A weigh station under construction on Interstate 95 in Dorchester County should help protect the state's motorists from overloaded tractor-trailers and shield the state's highways from the damage those trucks cause to the pavement.
Previously, trucks barreling up I-95 from Georgia and Florida have not had their weights checked as they drive into South Carolina because there is not a weigh station on that stretch of interstate.
The new weigh station will be one of nine on the state's interstates, but public safety officials said the state will continue to lag in highway safety because of out-of-date scale houses and interstate entry points that still do not have a place to monitor trucks.
Weigh stations are important to highway safety because they keep overloaded commercial vehicles off the roads, said Mark Keel, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety. A heavier vehicle takes longer to stop, putting other motorists in danger when it needs to brake quickly.
Keel and Col. Nick Moore, commander of the S.C. State Transport Police, hope the new weigh station, which is scheduled to open in October, curbs the number of fatalities along the I-95 corridor.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation cannot put a dollar figure on the amount of road damage overloaded trucks cause, spokesman Peter Poore said. But Keel and Moore believe the weight enforcement will benefit the public because overloaded trucks tear up interstates and highways, Moore said.
"You ever pull up to a stop light and see a three to four inch rut?" Moore said.
The public safety department and the SCDOT broke ground earlier this month on the state-of-the-art weigh station, on I-95 northbound in Dorchester County. It will be the first weight station on I-95 North, a major thoroughfare along the East Coast.
The transportation department donated the property, which had been a closed rest area. The public safety department will build and operate the $6.2 million facility.
The new station will feature the latest weigh-in-motion technology, which means trucks will not have to stop or even slow down to be weighed, Keel said. Instead, a scale will be embedded under the pavement about a mile before the truck gets to the station.
As commercial trucks pass over the scale, their weights will be recorded and relayed to the station. If the truck is overweight, it will be given a signal to pull over. The station is the first of its kind in South Carolina.