7 Things You Need to Know Right Now About Towing a Recreational Trailer in BC

You’ve got the boat and trailer (or a fifth wheel straight from heaven) and you’re ready to hit the road…

Wait!  Do you know everything there is to know about travelling on BC’s beautiful highways with a recreational trailer in tow? No?

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you head out on the highway with your RV combination.

  • Know how heavy your load is. Most recreational trailers weigh less than 4,600 kg. If your trailer weighs under 4,600 kg (fully loaded), your Class 5 or 7 licence is all you need. If your load is over 4,600 kg fully loaded and you hold a Class 4 or 5 licence, you need to get a house trailer endorsement or hold a different class licence.
  • Understand your vehicle towing requirements. Your vehicle owner’s manual will tell you the maximum weight your vehicle can tow. Do not exceed this amount as it will put you, your trailer and others at risk. Most manufacturers have trailer towing packages including: type of engine, transmission (heavy duty), cooling systems, axles and suspension, power brakes, steering, tires, mirrors, electrical system and more. Make sure your truck is equipped for the trailer you intend to tow. Have more questions? Here’s what the CVSE wants you to know.
  • Know the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the trailer including its load, and how much of that weight is on the hitch, to calculate if the truck is capable of towing the trailer. There is usually a plate or a decal on the trailer indicating the GVWR. This is the manufacturer’s recommended maximum weight of the trailer and its load.

  • Do a pre-trip inspection. You should conduct an inspection of your truck and trailer at least daily and, when travelling, every time you stop. The inspection includes: checking under the hood, checking gauges in the cab, walking around the truck and trailer to check lights, tire pressure and mechanical components, making sure boats and other items on travel trailers are securely buckled down. The final step is to pull ahead slowly and check for brake and steering response. ICBC has compiled a detailed list of things to check in their pre trip inspection document.
  • Realize that speed and weight affect stopping power. Understand what is required of you and your vehicle combination to move and to stop. This includes giving yourself adequate stopping distance and stopping time (at least five seconds between you and vehicle in front of you). As always, inclement weather, construction zones, emergency work, and other unique situations on highways may require you to slow down or even stop with short notice. Be prepared and stay focused.
  • Keep safety in mind at all times. This is a given for all road trips you take but staying safe while travelling with your trailer ensures your journey will end well for everyone. A few things to remember:
    • Passengers are never allowed to travel in the trailer.
    • Propane appliances should be completely closed during travel and equipped with detectors to alert you of a leak.
    • Carry a fire extinguisher on board in case of fire.
    • Make sure water valves are closed, power lines are disconnected and all vents and awnings are completely closed before you take off.
    • Make sure ATVs and boats are properly secured to the trailer.
    • Regular vehicle maintenance is another important part of travelling with or without a recreational trailer; keeping your pride and joy road ready will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.
  • Refresh yourself on the rules of the road. It’s always a good time to refresh your knowledge of BC road signs. Take this practice test.

Bonus Tip!

We regularly hear from travellers outside BC asking if they can legally pull a third trailer behind their fifth wheel in our province. Three Vehicle Combinations are NOT legal in BC, due to the unstable handling that results from this combination. The BC Commercial Transport Act Regulations (CTAR) covers this in more detail under section 7.18, It’s also prohibited under Division 19.02 (3) (a) of the MVAR and additional information can be found in Section 5.4 of the Commercial Transport Procedures Manual, but that is getting into the weeds.  If you plan on traveling outside of your home province or state, we encourage you to know the law before you go – we’d hate to have to spoil your vacation plans.

Now that you know the basics rules of the road for recreational trailers, you are ready to make the move to good times ahead.  If you have a question about your configuration – contact the CVSE directly at CVSEgeneralinquiry@gov.bc.ca

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Happy and safe trails to you!

Page 1 of 397 comments on “7 Things You Need to Know Right Now About Towing a Recreational Trailer in BC”

Leave a Reply to tranbceditor Cancel reply

  1. I understand a heavy trailer endorsement is needed on a BC class 5 license to tow a holiday trailer in excess of 10,000 lbs. How does this apply to out of province drivers? Is this just an ICBC thing or is it BC gov regulation? If so, what is required by an Alberta driver visiting BC with a holdiday trailer > 10K?

    • Hi John,

      We sent your question to the good folks in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement department and here is what they had to say:

      “A visitor from out of province that is here for pleasure use can operate in BC with their vehicle combinations legally as long as they are licensed appropriately in their home jurisdiction. Basically, if John’s DL is legal in Alberta for his truck and travel trailer then he is ok to operate here while on vacation. Reciprocity is granted.”
      Hope that this helps, if you have any other questions, let us know or send an email to the CVSE at: http://www.cvse.ca/contacts.htm

      • I just want to be sure we are legal for our upcoming BC visit as I am with Law Enforcement. In your Feb 12, 2014 response to John you indicated that there is reciprocity for out of province visitors. We are legal to tow in Colorado and have a 2012 Ram 2500 diesel with a GCWR of 22000 lbs., a curb weight of 7711 lbs., and a 39′ trailer with a GVWR OF 10500 lbs. The trailer weight slightly exceeds the provincial regulations of 4600 kgs. Does reciprocity apply to US visitors?

        • Hi Bill,
          The restriction that occurs at 4600 kg trailing weight in BC is on the driver’s license. We’ve consulted with the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) and they confirmed that if you are properly licensed in your home jurisdiction for the vehicle combination that you’re operating, then you are good to drive in BC.

          By the way, ICBC publishes a great guide that’s full of safety tips and useful information for towing recreational vehicles. If you’re interested in having a look, you’ll find that guide here: http://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/types-licences/Pages/Towing-a-recreational-trailer.aspx

  2. I will be trailering a boat that weighs more than 4600 kg. Do I need a heavy trailer endorsement or would a house trailer endorsement suffice?

  3. Being a long haul driver of 25 years..

    I always see these rv’s pulling trailers etc.. and they always have a flat tire.. CHECK YOUR TIRES!!!

    • Hi Margaret,
      Sorry, this configuration isn’t legal in BC. Straight from our Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement branch, this could post significant operating concerns and therefore not legal. No permitting is available for this either. For more info, check the Commercial Transport Procedures Manual under 5.4 Recreational Vehicle Combinations. Reference: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/cvse/ctpm/Chapter_5.pdf
      Thanks for the question.