Scaling A Flatbed Load

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Old School's Comment
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It's not very often that I need to put my flatbed on a CAT scale to make sure it's legal. We are using 53 foot trailers with a split axle arrangement which allows us to have 40,000 pounds on the rear axles. Most of the time you will be legal, as long as you do not exceed the gross weight of 80,000 pounds. Occasionally I come across an interesting scenario that makes me have to think twice about the way my load is distributed on my trailer. Here is a recent example that some of you may find entertaining, if not informative.

These trailers have the rear most axle set at about 48 feet from the kingpin. The forward axle on these trailers is fixed, but the rear axle can be slid forward so that you now have a set of tandems. This allows you to be legal in those states which have a 41 foot kingpin rule. Of course when it is configured as a set of tandems , that changes the weight limit on those rear axles to 34,000 pounds. Do you see how this can become an issue? confused.gif

Last week I made a run from Louisiana that had stops in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and upstate New York. After that I picked up a pre-loaded trailer from the SAPA plant in Cressona, Pennsylvania. It was my backhaul load to get me back down South, and it's destination was Tampa, Florida. They always have us go over the scale at the plant, and everything appeared to be legal. My axles were in the split position, and as I pulled over the scale I paused each time I put a new set of axles on the scale, doing the math in my head, just to confirm that all was well.

I pulled out into the parking area feeling confident my load was legal, when the problem I was facing started dawning on me. I'm traveling through Maryland, and then my destination is Florida, neither of which allows this current configuration of my rear axles. Take a look at this CAT scale ticket and you'll see how I'm in trouble on this one.

0284639001533414427.jpg

37,560 pounds on my rear split axles is perfectly legal here in Pennsylvania, where they loaded me. But... I'll need to set those axles up as a set of tandems to be legal in Maryland and Florida. Of course I will then be illegal because of the weight. I had to get the load reworked, which frustrated the SAPA loaders who argued with me about it being perfectly legal. After some consternation they agreed to pull off of what they were busy with and set to rearranging the materials on my trailer.

Since my math seemed to be a little better than theirs, they let me show them how I wanted it loaded. It all worked out in the end, and I left the plant as the only happy person involved with this load. Here's how it ended up.

0835424001533415241.jpg

Those of you who are really observant will notice a difference in the gross weight. That's because I topped off the fuel tanks before I re-weighed it. I just wanted to make sure I was good everywhere before I started having to answer some probing questions at the weigh stations.

I shared all this for those of you new to this career. You have to make a plan that considers each state you travel through as you leave your shipper. You are responsible for making sure you're legal all the way to your final destination. You can't blindly rely on the shipper to get it right for you without confirming the weights on a scale and against the route you're taking.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

CAT Scale:

A network of over 1,500 certified truck scales across the U.S. and Canada found primarily at truck stops. CAT scales are by far the most trustworthy scales out there.

In fact, CAT Scale offers an unconditional Guarantee:

“If you get an overweight fine from the state after our scale showed your legal, we will immediately check our scale. If our scale is wrong, we will reimburse you for the fine. If our scale is correct, a representative of CAT Scale Company will appear in court with the driver as a witness”

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Chip Bagg's Comment
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I'm curious did they have to take everything back off and redo it than? Or just some of it.

Old School's Comment
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We just started rearranging it. They had the heaviest parts in the middle of the load. It was sort of arranged in three different sections (front, rear, and middle). The stuff in the rear couldn't be rearranged due to the order of the stops on the load, but we could take some of the heavier pieces in the middle and move them on top of the materials in the front.

As you can see we barely got it legal. Had our plan not worked, it would have all had to be removed and start over with a new layout. Fortunately we squeaked by on it. This was an unusual example. In the last five years I can only think of two loads that I had to get reworked like this.

Chip Bagg's Comment
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Flatbed has always been interesting to me. Certainly not simple Bob kind of work.

Turtle's Comment
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Interesting thread OS. I often have to pull 53ft flats. Getting the weight distributed properly can indeed be tricky sometimes. A 53ft stepdeck is even worse to balance when going through "open" and "closed" axle states in the same run.

Your trailer must be set up differently than mine, because I could've legally made that run the way it was originally loaded.

Our trailers are set up so that we have no more than 41ft spacing when open. That's legal in MD. Prime's computers even generate an automated QC mssg to leave axles open anytime we're dispatched through there. Likewise, we get messages to close axles in NY, CT, WI, FL, & CA.

Closing the axles would put us at or over the maximum overhang allowed in MD. I've never actually measured the overhang but haven't had to.

As for Florida, yes you have to close the axles. But you're allowed 44000 on tandems , so you would've been ok there.

Other "closed" axle states like CT & NY allow 36000 on tandems instead of 34000. Only WI and CA hold you to the 34000.

Obviously, closing the axles adds weight to the trailer. So the states that allow more weight at least make it easier to balance weight from state to state.

I do wish every state would follow the same guidelines though. It would be so much more simple.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Stepdeck:

A stepdeck , also referred to as "dropdeck", is a type of flatbed trailer that has one built in step to the deck to provide the capabilities of loading higher dimensional freight on the lower deck.

Old School's Comment
member avatar
As for Florida, yes you have to close the axles. But you're allowed 44000 on tandems , so you would've been ok there.

Now, I'm glad I posted this. I learned something. It seems everyday I keep learning new things with this job.

Your trailer must be set up differently than mine, because I could've legally made that run the way it was originally loaded.

These trailers are set up so the rear axle is basically as far back as it will go. We have a few that are set up more like Prime's, but not many. I've heard those trailers referred to as a "Califonia split axle."

I guess my thinking was that I wanted to set my axles before I left and run the load the whole way without changing them everytime I crossed a state line. So to do that I needed to re-balance the weight distribution.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Turtle's Comment
member avatar

I agree. Given the time, I'd much prefer to have the shipper rework it. Especially Cressona haha. I haul from there quite often too, and get some interesting load configurations at times.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

andhe78's Comment
member avatar

This is interesting old school and an aspect of flatbedding I don’t think about much dragging forty eight footers. Thanks.

PlanB's Comment
member avatar

During my team phase of training the very first load my trainer left me alone to handle by myself was picking up a beer load that was going from northern FL to southern FL. After making some facepalm silly mistakes I finally got up to the guard shack and was directed to the scales before I exited. The trailer tandems were way over 34k so I came back around after sliding my tandems to try again. The guard looked at me puzzled....."What's wrong" After explaining that I was trying to balance the load so the trailer tandems weren't overweight she brought me into the office and showed me this notice on the wall explaining that in FL you are allowed 44k on the tandems.

I looked at her like...

0001118001533760658.jpg

So to play it safe I slid my tandems waaaay back until finally both the drive and trailer access we under 34k.

Later on my trainer and I looked it up because he had never heard of that either.

Turned out she wasn't lying to me lol

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Turtle's Comment
member avatar

A little side note to consider regarding weights:

You're limited to the weight rating of each individual component, ie tires, axles, etc.

So if your axles are rated at 20k each, you can only run with 40k on your tandems instead of 44k in FL. I doubt they would actually check that but....

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

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