Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scales and meters aren't only for gas pumps and grocery scales

Jerry Buendel
Weights & Measures

Commercial scales are inspected by WSDA Weights & Measures 
While consumers benefit greatly from WSDA’s Weights & Measures Program that ensures weighing and measuring devices are accurate, many might think only of the gas pumps we use to fill our cars or grocery scales weighing our meat and produce.

WSDA’s inspectors are trained to handle a wide range of weighing and measuring devices and have to think broader to assure a level playing field in Washington commerce. We are the agency that tests everything from sensitive scales weighing gold to railroad track car scales used to determine how much money changes hands.

Both buyers and sellers benefit when accurate devices are used to determine charges.

Last week, some of our inspectors used one of our heavy-capacity scale test trucks near Ellensburg to test vehicle scales operated by hay dealers in Kittitas County. The scales are used to weigh hay the dealers are buying from local growers, as well as ocean shipping containers going to overseas customers. Inspectors tested nine scales and found three that needed adjustment and repair. The businesses repaired scales the next day and WSDA’s inspectors issued an approval seal.

Hay and other commodities
Vehicle scales with capacities ranging up to 180,000 pounds are used to weigh trucks hauling tons of hay, sand and gravel, grain and other commodities. The inspectors use a 50,500-pound test truck for part of the test and also a 21,300-pound test cart to check each section of the scale.

Weight cart used to test scale performance
Generally, scales with errors more than 80 pounds are out of tolerance and must be repaired. In addition to accuracy, inspectors examine the weighing platform, vehicle approaches and overall condition of the equipment. Displays and printers are examined to assure that they are calculating properly and printing correct weight tickets.

Accurate scales are important for hay dealers and help them earn the trust and confidence of growers and customers. Weighing errors add up quickly as premium quality export hay sells for as much as $350 per ton. Washington’s hay is among the best in the world and is one of the state’s top agricultural commodities valued at $700 million annually in recent years. In 2015, more than $460 million in forage products were exported to foreign countries.

WSDA adopts national standards 
WSDA uses national accuracy and technical regulations published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Our inspectors complete specialized training and are required to pass national certification exams.

If you have a concern about a gas pump, scale or other weighing device, please email WSDA at or call 360 902-1857.