The new Port of Entry facility near the Washington-Idaho border is up and running, seeing a steady stream of trucks roll slowly over the scales as Washington State Patrol commercial vehicle enforcement officers look them over for any problems.
It replaces an older, smaller facility that had less advanced technology and was poorly located.
“This is so much larger, and everything works,” said commercial vehicle enforcement officer Rob Robinson. “It’s nice and new and clean. It’s kind of like moving into a new house.”
The old location forced trucks exiting I-90 to cross Spokane Bridge Road and collisions between trucks and cars were common, Robinson said. The new location is a little farther west and has no such problem. The WSP staff checks to make sure trucks aren’t overweight, inspect oversized loads and make sure driver log books are in order. Many trucks just drive slowly by unless there is a problem.
“As they roll across we look for broken stuff,” Robinson said. “If we see something, we’ll stop them.”
The larger parking lot has more room for trucks and it is under video surveillance, allowing troopers inside the building to see what is going on outside. A large building out back provides a spot out of the weather to do inspections and has a pit to allow troopers easy access to the underside of trucks. At the old location they had to crawl under the trucks in the parking lot, exposed to the weather.
“Normally we had to crawl on a creeper under those things,” Robinson said. “Our inspection time goes from an hour to 20 minutes.”
And if a trooper gets a little dirty from inspecting something like a cattle truck, there’s also a shower available for a quick clean-up.
But the best is yet to come. Some high-tech features have been delayed and are not up and running yet.
“I think we might be at the end of the line for getting this stuff,” he said.
Troopers will soon have the ability to weigh trucks on I-90 as they travel at freeway speeds. If a truck is overweight, that information and a picture of the truck will be flashed to troopers at the weigh station.
Truckers will also have the option of buying transponders that will be read by a scanner as the truck is weighed. If a trucking company has a good safety record and the truck is within weight limits the truck may not have to go through the Port of Entry at all, Robinson said. “He’ll get a bypass,” he said.
Buying the transponders is not a requirement, but Robinson said he hopes trucking companies will buy them because it could save driving time. The system could be up and running as early as this month, he said. “It’s an updated version,” he said. “It’s got some bugs.”
There are also plans to install heat sensors on the ramp from I-90 so trucks are scanned as they approach the weigh station. It will let troopers know if a tire is hot (which means it is likely flat) or if a brake pad is cold (which means it isn’t working).
It’s not unusual for the Port of Entry to see between 500 and 600 trucks a day, Robinson said. But there are some trucks that don’t stop, whether they take back roads to avoid the freeway or just drive right by. There are always patrol cars near the weigh station that troopers use to chase down trucks that don’t stop.
“We do it all the time,” Robinson said. “We call it scale running.”
Most of the time the truck driver simply missed the exit and there’s no harm done. But other times it is deliberate.
“Sometimes they’re up to no good,” he said.