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In British Columbia, truckers will occasionally face a traffic sign that states “trucks over 5500 kg licenced gross vehicle weight, check brakes, exit 900 m.” Once in the brake check area there is a sign that says “trucks, stop here check brakes, steep hill ahead”.

The Motor Vehicle Regulation says that truckers facing these signs must “inspect brake systems”.

There is much confusion as to what exactly a trucker is to do at such a place. Or, more correctly, how thorough of an investigation is to be undertaken? Unfortunately, the regulation gives no guidance in this respect.

We know that the regulation allows for different levels of thoroughness of brake inspection. There is the annual brake inspection that is to be conducted at a licenced inspection facility—this is an exceptionally thorough inspection by licenced mechanics having tools and hoists.

We know that a peace officer, such as a commercial vehicle safety and enforcement officer, or an RCMP officer, can undertake a roadside inspection. Often these involve an examination of push rod travel, an examination for air leaks, and a general visible inspection to see whether or not there is compliance with the law. If there is not, it may result in a Notice and Order, a ticket, or both.

It is, by the way, possible for a peace officer to “test” brakes, which suggests to me that there is no inspection, but merely an application of the brakes to see if they work.

The regulation contemplates a pre-trip inspection, and the requirement there is that the driver “satisfy himself or herself that the commercial motor vehicle is in a safe operating condition”.

What the law does not say, however, is how thorough of an investigation must be done by a driver at a brake check. Nor does it say what standards must be satisfied in order to pass the inspection.

I have had a couple of occasions, over the years, to be involved in court cases concerning these signs. Based on those court cases, including the representations made by the government witnesses and lawyers at those cases, the requirements at a brake check are minimal. Particularly, a trucker need only bring his truck to a complete stop, and then proceed. Anything done beyond these minimal steps is to be regarded merely as voluntary actions on the part of the trucker.

As a member of the motoring public I find it offensive that such a minimal effort can satisfy the requirements of an “inspection”. To me this is a test, not an inspection.

I do not want to discourage truckers from making any voluntary additional efforts, as I think they are very worthwhile.

Nevertheless, this appears to be the law in the Province of British Columbia. And I issue a public plea to all truckers, to let me know immediately if they receive a ticket for failing to obey a brake check sign, after they have brought their vehicle into a brake check area and slowed or stopped.

John Drayton is a lawyer with Gibraltar Law Group who practices in the areas of forestry and motor transport law.