Weighing in on Success

The late Bill Moon got the idea to build a better truck scale in the mid-1970s while operating his Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott. When he opened his first Cat Scale in 1977 in South Holland, Ill., he started a side business that helped revolutionize the trucking industry.

Today, his daughter, Delia Moon Meier, who is senior vice president of Cat Scale, says old-fashioned persistence was the key to the ultimate triumph of her father, who died in 1992.

“All truckstops had an axle scale,” she says, “but it was often broken because truckstop operators had too much to worry about and the scale
was at the bottom of their list. Drivers would pull up and find a barrel in front of it for months at a time.”

She says even when the old system was working, the process was difficult. The scale could weigh only one axle at a time, so the driver would have to get out of the cab to read and record the weight for each axle. He would then have to add the numbers up himself.

Bill Moon, the man who ran the Iowa 80 Truckstop, started Cat Scale by understanding truckers’ needs and truckstop managers’ time limitations. One key to his success was believing an entire tractor-trailer rig’s axles could all be weighed at one time.

“We heard a lot of complaints, so my father began trying to figure out what to do,” Meier says. “He wanted to have scales that would be accurate, open at all times, and that would weigh the whole truck at once. One day a trucker told him he’d actually seen a scale that would weigh the whole combination together and how great he thought it was to be able to do that. This convinced my father his idea could be made to work and would fill a great need.”

Meier says her father first went to the folks at Toledo Scale. “They couldn’t quite figure out how to solve all the problems,” she says. “But, Dad persisted in his search for answers. And, amazingly, he later spoke with a distributor of theirs who thought he could make it work! The trick would be to link three separate scales together electronically.”

Thus began a research and development process that consumed dollars but established Bill Moon’s belief in a new kind of business. He would create a company that would install easy-to-use scales at truckstops. The truckstop operator would operate the scale with his staff, but Cat Scale would install and maintain it, since the biggest headache for the operator was the maintenance. The two would become business partners and share the revenue. There would likely be plenty of business because weighing would be fast and accurate.

After that initial 1977 opening, the company grew to 28 scales in 10 years, and then went into a more rapid expansion phase. It grew to 33 scales by 1988, 141 by 1990, 395 by 1995, 714 by 2000 and 825 by 2002.

“We were able to take a neglected area of the truckstop service industry, and by concentrating on just the scale, make a success of it,” says Meier. “The secret was putting in the research and development dollars, and then running the scale like it’s supposed to be a profit center. People came pouring in once they found we had the scale running all the time.”

CAT Scale’s 24-hour help desk looks a little like a war room. The staff helps answer customers’ questions, and they can patch into all of their scales’ electronics to diagnose any problems that might crop up.

The ultimate Cat Scale design was 80-ft long and computerized. It will weigh most rigs. Those that are longer can still be weighed easily enough-the driver just pulls forward at one point to get the axle or axles not weighed the first time over one of the scales. When all the axle weights have been determined, the computer adds the figures.

Today, when a customer calls in with a complaint about the operation of a unit, Cat Scale personnel can log into its computer and get an indication of what is wrong right away. The company runs its own fleet of eight service trucks, and also contracts with local scale repair outfits. When there’s a problem, they weigh their options to figure out how to get the unit back in service as quickly as possible.

Cat Scale’s units are re-calibrated quarterly, and weights come with an unconditional guarantee. If the driver gets an overweight fine after weighing out legally on a Cat brand scale, the company will either pay the fine or appear in court to vouch for the driver as an expert witness in an attempt to get the citation dismissed.