Onboard computers are a tough sell in an economic environment where truck operators have to be especially diligent stretching their equipment purchasing dollars. But in many applications, the payback for an onboard load scale system is far greater than the initial cost. To help fleets get started, some onboard scale manufacturers have initiated special financing programs.

This spring, for example, TruckWeight, with headquarters in Halifax, Nova Scotia, announced a financing program designed to help customers improve cash flow while acquiring a beneficial asset that helps meet their payload targets. Under the arrangement, TruckWeight — in cooperation with Canada's export credit agency — is providing up to $100,000 in unsecured financing to qualifying commercial truck fleets for purchase of the Smart Scale wireless onboard scale.

TruckWeight introduced the Smart Scale wireless onboard scale in 2005. Designed for vehicles equipped with air-ride suspensions, it measures temperature and pressure changes in the vehicle air suspension and converts the data into an on-the-ground weight calculation that's accurate to within 0.3% compared to a certified scale, the company reports. The information is then relayed wirelessly to a handheld reader with a range of 500 ft.

Last month TruckWeight released a Smart Scale for mechanical spring suspensions. Like its air-suspension cousin, the big advantage of this model over hardwired versions is that it allows fleets to actively manage the weight of an untethered trailer as it is being loaded, and to do so anywhere within a 500-ft. range of the vehicle. This eliminates the necessity of hooking up to a tractor and burning fuel in order to power the scale and use the dash-mounted readout.

“Since its release in 2005,” says Peter Panagapko, president of TruckWeight, “Smart Scale has been a hit with customers with air-ride suspensions. By applying our wireless technology to mechanical suspensions, we now offer a simple, accurate, convenient way to remotely monitor axles and gross vehicle weights on virtually any commercial vehicle.”

The Smart Scale for mechanical suspensions includes an axle-mounted load sensor, a low-powered radio transmitter and a handheld wireless receiver. The load sensor measures the deflection of the axle, a reliable indicator of the amount of weight the axle is bearing, the company advises. It feeds this data to the transmitter, which relays it to the handheld receiver. The handheld reader calculates an axle weight and gross vehicle weight (GVW) measurement that's accurate to within 1% compared to a certified scale.

Another benefit of the new Smart Scale is that it uses AA batteries for power so it does not require electricity from a truck or tractor. One handheld receiver can monitor both mechanical spring and air-ride sensors on the same vehicle or combination. Its ability to distinguish unique vehicles means it's suited to fleets that interchange equipment with air-ride and mechanical spring suspensions.

The new Smart Scale with axle-load sensing technology also eliminates the installation expense and maintenance associated with hardwired scales and load cells. The axle-load sensor with low-powered RF signal can be used on a range of commercial equipment, including severe-duty trailers and railcars.

COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT

“Most fleets are realizing that in order to remain competitive in today's economy, they have to find new ways to increase efficiency. Onboard load scales are gaining recognition for being one of the most effective tools to do that,” says Scott McCulloch, Right Weigh director of communications and business development. He explains that one of the primary advantages of onboard weighing is the reduction of out-of-route miles, a typical situation for fleets that use public scales. “Our customers find that as the cost of diesel continues to rise, so do the savings directly associated with onboard weighing.”

A trend Right Weigh sees in the industry is a shift away from expensive, complicated onboard load weighing systems to more affordable ones that are easier to operate. The manufacturer says it can meet fleet needs with scales that provide the same real weight information as the expensive products but at a fraction of the cost. For example, Right Weigh can outfit a tractor and a trailer for under $200.

“Our price point makes onboard weighing an accessible investment for most fleets, from the two- or three-truck companies on up to the national carriers like Prime Inc.,” McCulloch points out. He adds that Prime Inc. has been working with Right Weigh the last two years to outfit its entire fleet of Class 8 trucks and trailers with the company's scales.

Based on customer requests for onboard scales that can be flush-mounted on a truck or trailer without requiring any protective enclosure for the gauges, Right Weigh introduced a new line of liquid-filled, calibrating onboard load scales at the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in March. The load scales utilize on-the-face calibration for customization, with accurate weight readings to within 250 lbs. or less.

Another new introduction this year is a redesigned protective enclosure in which Right Weigh scale assemblies come preinstalled. The manufacturer has also upgraded to a heavier duty, double-latching copolymer box, now included at no additional cost to customers.

AFFORDABLY PRICED

Air-Weigh also introduced a new onboard scale product at MATS this year. Designed for use on dedicated tractor-trailer configurations and straight trucks, QuickLoad incorporates state-of-the-art hardware and software technology, yet is affordably priced, according to the manufacturer. The scale allows for monitoring up to four axle groups on a compact in-dash display and automatically calculates GVW and net payload. Other features include warning and overweight alarm outputs, dual-point calibration for accurate weight readings at any load weight and easy installation.

Last fall, Air-Weigh unveiled a new in-cab electronic scale called LoadMaxx. The scale offers a J1939/CAN bus interface that allows dash displays and onboard computers to easily obtain weight information for wireless transmission to fleet headquarters or viewing by the driver in the cab. Two programmable weight alarm outputs can be used to warn the driver when an axle group weight or GVW exceeds legal limits.

“More and more fleets are seeing the pressure of increased weight enforcement and the impending need to maximize payload before leaving the loading site,” says Jim Morton, product manager for Air-Weigh. “With cost per mile skyrocketing, driven by fuel prices, taking every pound of payload possible is paramount to maximizing equipment and HOS [hours of service] utilization.”

With an Air-Weigh scale, Morton explains, drivers can maximize their loads without going to an in-ground scale, saving on both fuel and hours of service. Air-Weigh has truck, tractor and trailer scale models for both air- and mechanical-suspension vehicles. In addition, the company has a range of scales to meet customer requirements from entry level to feature-rich, high-end models.

“Today's fleets want integrated, in-dash solutions to monitor axle weight, payload weight and GVW,” Morton reports. “Although aftermarket products will provide tremendous benefits to existing equipment, for new equipment it's much easier to finance and deploy if the onboard scale comes from the factory as part of the vehicle.” Air-Weigh has relationships with over 80 equipment OEMs, so fleets can purchase an Air-Weigh scale as part of a new truck or trailer purchase.

Morton goes on to say that fleets also want the ability to transmit weight information from the vehicle to their company's home office so management can direct equipment utilization by vehicle, by contract, and by shipper. Air-Weigh scales have features that allow for integration to an onboard computer (OBC) through J1708, J1939 or RS-232. The OBC can store and/or transmit weight information over a wireless network to the home office.

“We also have tractor and trailer scales that automatically communicate with each other,” Morton explains. “This makes it easy for drivers to legalize combination vehicles by simply monitoring all of the axle weights and GVW in the cab.”

Air-Weigh scales are accurate in all types of operating environments and at different altitudes, Morton points out. Every scale includes two-point calibration. “Air gauges, or mechanical ‘load scales’ with a set screw calibration, can only be accurate at a single point — the point at which the set screw was set. Any divergence from that point introduces error. Air-Weigh scales, however, with their dual-point calibration are accurate through the entire operating range.”

Fleet customers can determine payback for their specific applications by using Air-Weigh's online ROI (return on investment) calculator at www.air-weighscales.com/roi/roicalculator.cfm. Simply fill out the online form and click “Get ROI Statement” to see your calculated savings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEB SITES:

AIR-WEIGH
www.air-weigh.com

RIGHT WEIGH
www.rwls.com

5MARANGONI TREAD N.A.

TRUCKWEIGHT
www.truckweight.com

VULCAN ON-BOARD SCALES
www.vulcanscales.com