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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do You Have A Valid Licence To Tow Your 5’er?

One of the little mysteries of RV’ing that I was completely unaware of until just recently, is that here in B.C., towing an RV weighing more than 4,600 kg (10,120 lbs.) when fully loaded, requires an upgraded driver's licence.  It is illegal to tow a 5’er or trailer over this weight without the proper licence endorsement.  This could also severely affect your insurance should you get in an accident.  I do not have this licence upgrade – yet!  But, I’m working on it, and fast!!

Today’s images are representative of some of the questions on ‘the Test’
What causes excessive wear in the centre of a tire?  C – over inflationtire wear

This is one of those little known laws around here – I’d never even heard of it until my in-laws told me about it.  Apparently, the weight limit used to be 16,000 lbs. so most 5’ers, like our Citation were well below that. The law was changed some time ago but that message, for whatever reason, has failed to be passed on to those who need to know – we RV’ers.  In all my visits to RV dealerships, not one person has ever mentioned this requirement.  Neither did the insurance agent when we took out insurance on our new 5’er.  Strange!!

These screenshots just show how the test looks and are not the actual questionsicbc_1

So, no matter where you live in Canada, or the USA, if you have a fifth wheel or travel trailer, you might be wise to check out this law in your own area.  B.C. is not the only place to put a weight limit on towing RV’s, it is apparently common in many US states too.  It does make sense when one thinks about it though.  I’ve often wondered why it was possible to pull into a dealership, buy a humongous big 5’er and then just drive away without any special kind of training or at least a proficiency test.  But, I’ll bet there are thousands of folks here in B.C. driving around without the proper certification – scary!

Quite a few questions asked about what these signs meant.signs

Armed with the knowledge that I needed to get this upgrade fast, I spent a few hours yesterday morning on the website of our Provincial Government’s vehicle licensing agency.  To get the required licence, I have to first pass a written exam, and then pass an oral exam where I will be asked several questions about how to do a pre-trip check of my truck and 5’er.  Finally, I’ll have to take a road test pulling our new rig on whatever road course the examiner decides.  Fun, fun, fun!  The total cost for all of this is $50.

First up, the written test.  At the licence website they had a 75 page PDF booklet covering all aspects of towing an RV.  They also had what they called an ‘online practice test’ which I decided to try and I ‘aced it’ getting 24 out of the 25 multiple choice questions right.  Having passed that, I quickly glanced through the 75 page PDF which was all about towing safety.  At that point, it never even occurred to me that none of the ‘online practice test’ questions were towing related, I just figured that for whatever reason the test was generic.

icbc_4

Confident that I knew enough to pass the written test, I drove into town to our local Access Centre and told them I’d like to write the test.  I already knew no appointment was required.  No problem the guy said and asked “did you read and study the booklet, because passing this test requires you to get a score of at least 80%”?  Wow!  Undaunted, I told him “yeah, a bit, but I took the online practice test and did really well”.  He said “that’s not the same test, the trailer towing test isn’t online yet”.  Oh, oh!!  No wonder it was so easy! 

More “what do these lights mean?” questionslights

Having come this far, I decided to go ahead and try it anyway.  After a quick eye examination which was fine, I was ushered to a touch screen computer and told I would have 30 minutes to answer the 34 questions.  As soon as I saw the first question I knew this wasn’t going to be a cakewalk and I was in big trouble.  The question was something like this “How far ahead of a railway crossing must you stop?”  The answers were 5, 10, 15 or 25 metres.  I had no clue, but guessed answer ‘C’, or 15 meters.  It was correct.

icbc_2

These types of questions continued with some pretty obvious but others extremely tough.  I was very thankful that they were all multiple choice so I had 4 options.  On at least 10 of those I just guessed at the right answer.  Often times, it’s better to be lucky than smart as I guessed right on 6 of them.  When I finally got through the last question, a big “You Passed'” sign popped up and said I had scored 86%.  Amazing.  It was mostly luck, honestly!!

With that, I turned to scheduling the road test.  The earliest date I could get was for November 30th which will work for our trip down south.  The guy I was dealing with told me they end up having a lot of cancellations so if I was to call them each day, there’s a good chance I might be able to take my road test earlier.  That’s what I’m going to do – right after I read and study that darned PDF booklet so that I’m well prepared for the ‘oral pre-trip quiz’!!

Have a great Thursday, and thanks again for visiting!