, but the scales communicate together through Bluetooth, giving the ability to swap trailers.

QUIKLOAD   

  • For customers with one truck and one trailer.
  • Costs less than LOADMAXX series.

More Than Just for Trucks and Trailers

“If a truck is bigger than an F-550, we have a solution for it,” said Ferguson.

Typical applications that use onboard scales:

  • Roll-Offs
  • Garbage – Waste Disposal
  • Frontend Loaders
  • Utility Trucks
  • Moving Trucks
  • Freight and Grocery
Chart explaining how Air weigh helps fleets be more efficient.

Transcript of Complete Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about the heavy-duty parts you buy and sell, and keep you informed about what’s happening in the industry. Commercial fleets are looking to make as much money as possible, and that can be a very tough task. Overloading is a problem, but really so is underloading. And we’re going to talk about what the solution is for that today. I’ve invited Michael Ferguson, who’s the national sales manager at Air Weigh to help us better understand the problem and to learn about their solution. Michael, welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Michael Ferguson:

Thank you very much for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

Let’s get our conversation started by talking about safety. What are some of the safety implications of a truck and trailer being overloaded?

Michael Ferguson:

Well, I think the very first thing you think about when you think about safety on overloaded trucks is the braking. That’s the one that everybody knows and is everybody’s familiar with. So if you have a vehicle that’s overloaded the braking distance changes. So it’s much harder to stop an overloaded vehicle, that distance changes. So a driver who typically will slow down or stop in his normal operating business, will not be prepared for that when it’s overloaded. And so the risk of an accident or collision goes up significantly when you’re talking about an overloaded vehicle, but it’s also just the handling. The handling of an overloaded truck isn’t the same. Any driver will tell you that they know that there’s a difference when the truck is overloaded, it doesn’t handle the same. It doesn’t turn the same. So it becomes a lot less safe. And there’s other things that are affected. Like spin-outs are more common with overloaded trucks, meaning there could be rear end collisions. They don’t handle as well on declines. So the risk of jack knives and other accidents like that increase. So anytime you have an overloaded truck, it becomes a less safe truck. And that obviously brings into other things like liability. Obviously, if you’re overloaded and you’re in an accident that can cause you some liability concerns because one of the things that DOT will do, if there’s an accident is they’ll check the weight. And if it’s known that it’s overweight, then you’ve got some potential liability issues on your hands.

Jamie Irvine:

We have a lot of manufacturers on the heavy-duty parts report. And what we know is that they manufacture their specific products, let’s say it’s suspension or brakes or steering components or whatever it is to the specifications that are outlined by the legal requirements. So as soon as you exceed, you’re changing everything.

Michael Ferguson:

Absolutely. Yeah, so I think we’ll talk about it later, but it’s not just safety then you’re talking about the wear and tear and the maintenance and you’re right in today’s world, manufacturers are building everything lighter. The idea is to get your maximum payload possible. So everything’s being built lighter. So trailers are designed to be light. Tractors are designed to be light. So the lighter you make, those the less durable they become. So keeping within those specs is very important because once you overload those, it’s not just safety, but you can start breaking things well. And if you start breaking things, then obviously, if you break an axle, when you definitely unsafe or, you know, something like that. So whatever the case is, that vehicle becomes less safe when you exceed those parameters.

Jamie Irvine:

Let’s talk about the other side of the equation. What is the problem with being underloaded?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah, so that’s a significant issue in the industry. Now, one of the reasons that occurs is because of the overloading issues, that’s what drives the underloading. So in order to deal with maximum weight, drivers who don’t have the capability to measure what their weight is in real time, when they’re getting loaded, they have to do something to measure that. So what they’ll do is they’ll go find a scale somewhere, drive to it, to check what their weight is to make sure they’re not overloaded. That causes lots of out of route miles, extra fuel, you’re wasting hours of service time. So what some fleets will do is they will intentionally underload just to avoid that issue. The problem with underloading is you’re no longer maximizing your profitability. You’re leaving cargo at the dock or the loading site. So you might need to use extra trips, extra trucks to carry the same amount of cargo that you would normally carry if you maximize that trailer. So really it comes down to optimization and efficiency. And if you’re not optimizing that payload, then you’re just going to be less profitable and you’re going to be wasting time and money.

Jamie Irvine:

There’s an impact on society too, because as you’re describing that, I’m thinking about the additional trips, that’s extra wear and tear on the highways, that’s more emissions. There’s so many spinoff reasons why underloading isn’t a good thing.

Michael Ferguson:

You’re right. Not just the fleet itself and for the drivers, but the rest of the world, that it has the impact on. Yeah, you’re talking about extra miles, extra accidents, extra pollution. Like you mentioned, all of those are factors with underloading. So if you can maximize that payload and get every last pound that you can, every time, then all those things will get better. And then the company will not just be more profitable, but there’ll be better citizens of the world.

Jamie Irvine:

You mentioned the wear and tear on the trucks and trailers and you know at the Heavy-Duty Parts Report we’re always trying to help people understand how to lower total cost of operation, how to lower costs per mile. And we’re always talking about using high-quality parts, but if you’re not using the truck and trailer correctly, you can negate some of the benefits of high quality parts. So can you tell me a little bit more about the kind of long-term impact it can have on a fleet?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah. So it’s a harder one to see because it’s a more of a hidden expense because maintenance is just part of operating a fleet. However, if you have an overloaded truck or even an underloaded truck, that’s not handling the same and you’re putting extra abuse, you’re breaking things that you don’t normally break. So these trucks go in for their normal maintenance, whatever that cycle is. But when you have to bring trucks in for unscheduled maintenance it is a huge burden on the fleet, both cost and time. So on an overloaded truck you’re breaking axles, you’re breaking tie rods, you’re damaging the trains, whatever the case is. So if it needs to be repaired and that trucks got to spend that time in the shop. So an idle truck is a truck that’s not making you any money. And even if you use all the best parts, they’re still not designed to be overstressed beyond what their parameters are. So maintenance is a huge expense for overloaded vehicles. And then if you think about it, even an underloaded vehicle, the vehicle balance is everything for truck and trailer. An unbalanced truck is an unsafe truck and an unbalanced truck is one that’s got more wear and tear in places. It shouldn’t. So if you’ve got all that weight sitting on the trailer suspension and the front is kind of popping a wheelie, if you will, that’s not what it’s supposed to do. So it’s going to do an wear and tear on certain aspects and certain parts. So spend more time in the shop than it does on the road.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up apart. Diesel Parts is a cross-reference and parts lookup tool that makes it easier to identify heavy-duty parts than ever before. Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about overloading, underloading the impact on parts. Michael, what solution does Air Weigh provide for tractors?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah, so overall it’s an onboard digital scale system. Simplest way to think about it is you’re going to get your real world weights in real time at the loading site. So you’re going to have a digital display that’s going to show you your steer weight, your driveway, your trailer weight, your gross vehicle weight, and the net weight. So you’re going to get all of those weights statuses in real time while you’re at the loading site. So you don’t have to worry about if you’re overloaded or underloaded. You’re going to know right there. And we have different options for different customers. We have the LoadMaxx Plus series of scales. The LoadMaxx series is a drop and hook capable system. So it goes on the truck and the trailer, but the two scales communicate with each other. So you can drop and hook any truck with any trailer, we use multiplexing technology. So the two scales will talk to each other. Once the truck is connected to the trailer and it won’t matter which one is connected to which one. And then that system also has Bluetooth so you can get the weights on your smartphone and email those back to the home office. Or if a driver’s not in his cab, you’ll have access to the weights on his phone. And then that also has full integration capabilities with other devices, onboard computers and Geotab, things like that. But then we also have the quick load series of products for customers that maybe just have one truck and one trailer, Owner operators that aren’t dropping and hooking it’s a less expensive way, doesn’t have all the advanced features, but still provides all the in-cab digital weight data for the steer drive, trailer, GVW and net payload. And we have some other products that are just, that are called dedicated for one truck, one trailer.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. It sounds like you have everything covered, but I want to break that down a little bit and make sure I understand correctly. So you have an option for the, let’s say owner operator of a truck who’s coming into multiple different yards hooking up to multiple different trailers. How does that work? Because let’s say the fleet that owns the trailer doesn’t have your device on the trailer.

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah, that’s a good question. So if you’ve got an owner-operator that owns the tractor and he’s pulling fleet trailers, then what you can put on that tractor is the tractor scale. That’ll provide a very accurate steer and drive digital weight. You won’t see the trailer weight necessarily unless the fleet decides to equip the trailers with the scales as well, but that’s still better because at least the driver knows the steer drive is accurate and especially on a balanced staged load, they can see that the steer is 12,000, the drive is 34,000. If they know the tearaways good, they know the trailers good too then. It gets a little more challenging if the tear weight is unknown and you’re trying to load that. But even if you only knew the steer and the drive, that’s still better than not knowing any of the information. We do have a lot of customers that do that. And then they have us start working with the fleets that own the trailers to see if we can get scales on the trailers. So when you do hook onto that trailer, you’ll see all of the weights.

Jamie Irvine:

So from a fleet perspective, if you only own trailers you still want this on there, but then you could encourage your owner operators. And if you own the trucks and the trailers, that’s the best of both worlds, because then you can buy the solution for both?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah. So they’re all independent. So you can get a scale just for the tractor or just for the trailer and they operate great and they’re independent of each other. Or you can get both, they’ll start communicating with each other, which like you said, this is the best of the both worlds. But like you said, if you have just as the scales on the trailers, you’re still at least going to know you’re legal and not over on the trailer suspension and better than not having any of that information. Even if the driver doesn’t have it on his tractor.

Jamie Irvine:

And realistically, if you’re right on the trailer, you’re right with the tractor.

Michael Ferguson:

It’s an even load and staged load, then that’s most common. Yes, that’s correct.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. You mentioned that there’s an in-cab display and then you said Bluetooth. So it’s a downloadable app for the phone?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah. There’s a free app on the app store for your smartphone. So you just download it for free, doesn’t cost, anything. And then you just pair it with the scale that’s in the cab and then you’ll have access to the weights on your phone. So the you’ll see your steer, drive, trailer, GVW, all that weight information will be on your phone. You can calibrate through your phone, you can do all that through the phone. And then it has a feature where you can email that back to the back office. So if the back office wants to see those weights, driver can just hit the button that emails those weights, and then they can get them in the back office if that’s what they want to do.

Jamie Irvine:

Is that for Apple and Android?

Michael Ferguson:

Yes, Apple and Android.

Jamie Irvine:

Michael, is this a system only for air ride suspension or does it work on all the different kinds of suspensions?

Michael Ferguson:

That’s an excellent question. And the answer is we work on all the suspensions out there. So for an air ride suspension, we use an air sensor and basically we’re just measuring the air pressure in the air suspension, translating that to a digital weight. If you have a spring or mechanical suspension, we don’t use the air sensors obviously, we use deflection sensors. So the deflection sensor, depending on what suspension type you have, will determine how many deflection sensors you get and where they’re mounted. And basically the simplest terms, as you add weight, the suspension or the axle or wherever we mount that deflection sensor, you’ll get flex or bend, even though you can’t see with the naked eye. And we measure minute changes in flex and bend, and then we can translate that to a digital weight. So we have solutions for just about every application out there.

Jamie Irvine:

So on the air ride, is it just plugged into the ECU and on the mechanical suspension you have to install the sensors. Is that what I understand?

Michael Ferguson:

All the systems get the same ECU, it’s just in the same cable. The only thing different is the sensors. So the air sensors on an air ride get plugged directly into the airbag system, top of the airbag we T into that. And then that airline gets plugged into the back of the ECU unit. And then for a deflection sensor, there’s just a cable that plugs directly into the ECU from the deflection sensor.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay well I’m a parts guy, not a technician so thanks for clarifying that for me. We talked a lot about trucks and trailers, but I understand that you have solutions for other types of units. Could you tell us just a little bit more?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah. So we basically, if it’s a truck that’s larger than like an F 650 or 550, anything above that we have a solution for. So we put scales on roll-off trucks all time. You can imagine driving up and picking up a container. You really want to know at that time, what that weighs and not try to find out later. We put our scales on garbage trucks, a lot of garbage trucks, especially front loaders. We have a scale system called BinMaxx that’ll weigh individual bins for front end loaders. Like I mentioned, we put them on 650s, utility trucks. We have a lot of utility customers that put our scales on their vehicles. So it’s a wide range of options that we have out there. So if you have a heavy-duty vehicle of any kind, we probably have a solution that’ll give you weights for that vehicle.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. I was thinking like moving trucks, waste disposal, like all of those different vocations are going to have this need for sure.

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah. It’s interesting you mentioned moving because we have a large customer that leaves containers at your house or your business, lets you load them and then they come pick them up later. They brought our scales on all of their equipment because you’re right, they need to know what that weighs when they pick it up for all the reasons we already talked about, for the maintenance and then to make sure they’re not going to get a fine for being overweight.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take another quick break, we’ll be right back. When repairing a diesel engine, it is essential to only use high quality engine parts. AFA industries manufacturers OEM quality, complete in-frame kits, replacement engine parts and seals and gaskets for diesel engines at great aftermarket prices. To learn more, go to AFAindustries.com where you can request them to direct you to a local distributor. Check out AFAindustries.com today. We’re back from our break and before the break we were talking about Air Weighs solutions and how diverse they are and how they really can be used for truck and trailer. So that was great to get that overview. Michael, walk me through a real world example of how a fleet uses these scales and how it impacted them in a positive way.

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah, so we have a ton of examples. It’s across spectrum of all different types of fleets. We have equipment haulers, we have grain haulers, beverage haulers, everything in between. One example is we have a customer that hauls brewers grain. So the driver will back in under those chutes and then the driver has to get out, walk up on the catwalk, open the chute to load that trailer from the top. If you know anything about brewers grain the consistency is never the same. The moisture content is never the same. It’s been in the weather and the process. So the weight’s never the same. So before our scales, those drivers would look at a line inside that trailer and try to do their best to load that line. But it was never accurate because that consistency is different. So once they were loaded, they would have to go out to the front and they get weighed before they leave. So if they’re unloaded that driver has to make a decision. Okay, is it worth going back and getting back in line to try to put a little more or should I just go and leave some weight at the site, which is not good. Or if he’s overloaded, they won’t let him leave. He has to go back and then the driver jumps up into the trailer and shovels the brewers grain out until he’s legal. So with our scales, what they’re able to do is they’re able to look at those weights and we have an alarm feature. So they put a light on the top of their cabs that will give them warnings to let them know when to stop loading that way they were able to maximize that payload every time and they didn’t have to worry about it. They never had to jump up into those trucks and shovel stuff out, which is a safety issue. And then they didn’t have to worry about leaving payload there and they could maximize the profitability. So this was one example and there’s tons of other examples for bulk haulers like that. And another example, if I may real quick is we have a large beverage hauler that uses our scales and it’s all about efficiency and optimization for them. So they underload quite often because they don’t want to deal with overweight fines and trying to find a scale to check their weight. So they would underload quite often, they just weren’t sure how much they were under loading. So once they put the scales on, they did realize that sometimes it was 15 – 20% that there were underloading without realizing it. So they integrated our scales with Geotab. So they get real-time back office monthly reports that show by asset number, how well they’re doing. They can look at an asset and say, this one is consistently under loaded. This one’s doing great. This location has a lot of trucks that are underloaded, let’s find out why and let’s fix that, this location is consistently overloading. So they were able to address those issues by adding and scales, integrating with an onboard computer, like Geotab,

Jamie Irvine:

As we’ve been discussing this, you’ve been talking about the data that gets created by these scales. How important is the data management in all of this? Like what role does it play in the modern fleet?

Michael Ferguson:

Yeah, that’s huge. Everything in the modern fleet is about sensors and data. Getting that information, all these trucks and trailers are having more and more sensors, collecting more and more information and then collecting that data. And then what do you do with it? And really it all comes down to optimization and efficiency. The more data you have, the more efficient you’re going to be as a fleet. So if you’re able to capture all your weight data in real time from the loading sites and use that information to improve your operation, either because you’re under loading or overloading, that’s everything in today’s modern fleet and it affects all the other stuff, fuel, wear and tear on the tires, hours of service, all of that stuff is impacted by collecting that data and weight data is one of the most important things you can be collecting.

Jamie Irvine:

If you want people to remember just one thing from today’s conversation, what’s that one thing?

Michael Ferguson:

I’ve said it several times, I think it’s optimization and efficiency. If you want to optimize and be efficient, you’ve got to collect that data. And again, having Air Weigh onboard scales is one of the most important things you can do because that data is so vital to your operations and making sure that you are optimizing and that you’re efficiently operating.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Michael Ferguson, who is the national sales manager for Air Weigh. To learn more you can go to air-weigh.com. Michael, thank you for being on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Michael Ferguson:

Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Jamie Irvine:

Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And I’d just like to remind everyone to focus on cost per mile and let’s keep those trucks and trailers rolling.

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