In general, most truck-scale manufacturers will agree that a weighbridge should last for at least 20 years of standard use (weighing about 200 trucks per day). Of course, that can fluctuate if daily use is more or less than that. However, as a rule, 20 years is a good estimate for these large capital investments. But how can companies more precisely determine the average life span of their truck-scale models? Let's look at a few possible ways:
- Computer simulated & FEA testing: Every truck-scale manufacturer starts their design process by first mocking up a model of their product in a computer-simulated program, such as CAD. Once a design has been approved by engineering in the CAD system, it is then likely put through FEA testing — or Finite Element Analysis. This test looks at the theoretical stress points in the design in an attempt to find any flaws or weak points before the design goes to production. If there are no red flags during this stage, many manufacturers will then send the design to production.
- Physical simulation lifecycle testing: Physically testing a weighbridge design is a much more complicated and expensive process, for this reason most truck scale manufacturers choose to bypass this step. However, it is during physical lifecycle testing that small imperfections in a design can be found. Those imperfections would not show up with computer-simulated testing alone. For that reason, it is important to understand the testing process that is performed on any weighbridge you are considering.
- Actual data from product life in use: The third way truck-scale manufacturers can confidently claim an estimated life on a weighbridge is by years of experience. In the diverse market, there are manufacturers that have been in business for over 50 years, with 30-year-old scales still in use. There are also manufacturers newer to the game — so they have yet to determine how long their scales will truly last.
The best thing you can do to prolong the life of your investment is to invest in quality up front. So make sure to do some research and ask plenty of questions during the buying process.
What Can You Do On Your Own To Extend The Life Of Your Scale?
Just like oil changes and tire rotations, there are things you can do on a regular basis to care for your scale and extend its life. Understanding and utilizing these steps early could add years to the life of your scale.
- Keeping your scale clean: Vehicle scales are located in some of the roughest environments possible. For that reason, they can get packed with mud, debris, weighed materials, oils and corrosive substances. As the scale owner, you should observe your scale on a weekly basis to see if cleaning is needed. A standard power washer usually does the trick. Investing in a load cell system that is waterproof is beneficial for many reasons including the fact that your scale should be cleaned regularly.
- Managing traffic flow: If you have watched trucks drive on and off your scale, you know this process can be quite hard on the scale. As a several-ton truck pulls on to the scale at varying speeds and abruptly stops, it sends a drastic shock wave through the scale weighbridge and down through the load cells. While truck scales are designed to take this beating, it will eventually wear on the key components. As the owner and operator of a truck scale, controlling the traffic flow on to the scale is one way to extend the life of the scale. This can be done through the addition of traffic gates and lights that manage when a truck is able to pull on the scale and it ensures drivers come to a complete stop before driving on.
- Truck scale awareness: Being an educated scale owner is one of the best things you can do to extend the life of your investment. Knowing how the scale functions and what parts are likely to wear can help you to catch small problems before they become big issues.
What Services Should Be Performed Annually By Your Service Provider?
Legal-tolerance testing is required by the law in most regions where a scale is used to sell goods by weight. This usually requires a scale to be tested and certified by the local measurement authority at least once per year. Keep in mind, however, this only means your scale is within the "legal-tolerance" levels; there is a difference between "legal-tolerance" and true accuracy. Make sure to look for a provider who isn’t shy about discussing scale accuracy with you.
Many companies will offer an annual maintenance package with their scales. During these visits a service technician comes to your site and checks a variety of different points on your scale and makes recommendations for future care. Those checks help to extend the life of your scale by detecting and correcting issues before they become a bigger problem. If you don’t currently have a service provider, a good first step is to request a Vehicle Scale Health Check. This overall scale assessment can provide insight on the current state of your scale and determine the next best steps to take for extended care.
What About Load-Cell System Upgrades?
If your scale is older and equipped with an analog load-cell system that experiences reliability issues, then upgrading may be a good option for you. At this point, you may have done all you can to service your scale – but the load-cell system continues to be a problem. Upgrading to advanced digital technology load cells can improve your reliability and accuracy, decreasing your yearly maintenance spend and extending the life of your weighbridge.
Morgan Clarke is Marketing Specialist Vehicle SBU, METTLER TOLEDO. Learn more about weighbridge upgrades here.