New chain-up rules for commercial vehicles designed to reduce closures

New stricter chain-up regulations for B.C. highways are designed to improve safety during the winter months. Among many changes, the new regs mean some smaller commercial vehicles not previously required to do so will now have to chain up. Does it affect your fleet?

In this file photo from December, 2016, a tractor-trailer unit sits in ditch on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Revelstoke. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

When the snow and ice hits the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, it can result in mayhem on the steeper grades as commercial vehicles spin out and get stuck, blocking the highway. That’s not to mention 18-wheel torpedoes losing control, endangering and taking lives.

Stricter commercial vehicle chain-up rules that came into effect today are designed to reduce highway closures and improve safety on B.C. highways during winter.

Previous regulations only required vehicles over 27,000 kilograms to carry and use traction devices, with only one wheel needing chains during winter conditions and mandatory chain-ups. The new rules 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 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.

An B.C. transportation ministry infographic outlining the new chain-up regulations.

In a statement announcing the new regulations, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena said that 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.

“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,” Trevena said.

A transportation ministry spokesperson said that the province is also considering increasing fines for drivers who fail to chain up when required to, and expects to have a new fine structure in place later in the winter. Previously, drivers faced a base-level fine of $121 for not carrying chains or not installing them when required to do so.

Commercial vehicle safety and enforcement officers will provide information and education to drivers over the coming months before stricter fines are implemented and enforced later this winter. A ministry statement said the values of the escalating fines for non-compliance are being evaluated and considered.