Life at scales anything but predictable

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 1999

Not many buildings get run over by trucks too often, but the Natchez Scales on Highway 98 has had its share of run-ins.

Once, when the old building was still standing, &uot;it was a man with a little truck and a big round tank on the back. He just came too close and when I looked up, the tank was in the window. I didn’t have time to run out the door … I jumped the counter,&uot; said Sergeant Jerry Walker of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Walker and his son, Daryl run the scales at the busy intersection of Sergeant Prentiss and U.S. 61.

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&uot;We enforce weight laws,&uot; said Walker. &uot;Anything that weighs over 10,000 pounds is supposed to stop.

&uot;Anything that comes from soil can weigh 84,000 pounds, but they have to buy a harvest permit to do that.&uot; Otherwise the trucks have a weight limit of 80,000 pounds. If the trucks weigh more than that, they have to have more than five axles or apply for a permit. Garbage trucks, cement trucks and trucks hauling cotton modules can weigh 60,000 pounds.

Hidden behind the blinds of the 19 feet by 23 feet building, Walker sees 2000 trucks roll onto the scales and pass by the windows everyday.

&uot;I think everybody wonders what goes on in here, but they don’t come in and ask.&uot;

He communicates with them through a series of signs, telling the drivers either &uot;next axle,&uot; &uot;go ahead,&uot; &uot;back up&uot; or &uot;park in rear.&uot;

&uot;Our fines start at a penny a pound … you think that’s not much? I’ve written tickets as much as $7,500 for one truck.&uot;

The money MDOT collects from these fines goes to Adams County. This year they have written tickets amounting to $50,000 in fines.

So what’s all the fuss about anyway?

&uot;Mississippi has got some of the best roads in the United States,&uot; said Walker. &uot;The scales prevent trucks from hauling heavy and tearing the roads up.&uot;

Even though people think the scales are an eyesore, Walker points out that Natchez was built around the scales. &uot;They were here when nothing was here. When they built the bypass, the town built around the scales.&uot;