SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are electronic devices that check our heart rates, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and similar.

Embedded into the roadway of Interstate 90 just east of the South Dakota Port of Entry and Welcome Center near Valley Springs are sensors that check the condition of semi trucks.

Those sensors can identify potential problems with a semi-truck before it gets to the weigh station at the Valley Springs Port of Entry.

Sensors built into the roadway of Interstate 90 about a mile east of the Valley Springs Port of Entry. South Dakota Department of Transportation photo.

“About one mile east of the port of entry, in Minnesota actually, we identify the truck and weigh it, there are also sensors in the pavement that can detect the inflation of the tires…, said Dave Huft , the intelligence transportation system program manager for the South Dakota Department of Transportation. “Then in the time it takes the truck to get from there to weigh station we check on whether the vehicle registration is current, whether fuel taxes are up to date and we also check the safety score for the motor carrier… In that time there’s a decision made whether that truck needs to pull into the port of entry or not.”

Some trucks have transponders and highway patrol in the weigh station can use that to tell the truck it needs to pull into the port of entry. Message signs along the interstate also instruct the trucks.

If a truck needs to pull into the port of entry, the entrance ramp has another set of sensors to check the temperature of brakes and wheels. Too hot or too cold temperatures can indicate problems with them, Huft said.

This is a thermal image of truck brakes from the technology used at the Port of Entry in Valley Springs. SDDOT photo

Traveling trucks

Each month statewide at four Points of Entry about 57,000 trucks come to one of those ports of entry, said Tony Mangan of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. Of those, about 40% stay on the Interstate.

A big part of the South Dakota Highway Patrol and SDDOT’s jobs are to make sure the trucks that enter the state are safe.

“When a truck crashes, it’s a big crash,” said Capt. John Broers, the commander of the motor carrier division of the Highway Patrol.

If sensors show a truck’s brakes are not working properly, that can prevent a crash, Broers said.

The sensors check tire condition as another safety measure.

“You’ve all seen the tires that blow up on the side of the road, or unfortunately in the road, so a situation where if we can stop that tire that’s been worn or if we can detect that before it comes off the rim, and (before) a motorcycle hits that, did we save a life there? Chances are we did,” Broers said.

Ensuring safety is priority and so is maintaining the roadway.

“Infrastructure is one of the government’s biggest investments. We want to protect that,” Broers said.

The weight of a semi-truck and trailer are distributed on the axles. Unequal distribution or an overweight truck can damage the road.

Broers compared it to walking on snow with high heels. The person wearing the heels will drop into the snow because all the weight is on the high heel. A person wearing snowshoes will have the weight distributed so that instead of falling into the snow, the person can walk on the snow.

A truck needs it weight distributed like a person wearing snowshoes, Broers said.

Damaged roads need to be repaired and that cost the taxpayer’s money, he said.

A third reason why the sensors, weigh stations and needed inspections are important is for the state’s economy.

If trucks can bypass a port of entry because they’ve been checked by sensors, it saves the truck and the carrier owner money, Huft said.

“It’s estimated that it saves 2 1/2 dollars per minute. Some estimates are higher,” Huft said. “Every minute a truck isn’t at the port of entry saves time and money.”

The system in Valley Springs is also efficient for the Highway Patrol, Broers said.

At the entry

The port of entry station was built to be efficient, Huft said.

Broers said the garage area has a pit that runs the length of a semi-truck and trailer. Highway Patrol staff are able to examine the truck and trailer’s undercarriage from the pit.

The station’s scale is a full-length scale.

On the afternoon of July 8, semi-trucks pulling trailers, smaller food delivery vans and similar vehicles drove onto the scale where an electronic sign displayed the weight and directed the vehicles back to the interstate or to stay at the port of entry.

Trucks moved through the scale quickly.

The staff inside the station had computer screens that display the information about the trucks.

The system used at Valley Springs is state of the art, Broers and Huft said.

The tire sensor is one of the most recent technologies a Port of Entry can use, Huft said.

The Port of Entry at Jefferson on the Iowa border as a system similar to Valley Springs, Huft said.

The Port of Entry near Sisseton is scheduled to receive a brake and tire sensor system, he said.

Weigh stations with sensor systems are at Valley Springs, Jefferson, Sisseton and Tilford. Another is located on South Dakota Highway 79 south of Rapid City near the border with Nebraska. And another is located at U.S. Highway 14 and South Dakota Highway 83 east of Pierre, Huft said.