Keeping Drivers Safe: Innovative state partnership wins national safety award

By guest blogger Alice Fiman

AIRS system displays the results of each vehicle's scan.
As one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, Washington has many big trucks traveling its highways.

In early November, the Roadway Safety Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration honored our agency along with the Washington State Patrol for our joint project developing a new way to get big trucks with unsafe brakes off the road.

It was close to three years ago when our Commercial Vehicle Services and Statewide Transportation and Collision Data Office joined forces with WSP to develop the automated infrared roadside screening (AIRS).

AIRS was first deployed at the northbound Interstate 5 DuPont weigh station.  Based on this success, we are scheduled to install the system at all 11 of Washington’s interstate weigh stations and ports of entry. 

WSDOT project team: Left to right: Ken Lakey STCDO,
Vic Bagnell CVS, Rich Rackleff STCDO,
and Nghia  Chau, STCDO
 AIRS starts when an infrared camera, buried in the center of the off-ramp lane, scans and analyzes the undercarriage of a vehicle entering a weigh station. A WSP Commercial Vehicle Officer can then see a display of each vehicle’s scan. Hot or warm brakes show up a reddish color, with colder brakes in blue. Good working brakes show signs of heat so, in this case, red is good. WSP’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement staff use the information to determine if the vehicle needs closer inspection.

During software testing, WSP took a total of 12 trucks out of service over a two-day period. One of those trucks was leaking brake fluid, another had brake drums that were full of rust, one had a flat tire and still another had a brake air can coming off. 

Why an emphasis on the big trucks? Well, first, because these trucks can be pretty big, there can be more damage and longer traffic delays during a collision. Plus, we have a joint operating agreement with WSP and we often work together in many ways. It’s all about keeping drivers safe and traffic moving.

Specifically in the area of weigh stations, WSP operates all Washington’s weigh stations and ports of entry, while we provide the technical support, such as the computer systems AIRS.