CAT Scale Turns 40

OctTT01Bill Moon changed how drivers weighed their trucks when he installed the first CAT Scale at the Truckomat in South Holland, IL some 40 years ago. It was one of the first full platform scales that weighed each axle and gave you an accurate gross weight that could actually be certified. I’m sure most drivers today could not even imagine a time when there were no CAT Scales at the truck stops, and the only scales available were just a little shack, usually unmanned, with a small single-axle scale out front, which required a lot of work and time (and math) to use. Thankfully, Bill Moon was a visionary, and his vision revolutionized the way truckers weighed their rigs.

OctTT02Back in the day, to weigh your truck, it was not uncommon to use a small, unmanned scale that was only large enough to put one axle at a time on. The process went something like this: pull the steer axle on the scale, walk inside, drop quarters in a machine, put a ticket (much like a time clock) in the slot, print that weight, go outside and pull the next axle up on the scale, and then repeat the process. Then, do the same thing again for the trailer. Some of these scales had digital readouts that you could see without getting out of the truck, so you could add up the weights from the driver’s seat. These scales were less than accurate, and if your truck and trailer was not sitting level, the weights were sure to be off. What a pain!

OctTT03In 1977, truck stop entrepreneur Bill Moon set out to change all that when he and Dick Chernick, manager at the Truckomat in South Holland, Illinois, could see there was a need for drivers to have scales that would accurately weigh their truck and trailer together, using a full platform. Some people thought his idea would never work, but Bill knew better and began putting together a team. He tipped the scales toward success back then, and they are still tipping today!

OctTT04The first facility sat on about three acres and included a truck wash, a small store and the new scale, which only had room to park about seven or eight trucks. After word got out about the first driver who had a fine paid by CAT Scale, they were so busy that the cops would come in and tell them that drivers would have to move their trucks because they were blocking the road. CAT Scale stands for Certified Automated Truck Scale. From the first truck that weighed on that scale, there was a guarantee that the weight would be accurate – and if it wasn’t, CAT Scale would pay the fine.

Back in 1977, many truck stops did not want a scale. People who ran these locations didn’t have the foresight of Bill Moon. Bill and Carolyn Moon started their truck stop as a mom-and-pop stop, and today that little “stop” is the largest truck stop in the world – Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa. Bill would ask and then listen to what drivers had to say about things that could make their lives easier. With this philosophy, he would build and continue to grow their business with drivers in mind, along with his son William and daughter Delia.

OctTT06In the beginning, when they were kicking around the idea of expanding, they didn’t want franchises, they wanted partners. In the early days, it was the mom-and-pop truck stops who lead the way for installing CAT Scales. They were signing up when the bigger chains wouldn’t. Fast forward to today, and there are very few major truck stops that don’t have a CAT Scale.

Bill Moon hired Bill Mayhew to get locations to sign up. The number they kicked around was 15, but over the years, Mayhew signed up 850 locations for a scale. Once places started signing up, they began to tackle the challenge of getting them all built. Gary LaFollette, a construction worker from Iowa, was brought in to be in charge of installing the scales. Gary promptly hired Carey Howard, who was also from Iowa, to help. Today, Carey is the Vice-President and General Manager of CAT Scale, and he feels that the company is fulfilling the vision Bill Moon started it all with.

Even when the Moon family went on vacation they still thought about truck stops. Delia Moon-Meier remembers OctTT07fondly how vacations included stopping at truck stops along the way so her father could talk to the managers and see if they were interested in installing a scale. One year, on their way to Memphis, they went via Nashville because there was a big new truck stop there called TA. While having dinner, the manager stopped by their table and talked for what seemed like hours. In 1981, Delia and her sister Jill realized that this was not like other Spring Breaks. They were heading to Florida, but not for a party – they were heading to a truck show to hand out leaflets about the scales.

At the time, Delia didn’t know that those truck stop vacations were actually preparing her for her own role in the truck stop industry. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1987 with a degree in Business Management, she began her career in the family business at the Iowa 80 Group. In 1992, the Moon family had restored a 1938 Kenworth to be part of The Great Race, an annual event where antique vehicles run across the U.S. During this race, Bill Mayhew and his wife handed out postcards of the CAT Scale race truck to folks along the route, which were well-received.

OctTT08Later, Bill told Delia about a place that had a trading card gimmick that their customers seemed to like, which gave Delia the idea to create cards with photos of trucks on them. It was decided that a CAT Scale card would be part of each scale ticket. It took a big team effort and hundreds of letters and calls, as this was back in the days before e-mail, but in the end, it was so much more than just a gimmick! “We were trying to create a way to honor our customers and drivers. People love the cards and they want to be on them. They feel like celebrities.” Today, these cards are still popular.

In August of 2005, there was a 24/7 help desk set up for customers and locations to get help with any issue at a scale. A lot has changed in 40 years, but their commitment to their customers has not. As new technology came along, it created better ways for them to serve their customers, and their latest addition is a cell phone app. Will Moon, President of the Iowa 80 Group, knows that this app will once again revolutionize the way CAT Scale operates their business, and how truck drivers weigh their rigs.

OctTT09Drivers get paid by the mile, and not by the hour, so time is money. When drivers weigh their rig and then have to find a place to park, go inside, and very possibly wait in a line to get their scale ticket, it can take anywhere from five to 25 minutes, and if they have to adjust their axles and reweigh, it will take even longer. To remedy this problem, for the past four years, truckers have been able to download the free CAT Scale app and use it to save time and money! When installed, after weighing on a CAT Scale, the “Weigh My Truck App” collects the payment and then sends a PDF file to the driver’s smart phone or tablet that is legal and guaranteed, and they never have to leave their truck.

OctTT10Since their inception in 1977, CAT Scale has grown to be the largest truck scale network in the world, with over 1,725 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. CAT Scale has been providing truckers with guaranteed weights for 40 years that drivers can take to the bank (or court) if needed. Know what you weigh before you find out on a state scale that you aren’t legal. When you have that bright yellow ticket, you know that your weights are right or, like an old CAT Scale ad once said, “We Will Cover Your Rear!” With this business philosophy, CAT Scale is sure to enjoy many more years of growth and success. To learn more or to get their app, visit them online at www.catscale.com today.

About Kim Grimm

Kim Grimm has had a license to drive a truck since April of 1978 and has driven millions and millions of miles ever since. Living in Wisconsin with her beloved cocker spaniels, Kim, who is a long-haul owner operator, has been a regular contributor to 10-4 Magazine since 2003.