Q&A - Tire Chains on Commercial Vehicles

commercial vehicle chain signThe last time we drove up the Coquihalla from Hope we saw that the plow trucks had not taken care to plow out the chain-up pull-outs for commercial trucks. How are these commercial drivers expected to put on their tire chains safely?

The trucks are all lined up along the right lane of the road, thus forcing regular traffic into one lane.

This may be ok except now a semi wants to start up the hill and realizes too late that the single set of tire chains he/she put on will not go and now stops the second lane until help arrives or more chains are installed.

I don't mind being corrected here as I don't sit there observing all day but it appears that most of the truckers are trying to get by with only one set of single chains.

I thought that at one time they were illegal and triple chains were required and, clearly, on the Great Bear Snow Shed nothing short of these triple chains, and possibly on both rear axles, will help keep the traffic moving. I would expect this of buses as well.

So now the next question is, why are the truckers not, at least it appears that they are not, being monitored and told they must put on their tire chains before they are across the highway blocking all traffic? Like maybe at the first pull-out.

I believe the commercial drivers need some help and support here with cleaning out the chain-up areas and making those areas larger to accommodate the volume of trucks hitting the hills.

The Path of Least Resistance

Generally, I think that you can count on people taking the easy way out. A set of singles is easy to install and if it's enough to get you up the hill, take the path of least resistance. Sometimes they don't have enough experience to realize what is needed in the circumstances.

Requirements for Winter Tires and Tire Chains

example of the requirements for tire chains in bc

Winter tires and traction devices

208 (1) For the purpose of this section, "winter tire" means a tire that meets the standards and specifications prescribed for winter tires.

(2) The minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act may, by public notice or by placing signs, prohibit any vehicle or a class of vehicles from being driven or operated on a highway, unless the vehicle is equipped with chains, winter tires or traction devices, or a combination of these, that the minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act considers adequate in view of prevailing road conditions.

(3) A public notice or sign under subsection (2) may provide differently in relation to specified dates, prevailing weather conditions or any other criteria the minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act considers necessary or advisable.

(4) A person who drives or operates a vehicle in contravention of a prohibition made under subsection (2) commits an offence.

Rule Amendments - September 2019

The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations have been amended to include when and where commercial motor vehicles must carry chains. The link also shows where commercial vehicles are not required to carry chains

That said, you could choose to carry them anyway in case you need to get yourself out of trouble.

In addition, the required installation of chains has been specified:

A look at the MOTI web site finds a page titled Commercial Vehicle - Tire and Chain Requirements.


Should there be a CVSE or police officer present at all chain up locations in the province to keep an eye on traffic? Practically, no. In times of out of the ordinary conditions, maybe. Depending on whether drivers have managed to stay on the road and not run into each other, they may have time to do this instead of providing emergency response.

Highway Clearing Priorities

I have no experience with cleaning the highways, so I can only guess at this. It seems to me that clearing the chain up areas would be a good exchange of time. On the other hand, when conditions are really poor, all drivers should expect issues and have the correct equipment at hand while travelling at appropriate speeds for the conditions. One cannot expect bare pavement and 120 km/h travel with all lanes open when 25 cm of snow has fallen in the last half hour.

Inexperienced drivers that cause problems I have some time for. I have been there and occasionally still need a bit of practice. Lazy drivers who know better, not so much.

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In reply to by DriveSmartBC

Hi Tim, well you did a very good job of answering some of the question but left me with more.  I can't help wondering if some enforcement of the use of chains would help, not that I am mad at the truckers, I used to be one as well, but sometimes we all just need a little nudge to do the right or responsible thing.  I think the truckers need to be told or shown how much of a hill they are up against on the Coqu and that single chains usually will not get them up there.  Some were putting them on the rear axle which the MOT site clearly shows is wrong and also that the picture only shows triple chains on the forward axle, it doesn't condone the use of singles.

An enforcement officer likely does show up from time to time to talk to them or see what they are up too but I am not convinced the officers are being emphatic enough about the use of properly installed chains.  I think I will put this on your website too, maybe we will get some more response yet.

Okay, looks like we were reading the same information. Just interpreting differently. Difference between live and tag axle.

Tag axles are very rarely seen anymore. (with the exception of Kleysen back in the late 80's)

If a power unit, with a set of driving axles, has triples on the front axle, a set of singles on the back axle should suffice, as long as he has the diff lock on.

I spoke without thinking. (I do that sometimes)

The only 2 instances I can think of where a truck would be carrying singles, is if the driver is a seasoned veteran (so he has singles, one for the steer and one or two for the trailer, as well as his FOUR sets of triples) or if the driver/vehicle owner is a cheap SOB, and not very bright. Single chains are for single tires, or for drag chains on the trailer. IMHO.

Some road truckers are encountering for the first time pretty challenging conditions, this past week. Most are trying their best with what they have, judgement, wisdom, equipment... but things understandably are not easy given the lack of road maintenance.

Plowing out designated Chain Up areas must be foremost in regards to safety and compliance to the law. Kootenay Pass this past week saw a lot of snow which compacted to ice.

Loggers traversing the pass twice daily observed the does and don'ts of observing the conditions and taking appropriate means, many shaking their heads at the follies. Some Road haulers would unchain at the top for some crazy reason.

Loggers, depending on their type, Long, Short, Quad, carry 5 chain sets; one for steering when it gets really ugly.

Not verified was a fatality at a very well used and plugged up Chain up pullout. When there is limited room trucks will naturally pull alongside others and commence chain up. Apparently an operator on the outside doing that had his back to traffic and was run over.

We must all be aware that shit happens and observe the potential before it begins.