New Winter Tire Rules for BC

Mountain and Snowflake winter tire symbolOn October 1, 2014 the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced new winter tire rules for British Columbia. The changes are part of the Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review conducted by the Ministry about one year ago when BC residents were asked to express their opinion. From the information provided to me, it appears that the only thing that has changed is the signage beside the highway and the chain option for passenger vehicles.


In past, the signs required winter tires with sufficient tread or carrying a set of tire chains for all vehicles that passed them. Now the signs simply require winter tires that are marked with either the mountain and snowflake symbol or M+S for light vehicles and that heavier commercial vehicles carry tire chains.

Commercial vehicles are not required to be equipped with all season or winter tread tires but must carry tire chains when driving on highways designated by a sign.

If you really want proper traction to maximize acceleration, braking and cornering the best answer is matching winter tires bearing the mountain and snowflake symbol on all wheels. Some tires marked M+S may comply with the law but could provide significantly less protection. It is worth taking the time to explore your options with a knowledgeable tire supplier before the last minute.

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I'm my 13 years as a professional driver I don't recall ever seeing specific winter tires for commercial vehicles. I don't think they exist which would be the reason for needing chains in the winter. Not to mention at $6000 to outfit a semi truck with tires you probably won't find anyone willing to have more than one set at a time for a truck. There are different tread patterns for tires with some of them being designed for better traction in mud and snow, but they don't provide very good fuel mileage which is much more important to most drivers and companies. Even if there were "winter" tires for commercial vehicles, they are too heavy to rely on them, which again is the reason for chains. The signs are worded just fine.

This whole thing was not thought out very well.

Last year, about 3 or 4 days into October a group of motorcyclists were ticketed a few miles east of Kamloops for not having "winter" tires.  It was bright sunshine and 17 C.  There are no "winter" tires made for motorcycles .... a liability issue with the manufacturers.  I've only ever seen chains on a motorcycle as a specially built hill-climber.

When this issue was brought to Todd Stone's attention, his response was that he would speak with the detachment Commander about using "discretion".  Well discretion my foot!  Perhaps after a 20 or 30 year career, an RCMP officer may discover discretion but for these kids, fresh out of depot with a chip on their shoulder, it's not in their vocabulary. Of course you can go to court and plead the case under logic but that's a crap shhot that the judge is in a good mood and doesn't hate motorcyclists.  Even if you are successful, the time off probably cost you more than the fine ..... and you still have some vendictive cops waiting for you.

Last May, at the MLA ride, I spoke to Stone about this saying that his legislation was flawed.  He repeated pretty much as above and I realised that I was dealing with an idiot.

BTW - While there may not be "winter" tires for motorcycles, there are big ugly knobby tires that the dual-sport and off-road bikes use ..... but they don't have an M or a snowflake.  Besides, a motorcyclist is far more concerned about traction than a car driver will ever be.

Sorry, just had to rant about the ineptitude.

As it happens, I drove up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler today and back again on business.  The advisory/regulatory signs (effective October 1st) are obvious, and there are illuminated overhead banners recommending Winter Tires.  But nothing has really changed, practically; on the way up, overhead cloud tranformed into sunshine around Squamish, and throughout the day Whistler remained dry though a bit cool, so you wanted to wear a light jacket.

On the way back down around 4:30pm, the rain set in, and was heavy at times; regular all-season tires were totally the best choice for conditions.

Meanwhile, after checking around with some of the resident folks up there, commercial vehicle operators in particular, it seemed to me that they were just waiting for the serious winter weather to arrive; their actual Winter Tires are already in reserve, mounted and balanced and ready to be swapped onto their vehicles.  

I may be mistaken on this, but I'm pretty sure that Quebec is the only province in Canada that actually mandates Winter Tires be installed at this time of year (can anyone correct me on that?) which makes sense.

Here in BC's lower mainland, what we're dealing with on occasion is the very slippery conditions that occur around -1C temperatures, when it's hovering around freezing.  Many drivers who are uncomfortable dealing with this simply take transit until it goes away a few days later; sensible enough, given the gradients you'll encounter at times.

So, do the 'new' rules actually make it mandatory for drivers to be using Winter Tires specifically at any time, or any place, in the province?  Or does the same situation apply as always has, where drivers with 'Summer' tires may be ticketed for disobeying a Highway Sign if they have in fact driven past one that advises using Winter Tires?

(As for the Motor Cycle thing, that's just nuts.  Send the cop back to Regina for reprogamming!  Those Class 6 guys don't ride unless it's safe or they have a death wish; but they do take advantage of sunny days to enjoy their thing.)

A few issues with winter tire regulations for commercial trucks (semi trucks).

1) A very common commercial truck route is to california and back with produce. To enter california, a semi truck must be "Smart Way" compliant. At this point, there are no winter tires that are smart way compliant. Meaning a truck would have to get the tires changed each time it heads south and on its way north. Some trucks are doing 2+ trips a week depending on how far into California it has to go and whether it is driven by a single person or as a team. Not to mention the trucks that go to Texas / Florida and would melt winter tires down there.

2) the video you posted showing a comparison of winter tires vs regular tires in slippery conditions was done in Europe with that particular tire not available in North America.

It's been a couple of years since my last rant (above) on this issue.  A couple of things have changed, perhaps for the better. Todd Stone went back to the original flawed legislation and rerwote it. Commenting on two issues:

A demand for winter tires on heavy commercial trucks is impractical. Partially because they are expensive and not required if the truck is (as previously stated) travelling to/from non-winter conditions. Also, in many cases the tractor is pulling someone else's trailers ... so who equips the trailer? This is why the signage shows "chains" for heavy trucks.

When the light dawned over Mr. Stone's head about the lack of "winter" tires for motorcycles, he took the "California" way out. That being, he didn't mention "motorcycles" in the revised legislation. As such, like "lane splitting" it is now "acceptable by omission".  Again, notice that there is no picture of a motorcycle on the signage. However, if in the opinion of a police officer, riding in winter conditions is deemed to be "dangerous", a rider can still be charged under other sections of the MVA.

Yesterday we drove up the Coquihalla from Hope, the plow trucks were doing a wonderful job on the highway but there was no care taken to plow out the chain-up pull-outs for commercial trucks. So now 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 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 Snowshed nothing short of these triple chains 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 the chains before they are across the highway blocking all traffic. Like maybe at the first pull-out.
Look forward to some correction/replies to this, thanks,