Many BC residents who are also RV lovers are not aware that if they are towing anything (trailer or fifth-wheel etc.) that weighs more than 4,600 kg (10,140 lbs), ICBC actually requires them to hold a special kind of license or endorsement in order to be compliant with insurance policies! Read on to learn more about these special licenses or endorsements.
Vehicle types that can be driven with Class 4, 5 or 7 driver’s licences
Most of us in BC hold a Class 5 or 7 driver’s licence in order to be able to operate a vehicle legally. Technically, a Class 5 driver’s licence allows one to drive passenger vehicles that have 2 axles (a car, SUV, or regular truck – for example), a motorcycle (with speed limits), or any motor-home (that does NOT have air brakes). The same goes for Class 7 licenses, although those have further restrictions since they are novice licenses.
When it comes to a Class 4 driver’s licence, however, those allow for operating all the same vehicles and vehicle combinations as Class 5 licenses, but a Class 4 also includes other vehicale types such as taxis, small buses (with seating limits in place), and/or ambulances.
Maximum weight that can be towed with a Class 4, 5 or 7 driver’s licence
The above licence classes (classes 4, 5 or 7) allow one to tow up to 4,600 kg in at a maximum for what is called the “gross vehicle weight” (GVW). This means that the combined total weight of the tow and its load cannot exceed 4,600kg. For example, if what you are towing weighs 4,000 kg by itself (empty and unoccupied) then you are legally allowed to tow it with a Class 4, 5 or 7 (novice) driver’s licence without any upgrades necessary. However, the total load may exceed 4,600 kg once it is equipped with people, food, water, or anything else. This then presents the need for upgraded licenses.
Towing more than 4,600 kg GVW
If you want to tow anything (a trailer, fifth-wheel, etc.) that weighs more than 4,600 kg GVW, you will need to upgrade your driver’s licence if you have a Class 4 or Class 5 .
Please note that if you have a Class 7 (novice) driver’s licence, you CANNOT upgrade to allow towing more than 4,600 kg GVW.
Towing a larger load requires an upgraded driver’s licence!
This restriction on towing over 4,600 kg GVW can be seen across Canada, and was implemented for safety precautions. Towing is already harder than just driving a single automobile, and a larger tow load is also even more difficult than towing smaller loads. This is because towing larger loads requires special techniques when it comes to handling and braking. This is why towing a larger load (4,600+ kg) requires an upgraded license.
Options for upgrading a Class 4 or Class 5 licence to tow a larger load
When it comes to towing loads larger than 4,600 kg, there are 3 options for upgrading a Class 4 or 5 driver’s license in order to legally tow the load:
Option #1: You can apply for what is called a house trailer endorsement (Code 07)
Applying for and receiving a house trailer endorsement (code 07) on your Class 4 or Class 5 license will allow for towing recreational house trailers of any weight, as long as it is appropriate for the towing vehicle, and given that air brakes are not present on either the trailer or the tow vehicle. This note about air brakes is very important.
Option #2: You can apply for a heavy trailer endorsement (Code 20)
The second option is to apply for a heavy trailer endorsement (code 20), which allows towing any kind of trailer of any weight. However, the same rules as option #1 apply. The tow must be appropriate for the towing vehicle, and no air brakes must be present.
Option #3: You can qualify for a Class 1, 2 or 3 commercial driver’s licence.
If none of the first 2 options works for you, you may need to look into acquiring a Class 1, 2 or 3 commercial driver’s license. Sometimes this is the only options for some.
There are air brakes in my towing vehicle and/or trailer. What do I need?
Many times, the main issue is that there are air brakes on the towing vehicle and/or trailer. If this is the case (and the trailer weighs under 4,600 kg GVW), then what you’ll need is to add what is called an air brake endorsement to your license. Again, this can only be used on Class 4 or 5 driver’s licences.
On the other hand, you will need to upgrade to a Class 1 driver’s license if there are air brakes on either the trailer or tow vehicle, and the trailer weighs over 4,600 kg GVW.
Can I use an Air-brake endorsement AND a Heavy Trailer endorsement?
Unfortunately, NO. Two endorsements cannot be used together, so the Code 15 and Code 20 endorsements cannot be used with one another to tow over 4600 kg with air-brakes present. The best solution for this type of combination would be a Class 1 licence.
Can I tow a trailer over 4,600 kg GVW if I have a Class 2 or 3 driver’s licence?
It depends whether the trailer or tow vehicle has air-brakes or not. If either the trailer or tow vehicle is equipped with air brakes (and the trailer weighs over 4600 kg GVW), an upgrade to a Class 1 driver’s licence is required. This is the case even if there is an air brake endorsement on the Class 2 or 3 driver’s licence.
On the other hand, if there are no air-brakes equipped on either the trailer or tow vehicle, then Class 2 or 3 driver’s licences do permit towing a trailer weighing over 4,600 kg GVW without any extra endorsements or upgrades needed (trailer endorsement or driver’s licence upgrade).
Applying for a house / heavy trailer endorsement, or a commercial licence
Whether you’re applying for a house/heavy trailer endorsement or a commercial license, some specific steps will need to be completed. Each of these involves the following;
- passing the appropriate driver knowledge test,
- qualifying to applicable driver medical standards, and
- passing a vehicle pre-trip and road test.
All of the above needs to be done in/for an appropriate vehicle combination for the class of licence you’re looking to acquire.
Can I tow any other type of trailer over 4,600 kg GVW with a house trailer endorsement?
NO. Unfortunately, the house trailer endorsement (Code 07) only adds permission to tow either toy haulers or house trailers – nothing else.
For example, any other type of trailer that weighs over 4,600 kg GVW (such as horse trailers, boat trailers, utility trailers, and so on) are NOT permitted to be towed with just a house trailer endorsement. For these other other trailer options, one will need to get a heavy trailer endorsement (Code 20) or a Class 1, 2 or 3 driver’s licence.
Restrictions around towing recreational “toy” haulers
If you don’t know what a “toy” hauler is exactly, these can be classified as a towable trailer combining a mobile garage with living space. The garage space is commonly used to carry such “toys” like motorcycles, ATVs and others. Toy haulers often come equipped with a rear door opening that opens with a ramp for loading. Toy haulers can be purchased as a trailer and/or as a fifth wheel.
Again, as long as there are no air-brakes on the trailer or tow vehicle, one can haul a toy hauler that weighs more than 4,600 kg GVW with a Class 4 or 5 driver’s licence as long as a house trailer endorsement (Code 07) is also present.
Costs associated with upgrading a driver’s licence
When it comes to costs associated with upgrading a driver’s license, fees vary. The fees will vary depending on what kind of upgrade is required. Consult icbc.com or your local driver’s licence office agent for a complete fee schedule for different types of upgrades. There is usually a fee for the new driver’s licence picture as well. Furthermore, a government medical processing fee will also be required in some cases (along with any fee the Dr. might decide to charge for the medical exam and report).
Study materials available on towing trailers
If you’re looking for some study material on towing trailers, there are 2 different manuals available to be downloaded (for FREE) from icbc.com — Towing a Recreational Trailer,and Driving Commercial Vehicles (for heavy trailers and air brakes). You can also get in contact with the driver licensing office closest to you for copies (also free).
Towing a trailer can affect your insurance!
If you’re looking to tow any kind of trailer, make sure you are 100% compliant with insurance policies. The main thing to remember is the weight of the total tow, and if there are any air-brakes present. If the weight of the trailer and contents exceeds 4,600 kg GVW, you are not legally licensed to drive that vehicle combination if you do not have the correct driver’s licence and/or driver’s licence endorsement. If the towing vehicle or the trailer has any air brakes, you are not legally licensed to operate that vehicle combination if you do not have the correct driver’s licence or licence endorsement. It is your responsibility as the driver and license holder to ensure that you have the appropriate licence or endorsement for the vehicle combination that you’re driving. Drivers could be in breach of their insurance policy in the event of a crash if they are towing without the appropriate driver’s licence class, and that could mean big trouble.
Contact Our Professional Reps Today
If you have any questions about the specific license requirements you may need in order to tow your trailer, fifth-wheel or toy hauler please feel free to reach out to us and speak to one of our professional representatives. We are always happy to help answer any questions you may have whatsoever!