Q&A - Compliance by Visitors to BC

Q&A ImageI have a question about US vehicles on vacation in BC.  We were stopped in a large roadcheck on the long weekend and checked by the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) people.  Our trailer, from Washington state, was over the 2800 kgs and had the surge brake system installed.  CVSE advised at the time that the braking system is illegal for those weights.  I believe our trailer weighed 3500 kgs or so. CVSE wanted to stop us from continuing our trip and I want to know about what US vehicles have to comply with equipment wise when they come into Canada.

I've since done some research and found the 2800 kgs limit for the surge brakes is correct but couldn't see what the requirements were for out of BC jurisdiction equipment.

Comments

Answer

The BC Motor Vehicle Act and other traffic statutes apply to anyone using our highways regardless of where they come from. If they are here, they play by BC rules unless they are specifically exempted. One such example might be the requirement for insurance under section 24 MVA.

I used to carry a book with me called the Digest of Motor Laws published yearly by the AAA. They no longer publish it, but you can access the equivalent on line:

Digest of Motor Laws web site

The web site is not a lot of use at the roadside, but back then, if I didn't consider the problem critical, I would use the book to help decide how I would enforce here. Trailer brakes are a good example as for the most part we require brakes on all wheels, no surge brake over 2800 kg, breakaway braking and more. Some states only require brakes on only one of two axles. If it was commercially manufactured and not heavily loaded, I would usually advise the driver, complete a street check database entry on the driver and vehicle, then tell them that if they came back equipped the same way and were checked, next time would be extremely inconvenient for them if they were not in compliance. Of course, if I were concerned for safety that would be the end of their trip until they had reduced the trailer weight to comply.

This sort of issue is common with non-commercial vehicles because people just hook up and go, more often than not failing to take the time to make sure that they comply with local rules, much less those in different jurisdictions. It's a different situation with commercial vehicles as the drivers are aware that as soon as the cross provincial/state boundaries new rules apply. I'm sure that it's a headache for them too.

If you are thinking about travel through other jurisdictions, particularly if you are going to be driving a pickup truck or towing a trailer, you can research on the web before you travel. Provincial or state scales are usually willing to answer questions to make sure that you are in compliance before you travel. I would generally not choose to accept advice on this from a tourist bureau.

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