B.C. government introduces stricter winter driving chain-up rules

Winter driving in British Columbia, with its mountain passes and heavy snowfall, can be a white-knuckle experience at times.

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced enhanced chain-up rules that should, in theory, make winter driving over mountain passes less stressful. Specifically, the enhanced rules are aimed at commercial vehicles, with the government stating stricter regulations regarding chains will improve highway safety.

“Last winter, 33 of 35 extended closures on the Coquihalla involved commercial vehicles, and in most cases this was due to truck drivers either poorly installing chains or not using them at all,” said Claire Trevena, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “While most drivers do chain up during winter weather, these new regulations, and the stricter fines that will follow, will improve safety and hopefully reduce the number of closures.”

According to the provincial government, previous regulations only required vehicles weighing more than 27,000 kilograms to carry and use traction devices, with only one wheel needing chains during winter conditions and mandatory chain-ups. The new, more all-encompassing enhancements clarify requirements for all commercial vehicles over 5,000 kilograms.

  • Vehicles less than 11,794 kilograms, like buses or five-ton trucks, must use chains on a minimum of two tires and can use steel chains, cable chains, automatic chains, socks or wheel sanders, if not equipped with winter tires.
  • Vehicles more than 11,794 kilograms or more must use steel chains, and the number of tires needing chains ranges from a minimum of two tires for vehicles without a trailer, to six tires on some larger and more-demanding configurations.
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    In announcing the new rules, the ministry said it realizes that this is short notice for commercial vehicle industry, and that it “will balance the need for safety and reliability with giving the industry time to adjust its practices to the new regulations.”

    The government added that commercial vehicle safety and enforcement officers will provide information and education to drivers over the coming months before stricter fines are implemented and enforced. Previously, drivers faced a base-level fine of $121 for not carrying chains or not installing them when required to do so.

    “The B.C. Trucking Association [BCTA] supports government’s enhancements to commercial chain-up requirements, including the stiffer fines for those not compliant,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO of the BCTA. “Safety of our drivers and all road users is our first priority.”

    The ministry said it conducted a survey in June with the commercial vehicle industry and related stakeholders on these proposed changes. The survey results indicate:

    • More than 70 per cent of commercial drivers surveyed approved of enhancements to the quality of, and requirements for, traction devices.
    • More than 90 per cent of those surveyed said they are already compliant with the regulations.
    • More than 80 per cent said they have the tools and training in place to implement the proposed regulations.

    For more information on the enhancements to chain-up regulations and fines, click here.

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