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Detecting trouble

Jason Kelley/Sierra SunTrucks pass under a new archway that contains explosive detectors on their way through the Truckee weigh station.
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Concern over terrorist attacks have lead to the installation of explosive detectors at truck weigh stations in California, including the Truckee scales.

As one of the major roadways into California, Interstate 80 sees a large volume of commercial truck traffic, and monitoring the contents of the big rigs has become increasingly important, according to state law enforcement officials.

To that end, trucks now pass under a new archway that contains explosive detectors on their way through the Truckee weigh station, as well as an undisclosed number of others throughout the state.



“The new arch is not just a bomb detector, it also detects chemicals,” said Tom Marshall with the California Highway Patrol’s headquarters in Sacramento.

Marshall said the new sensors are similar to those in airports in their ability to see more than a normal x-ray.



“The new model detects a wider variety of materials,” he said. “Because of the homeland security nature of it, we don’t talk a lot about them. I can assure you that we have them and deploy them throughout the state.”

After about three months of operation at the Truckee scales, the sensors have been adjusted so there aren’t as many false alarms, said Officer Sean Fowers with the CHP weigh station in Truckee.

“It’s looking for certain chemicals,” Fowers said. “It has sensors that read the truck’s load as it goes through. If it detects chemicals we get an alarm.”

Fowers said that all trucks that pass through the weigh station must go through the sensors for inspection, and originally the alarm was sounding frequently because of the sensitivity of the equipment.

“There is a period you have to go through fine tuning, we’re pretty dialed in now,” Fowers said.

The Truckee weigh station has not detected any bombs or illegal materials; only occasionally raising the alarm for what have turned out to be legal chemicals, Fowers said.

Marshall said that he hasn’t received any complaints about delays from truckers at weigh stations.


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