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ORNL weigh-in-motion system could increase military mobility

Armed with an automated weigh-in-motion system being developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), U.S. military forces could increase mobility and decrease mistakes when loading vehicles on transport planes and ships.

ORNL plans to develop and demonstrate technology that would lead to the conversion of static scales to weigh-in-motion scales at a minimal cost. The new scales would dramatically decrease the amount of time required to weigh vehicles, determine axle weight and center of balance. The military needs this information before loading vehicles on planes and ships.

"With our weigh-in-motion scale, the military could weigh and determine the center of balance of moving vehicles five times faster than with existing technologies," said Dave Beshears, who heads a development team from ORNL's Engineering Technology Division. "The weigh-in-motion system would also reduce the number of mistakes caused by the manual nature of calculating and inputting data."

Conventional technology used to weigh vehicles is labor-intensive and time-consuming, according to Beshears. The weigh-in-motion system offers ultra-high accuracy, proven feasibility and no construction cost or down time. Existing scales could be retrofitted into weigh-in-motion systems through the installation of low-cost hardware and a computer for analyzing the scale output and converting it to a weight and center of balance.

"Combined with other enabling technologies such as profilometry to determine the exterior profile of a vehicle, advanced communication systems and information and decision support systems, weigh-in-motion will take the military closer to 'fort-to-port zero staging,'" Beshears said.

While the cost of replacing existing scales could range from $60,000 to $120,000, Beshears estimates that the conversion approach would cost about $10,000.

During the next nine months, ORNL plans to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology. The second phase of the project will involve developing a complete prototype.

In addition to its military applications, Beshears expects the weigh-in-motion system to be useful for converting static truck scales along the highways. While similar technology is available at many truck weigh scales, their use is restricted to screening because of their limited accuracy. That would change with the new highly accurate scale, which could support ticketing drivers for overweight rigs, Beshears said.

Increased use of weigh-in-motion scales would also improve traffic flow on many of the congested highways around the country.

"It would result in greater safety to motorists because trucks wouldn't be backed up at scales and it would get overweight trucks off the highway," Beshears said.

Other members of Beshears' team are Jeff Muhs, Matt Scudiere and Cliff White.

ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation.