What the Heck is That Tower for?

Pipestone Flyer

One kilometer south of Leduc on Highway 2A on the west side of the road stand two towers. They are approximately 8 meters tall and equipped with what appears to be lights, cameras, antennas and other gadgets. The mystery is that the towers look pretty sophisticated but to the average driver and passenger, don’t seem to have any logical or identifiable purpose for being there.  First guess. A highway live cam like those used by AMA (now 511) to provide live views of highway conditions and weather for travellers.  However, upon checking the AMA website the only live cam in the region is located on Highway 2: South of the Highway 2A Overpass near Leduc, not on Highway 2A. 

    The search for the identity of the mysterious tower was directed to Trent Bancarz, Public Affairs Officer, Alberta Transportation. Trent responded, “The equipment in the photo is an automated screening device for commercial vehicles. As commercial vehicle enforcement is now under Justice and Solicitor General, one of my colleagues in that department will be getting back to you with some answers.”

Commercial vehicles, the towers are watching you!

    It wasn’t long before my inbox received an email form Brendan Cox, Public Affairs Officer, Justice and Solicitor General. “The device in question is actually for enforcement purposes, but it's not what you might think. It's an automated screening system that helps our Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers work more efficiently. The cameras take photos of commercial vehicles, their licence plates and vehicle information numbers, and it sends that information directly to the weigh station in Leduc. It instantaneously gives officers information on commercial vehicles in terms of inspection records and things like that. If it’s a vehicle that's had some problems in the past, it would get flagged for inspection. Or if it's from a company with a less than great record, it may get flagged. It helps us select commercial vehicles for inspection that are more likely to have problems so that we're not wasting time inspecting vehicles that really don't need it.”

Safety features incorporated into 

system

    “It also has a thermal imaging camera, which can tell if a truck's brakes aren't working, or if it has overheated bearings or under-inflated tires and so on. This automated screening device is the only one in Alberta and the first of its kind in Canada. It's part of a three-year pilot project called the Smart Roadside Project. It's very efficient, and it allows the officer to zero in on problems rather than spending time on things that aren't.”

    Now that I have the answer to the mystery, I am comfortable the ‘Twin towers of Leduc’ are there to make our highways a safer place to be. However, every time I drive past the ‘Twin towers of Leduc’ and see the automated screening device I now know is loaded with cameras and blinking down at my Ford F 150, do I dare exceed the speed limit?.