A wrap on Roadcheck: Laying down the law in Massachusetts

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Updated May 23, 2022
mobile scales massachusetts road check
A Massachusetts State Police officer takes out the mobile scales to weigh a truck during inspection.
Alex Lockie for Overdrive

On a rainy Thursday, May 19, on I-91 in Deerfield, Massachusetts, local police, state police, Department of Motor Vehicle officers, and the FMCSA itself outnumbered drivers at least two-to-one in a Roadcheck enforcement blitz that resulted in no shortage of arrests and out-of-service violations.

State Police Officer Mike Tucker noted the previous two days of 8 a.m.-7 p.m. inspections had been eventful. As he spoke, three box trucks took up almost the entire length of the small weigh station on the southbound side of the highway. Clearly visible, the northbound weigh station hosted only box trucks as well. 

And the weigh station sign on the interstate marked it as closed. The small weigh stations on this stretch of I-91 quickly filled up and could scarcely fit more than two tractor-trailers, and even the three box trucks didn't leave much room to spare. 

Massachusetts Roadcheck inspectionsRoadcheck event off I-91 in Deerfield, Massachusetts. The inspection blitz took place in a small weigh station that frequently had to shut down as it filled up.Alex Lockie for Overdrive

“We only do Level 1 inspections here,” said Tucker. Rather than checking every single truck on the road, as was the case farther North on I-91 in Vermont, Massachusetts focuses on more closely inspecting a smaller number of trucks. 

Perhaps the result of those closer inspections, Tucker had just returned from assisting the OUI arrest of a box truck driver who was already out of service on a previous violation. “He got it straight up revoked for life,” said Tucker, who said that his earlier offense had been caught while the operator was running the opposite direction on the same stretch of road. Overall, Tucker said the inspections resulted in multiple arrests each day so far of Roadcheck, with an “unbelievable” number of drivers being found with personal-use cannabis, many fewer with alcohol. 

“Once in a while” his team would find some banned substance on a Class 8 CDL driver, but Tucker seemed more focused on what he called “fly-by-night” operators of smaller rigs from out of state.

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The small weigh station operation proved potent, with Tucker demonstrating how portable scales took the place of fixed weighing infrastructure. 

truck wheel on portable scalesCurrently, Massachusetts only opens its scales one or two days a week, which Tucker chalked up to “manpower shortages.”Alex Lockie for Overdrive

In any case, Tucker found enforcement most effective when his team weighed trucks pulled over on the highway. “We get our good weighs then, especially in the middle of the night.” Looking at Overdrive's latest mining of federal inspection data in the long-running CSA's Data Trail series, last year Massachusetts conducted fewer fixed-location inspections than any state in the country.

One of the most common overweight offenders? Tucker said he can find multiple hotshot haulers overweight on any given day of Roadcheck: “They try to put three big cars on a trailer, and if it’s two SUVs or more they can easily be over.”

With Class 8s, dump trucks hauling aggregate or stone are the most common offenders -- often found overweight under seeming cover of darkness, Tucker added.  

box truck and police SUV during RoadcheckThough enforcement action was taken at the Deerfield station, none that Overdrive witnessed Thursday was targeted at Class 8 tractor-trailers.Alex Lockie for Overdrive

Tucker was joined by an FMCSA agent and at least two other local police units in Deerfield. Massachusetts serves as a training hub for inspectors all across New England, and Tucker himself served as a trainer for many. He stressed the efforts of state and federal enforcement to inspect and enforce code evenly across the country.

“It’s great for training,” said Tucker. “One reason we do it is because if we see something obscure, then we can train everybody on it.”

FMCSA's rep at the location on I-91 lauded the Western Massachusetts team particularly for its communication with the driving community,. "The fact that everyone is here tells you why it’s good, because of communication,” said the FMCSA officer. “You don’t see any big trucks here because professional truckers know" about this particular Roadcheck location, "because the team works with the drivers and communicates.”

With upward of an hour spent in the rain off I-91 in Massachusetts, not a single Class 8 tractor-trailer was stopped. 

[Related: Five most common reasons wheel seals fail -- and other Roadcheck-ready resources]

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