A lot of customers are curious about this question… how long should a truck scale last? Or perhaps it’s phrased like this… how do I know when my truck scale needs to be replaced?
The vast majority of truck scales are located outside. This means the scales have the hot sun blazing down on them all summer (every year). Then, they have the piles of snow on them in the winter (every year). In between all the hot and cold extremes, they have all the rain that you typically see fairly often.
So, with all the weather conditions, that means a truck scale must be able to withstand all the environmental challenges while working reliably and accurately…. For years and years! And, be able to handle 80,000 lb vehicles everyday!
So, how long can I expect my truck scale to last?
That’s a really good question and it’s a question that has a variety of answers.
Depending on the environment and application, most truck scale owners can typically expect a truck scale to last anywhere from 15-30 years.
You’re probably thinking that’s a pretty wide range of years. It is, but there are several really important reasons which can affect the truck scale lifespan.
Typical Truck Scale Lifespan
If you’re looking to buy a new truck scale. It’s important to look at the total cost of the truck scale and it’s expected years of service. One of the most important keys in this equation is truck traffic.
If your location consistently has over 250 trucks a day going over the scale (or you project it will eventually have that kind of truck traffic) then you will need to choose a truck scale built for that kind of traffic. Choosing an “economy” or standard duty truck scale in that situation may be cost effective now… but will most likely lead you to have a shorter truck scale life and force you into looking for scale replacements or weighbridge repairs sooner than you would prefer.
Sometimes spending an extra few thousand dollars up front will allow you to purchase a heavier duty “HD” scale that will last you significantly longer than the “SD” model. What’s an extra few thousand dollars when you average it out over twenty-five or thirty years of use? Especially if the extra cost helps you gain an extra five or ten years of scale use?
Can I Repair My Truck Scale Instead of Buying a New One?
This is a good question and a common question that a lot of people ask when they have an old truck scale. In most cases, the answer is yes. Depending on the age of the truck scale and severity of the issues, repairing a truck scale can certainly work and be a cost savings.
However, once a truck scale has been in service for over 20 years or so… repairs may not be the best choice. Often you will hear people refer to the scale repairs as “band-aids”. We understand what they’re referring to, but the truth is that truck scale repairs on a 20+ year old scale weighbridge are just that, repairs…
A “band-aid” is supposed to heal your wound and help you get back to 100%. A “band-aid” on a 30 year old truck scale is not going to “heal” the scale. It is simply designed to get a few more years out of the scale before the scale will need to be replaced.
Unfortunately, truck scales that have been repaired often don’t last as long as you would like. One of the reasons is simply the age of the steel and the components. Often the areas that were repaired may be ok after the repair, but then the other areas that were doing ok before the repair, are now starting to fail.
When you think of a truck scale overhaul, the Truck Scale components can usually be replaced… things like load cells, junction boxes, summing boards, etc…, but the core weighbridge construction and integrity are sometimes challenging to rebuild in a cost effective & timely manner…. especially in a scale that’s 25 or 30 years old… or older.
It’s also important to look at the actual repair costs. Sure it can be overwhelming when you see a $80,000 quote for a new truck scale. However, if you attempt to repair and put “band-aids” on a 25 year old truck scale, how much money is that going to cost? Between materials and labor, we’ve seen these repair costs rise above $3000. Plus there is down time where the scale can’t be used.
And even after the scale is repaired, there really is no guarantee or warranty that the scale is going to last X number of additional years. So, in this example, you could spend several thousand dollars on scale repairs that may get you a few more years of service…. or, that $3000 could be used to help pay for a new truck scale.
Planning for Buying a Replacement Truck Scale on Your Terms
Here is one other scenario that we would like you to think about. Let’s say you have a 25 year old truck scale. It has some weighbridge issues and probably should be replaced. But, you and the scale company talk and decide that some weighbridge repairs could likely be made that might give the scale a little more life. Keep in mind at the same time this talk is taking place, new truck scales are readily available with a short 1 to 2 week lead time for fast delivery.
Well, the truck scale repairs take place and it turns out that you did in fact get an extra year of use out of the scale. Unfortunately, the scale now has more weighbridge issues and repairs will likely not make much sense at this point. And, as often happens, the scale failure has just happened right in the middle of your busiest time of the year! And, now it looks like the lead time on truck scales is closer to 14 weeks and there is a 8% steel surcharge now in place.
This scenario that we just mentioned above is all to real and can very well take place. Sometimes if your scale has lasted for two or three decades, it can be a smart move on your part to setup the replacement purchase on your watch (before the scale actually “breaks”). Maybe you talk with your scale company and decide the next time there is an incentive offered, you’re ready to purchase. This can be a wise decision because we all know that no one wants to be in a situation with a broken scale that must be replaced and then be facing extended downtime and a 14 week lead time before your scale can ship.
There are a variety of options in the truck scale market today and, to the casual observer, initial acquisition price may be the only differentiator. However, manufacturers promising great bargains are able to do so only because they’ve cut corners at some stage of the process—design, materials, components, finish or all of the above. While the price may seem attractive now, the eventual failure of a lower quality truck scale could mean a higher total cost of ownership from extensive downtime, increased maintenance costs, lost revenue and premature replacement.
One other note to mention on the subject of money would be taxes and leasing. This article is not going to be in depth on either of those subjects but if you purchase a new truck scale there can be tax advantages (see IRS section 179). We also have leasing programs which can make it easier to afford a larger purchase like a truck scale.
One other thing we wanted to mention on this subject is the overall trend for truck scale pricing. Generally speaking, the price for new truck scales is not going to get any less expensive in 2021 and beyond. In fact, at the time of this article in early 2021, we have received word from at least (3) truck scale manufacturers that there will likely be surcharges very shortly due to steel prices. (So if you’re in the market for a new scale, it might be time to act now!)
2023 UPDATE: Throughout 2022 and 2023 we have seen multiple price increases and lead times from certain truck scale manufacturers that were in excess of 40 weeks!
Believe it or not, the goal of this article is not to be completely gloom & doom about repairing a truck scale weighbridge. There are certainly situations where a truck scale overhaul makes sense. Most of the time, it makes more sense to upgrade components and less sense to try and do major weighbridge structural repair.
However, if you’re in the market for refurbishing a truck scale or purchasing a new truck scale… we encourage you to look at the entire picture and get a true understanding of the costs involved and the expected lifespan with each scenario. The fact is that many truck scale manufacturers are getting really good at building their truck scales to fit existing foundations. This can help to lower costs and lessen the down time when you’ll be without a scale.
Truck scales are important to the daily operations of the facilities that use them. That means that selecting a truck scale is an important decision. Whatever scale you choose (or have chosen), will likely be your scale of choice for possibly two or three decades! Often, a little extra thought or cost up front, can pay off down the road with a durable truck scale that can provide decades of service with proper scale maintenance.
If you have questions or would like to obtain a truck scale quote, please complete our RFQ form on our website or you can call our heavy capacity scales team at (919) 776-7737.