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Originally published Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 4:57 PM

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Sensors credited for drop in WA truck crashes

The trucking industry and authorities are crediting electronic sensors and enforcement with helping drop the number of truck-related crashes over the years in Washington state.

The Associated Press

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GRANDVIEW, Wash. —

The trucking industry and authorities are crediting electronic sensors and enforcement with helping drop the number of truck-related crashes over the years in Washington state.

Between 2008 and 2009, fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles dropped by about 50 percent to 32. Fatalities dropped to 26 the next year but climbed to 37 for 2011, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported Saturday ( http://bit.ly/LMSyUZ).

New technology, paired with aggressive enforcement and public education fueled the improvements, said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and former commander of the State Patrol's commercial vehicle division.

"Safety is greatly enhanced," he said.

It works like this: Affixed to the windshields of more than 65,000 trucks - 39 percent of those that ply the state's roads - is a transponder, an electronic device about the size of a credit card that communicates with sensors on bars over the highway at weigh stations.

When the truck passes, the sensor recognizes the vehicle and pulls up all the information about the truck's company, safety record and history onto a computer screen. Meanwhile, the in-pavement scales weigh not only the trucks but also the weight over each axle.

If the company's record is clean and the vehicle is within weight restrictions, the trucker gets a green light and just keeps going without even slowing down.

That happened 1.18 million times last year, saving those trucks an average of five minutes and $10.28 each time.

Before, every truck pulled into the weigh station, as long as it was open. Now, only the trucks with problems are delayed.

"It allows us to focus on the at-risk trucks," said Lt. Jeff Closner, the Washington State Patrol's assistant commander for Region 3's commercial vehicle division.

The electronic weigh-in and monitoring technology saved the trucking industry $12.1 million by cutting down on idle time. That savings, in theory at least, lowers the price of food and good for consumers.

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