A Permanent or Portable Truck Scale—Which Is Right for You?

Many industries use truck scales to accurately weigh vehicles and transported materials. Essential to transportation and shipping, truck scales ensure the safety of both products and people, as well as proper invoicing and maximal revenue. 

While there are different types of truck scales, they all must be properly calibrated to accurately measure weight. At American Scale, we are proud to carry a wide variety of scale-related services and products, including portable and permanent truck scales. You may be wondering, though: What are the exact differences between the two, and which is best for you? 

Let’s explore the pros and cons of a permanent or portable truck scale.

What Is a Permanent Truck Scale? 

Rice Lake Survivor® OTR Concrete Deck Truck Scale with a yellow dump truck driving onto it
Rice Lake Survivor® OTR Concrete Deck Truck Scale

Permanent truck scales are installed to stay in a single, permanent location. They consist of a concrete or metal platform called a weighbridge that has a load cell in the middle. These scales are best for facilities that weigh several loads a day: for example, a facility that weighs several high-volume loads applications a day (such as cargo related to oil and gas, hauling, agriculture, etc.) It is important to note that a permanent truck scale requires professional installation

A permanent truck scale has several pros and cons:

Pros

  • Durable – Permanent truck scales are highly durable since they are made to stay in place. 
  • Ideal for Fixed Location Usage – For facilities and industries that perform multiple truck weigh-ins on one site, a permanent truck scale is ideal.
  • Higher Load Capacity Over Portable Truck Scales – Owing to the durability of a permanent truck scale, these scales can weigh heavier and higher-volume loads.
  • Less Expensive to Maintain – Since these scales are stationary and durable, a permanent truck scale is easier and less expensive to maintain.

Cons

  • Stationary – Just as the name implies, permanent truck scales are stationary: they cannot be moved to a preferable location. 
  • Usually More Expensive – Permanent truck scales usually present higher up-front costs than portable truck scales.

What Is a Portable Truck Scale? 

Rice Lake Survivor® ATV Portable Truck Scale with a blue dump truck driving over it
Rice Lake Survivor® ATV Portable Truck Scale 

Just as the name implies, a portable truck scale is portable: They can be moved to different sites as needed. Due to their convenience, portable truck scales continue to increase in popularity. 

Unlike permanent truck scales, which require a concrete or cement surface, a portable truck scale can be placed directly on the ground. Portable truck scales are especially ideal for businesses or facilities that work at remote sites (such as a logging camp) or weigh trucks and applications within a set amount of time (such as a demolition site). 

Some specific pros (and cons) include:

Pros

  • Ability to Relocate – A portable truck scale can be moved to different facilities if needed. Given that permanent truck scales are often more expensive, it can make more sense financially for a company or facility to invest in a portable truck scale that can be used wherever.
  • Easy to Transport and Install – Since portable trucks are meant to be moved around, they are relatively easy to transport and install.
  • Easier to Clean – A portable truck scale is easier to clean since they can be disassembled.
  • Lower Upfront Cost – In contrast to permanent truck scales, portable truck scales are less expensive.

Cons

  • Not As Durable – Given that portable truck scales are not stationary and consist of moving parts, they are not as durable as permanent truck scales.
  • Need to Be Taken Down and Set Up at Each New Location – While a portable truck scale is easy to take down and set up, this process still requires time and effort.
  • Not Compatible With All Tire Types – Be sure to know ahead of time the kinds of tires belonging to the trucks that need to be weighed.

How Do Portable Truck Scales Work?

A portable truck scale works very similarly to a permanent truck scale, the main difference obviously being that portable scales can be relocated as needed. Portable truck scales also consist of a low-profile steel platform or weighbridge. Vehicles drive onto the weighbridge so the weight can be calculated. 

Located at the center of the weighbridge’s surface is a component called the load cell. Also referred to as a transducer, the load cell is protected by a hard casing. 

The function of a load cell is to convert a mechanical force (such as the weight of an object) into an electrical signal that can be reviewed and recorded. The load cell notes the “output” (weight) of the truck, then translates this information into a digital weight reading.

Portable Truck Scale Considerations 

For a portable truck scale to properly operate, the site(s) on which it will be used must be properly prepared. Site preparation entails:

A Straight and Flat Area

A good rule of thumb is to have a weighing area (straightaway) that is twice as long as the truck scale. A longer straightaway allows the truck to straighten out before and after weighing.

A Flat, Firm Surface

The area where a portable truck scale will be placed must be flat and very firm. This ensures not only an accurate reading but also provides safety, preventing the scale from moving around while it is weighing a truck.

How Are Portable Scales Different from Axle Scales?

Rice Lake Survivor® OTR Axle Truck Scale

Both permanent and portable truck scales weigh a truck when it is positioned entirely on the weighbridge. An axle scale, however, is a weighing tool that individually weighs just the truck axles, one at a time. Two or more axle scales are included, each set beneath one axle. To calculate the gross vehicular weight, the weight on each of the individual axles is added.

Axles scales are considered the most accurate weighing system, with an error margin of only 0.25 percent. Axle scales can also be either permanent or portable. Some pros and cons include:

Pros

  • Easy to Carry – Axle pads are compact and easy to carry by hand.
  • Can Be Used at Multiple Locations – Since axle pads are lightweight and can be carried by hand, they can be used at various locations.
  • Can Weigh a Variety of Vehicles – Axle pads can be used with a variety of vehicles.

Cons

  • Must Be Used in Correct Conditions – While axle pads are very easy to transport, their accuracy depends greatly on certain conditions. For example, a truck’s wheels must all be level: i.e., on the same plane.

Which Truck Scale Is Best for You? Factors to Consider

6 important factors for truck scale selection
6 Important Factors for Truck Scale Selection

Now, you know the differences, benefits, and disadvantages of permanent, portable, and axle truck scales. Still, how do you determine which is the best option for your work site? 

Let’s examine several factors:

Site Location

Where exactly is the truck scale needed? Is the scale needed for a weigh station at a highway checkpoint? A demolition site? A logging site? Carefully consider each site and its immediate surroundings, as each presents its own unique logistics. 

Be sure that the location has adequate space that allows trucks and other large vehicles to easily maneuver. This is especially important for facilities that host a high volume of trucks daily.

Environmental Conditions

What are the weather conditions where a truck scale needs to be installed? Truck scales need to endure rain and snowfall, so consider these factors when selecting yours.

Project Approval

Before having a truck scale installed or used, be sure that you are obeying all local construction codes, zoning permits, and any other regulations and restrictions.

Installation

Know the area where the scales need to be installed. For example, be aware of any gas lines, sewer systems, power lines, etc. that are present in the area.

Industry

Which industry or industries is the scale needed for? What kind(s) of cargo need to be weighed? Are the goods high-volume, and/or hazardous materials? Consider any common issues present within your industry and the goods that need to be weighed.

Safety Precautions

In addition to the safe transport and weighing of goods, you must account for driver and pedestrian safety as well. Positioning of the truck scale(s) is crucial. The scales and straightway should be positioned in a way that avoids causing any congestion, confusion, or accidents. Try to know ahead of time if truck drivers need to exit for the vehicle to be weighed, and if so, where they will safely wait (a kiosk is one possible solution.)

Which Type of Truck Scale is Best for Your Work Site?

A large black semi driving over a blue and yellow truck scale in an industrial area.

The type of truck scale that is best for your work site depends on a multitude of factors: location, industry, cargo, volume, project approval, safety precautions, etc. Each type of truck scale presents advantages and disadvantages, so understanding exactly what types of trucks need to be weighed and how often is essential.

Permanent truck scales are stationary weighbridges that are best for facilities that experience frequent freight traffic and/or high-volume loads. These scales are highly durable, so they can withstand heavier and higher-volume loads, as well as extreme weather conditions.

In contrast, portable truck scales can be moved to different facilities or areas when needed. These scales provide a convenient, on-the-go solution and are especially ideal for remote or temporary locations. They can be placed directly on the ground and easily taken apart.

Axle scales are a type of portable truck scale. In contrast to a metal weighbridge, axle scales are individually set behind a truck’s axles. By totaling each of the individual axle weights, the gross vehicular weight can be calculated. Light and compact, these scales can be easily carried and are extremely accurate.

American Scale Has A Wide Selection of Truck Scales

For all your truck scale needs, from finding the right scale to installation to handling calibration, American Scale is here to help! We are proud to carry each of these truck scales and much more. Reach out today! We can answer all your scale-related questions and can help you find the best solution for your work site.