Freeland resident Michael McCarthy drives Interstate 83 every day and exits the highway at Middletown Road on his way home.
He was curious when he saw State Highway Administration crews putting up two long white poles on the interstate just past that exit ramp. Then he saw a camera go up and was sure speed cameras had come to north Baltimore County.
"I could picture people slamming on their brakes when they got to the camera," he said. "It didn't make sense."
McCarthy and other commuters don't have to worry, though, unless they are truck drivers carrying loads heavier than allowed, said Daniel Czorapinski, chief of Motor Carrier Division for the SHA, because what McCarthy saw is a Virtual Weigh Station that weighs a truck's load. The sensor system is already in use at five other locations in Maryland.
Czorapinski said the technology is complex, but the results are simple.
"With this system, we can check a truck's weight, height, size, safety rating and speed. Plus, we can gather data that highway planners can use," he said.
Within two seconds of a truck passing over two strips in the roadbed, an image and data is sent to the SHA weigh station on southbound I-83 in Parkton, said Manoj Pansare, a technology expert hired to get the system up and running in Maryland.
If a truck is too heavy, the weigh station personnel can cross the highway, stop it and bring it to the station for another look.
State Police or SHA personnel can also retrieve the data. With this new system, trucks doing everything right won't have to stop to be checked at manned weigh stations, Czorapinski said.
Czorapinski's office will visit those trucking companies which have violations to work on reducing overloading problems. If the overloading continues, fines will be imposed.
"We can save millions and millions in road repairs if trucks aren't heavy. It doesn't take too much to start breaking up the road," he said.
The Parkton virtual weigh station will be tested during December and should be operating by early January.