Sunday, August 30th15.7°C
Behind The Wheel

Trailer pre-trip inspections

One of the more eye-opening exercises that I used to conduct at this time of the year was to park my police vehicle at the brake check and wave in vehicles pulling boat trailers for a mechanical inspection. I had learned that boat trailers were often the most poorly maintained of all recreational trailers and there were often serious safety defects to be found. A simple pre-trip inspection by the driver would have found them easily and made sure that the trip would be a safe one.

The first thing I would do after gathering all the paperwork was to hand the driver a wrench and ask him to open the surge brake reservoir for a brake fluid level check. If the cap did not break off the reservoir was frequently dry or contained rust coloured liquid that indicated the fluid was contaminated with water and likely had been for some time. If the brake fluid appeared appropriate we would then activate the breakaway brake and try to move ahead. It should be very difficult to move the trailer.

Next I would ask for the running lights and hazard flashers to be turned on. A quick circle check examined safety chains, lights, reflectors, tires, wheels, licence plate and decal as well as load security. This could be accomplished in a couple of minutes and I then had a good idea of how road worthy the trailer was or wasn't.

Many times the exercise would conclude with an order for the trailer to be taken to a designated inspection station for a more thorough examination by a mechanic. I spoke with one of these inspectors once and was told that I had a light hand when it came to using my pen. In his opinion, a large number of the trailers that I had sent should have been taken away from the roadside by tow truck.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit


Shame bad drivers publicly?

Deliberately bad drivers seem to be appearing more and more often on our highways. If e-mail to the DriveSmartBC website is any indication, other drivers are no longer shrugging it off and report offenders in the hope that they will be held accountable. Some, including myself, have taken to posting photos or video of selfish, inconsiderate or dangerous drivers in that hope that public shaming might improve that driver's behaviour.

Visit your favourite search engine and enter bad drivers of Vancouver or bad parkers of Kelowna and you will find all sorts of examples of driving or parking that make you wonder why these people still hold valid BC driver's licences. Probably some of them do not.

Do any of these bad drivers ever see themselves on the internet? I've only had one instance where a woman named as the driver responsible for a collision in case law that I posted ask to have her name removed from DriveSmartBC. As it was a published BC Supreme Court judgment I explained and refused. Nothing further was said.

Shame is a very powerful emotion that can drive personal change. It is also a useful tool to encourage others to conform to societal norms. Is it morally justifiable? If you have no other means to counter people choosing to put your life and health at risk, perhaps it is.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

How many tie downs?

The load consisted of rough lumber, about 2x6 or 2x8 size 12 to 14 feet long and 3 feet high on a flat deck trailer pulled by a large pickup truck. Load security was provided by a single heavy strap wrapped once around the middle of the load. The combination was being pulled at highway speed which was 90 km/h. Do you think that this load was secured to the trailer sufficiently?

Even if you knew nothing about the rules that must be followed to properly tie down this load I think you would join me in shaking my head. Have you seen a commercial truck drive past with a similar load at any time while you were driving? How many straps did they have wrapped around the load and how big were they? This knowledge alone should tell you that one strap is not enough.

The minimum number of tie downs needed is determined by the length of the load. Since the load was more than 10 feet long but not more than 20, it needed three. These straps must also be distributed equally along the load.

Next, the capacity of the tie downs must be considered. The aggregate strength must be at least equal to half of the weight of the load. Depending on how strong the tie downs are, you may end up having to use more than the minimum of three but never less.

There are many other loads and situations that can complicate securing a load fully and properly. Rather than trusting to luck, a quick call to the nearest weigh scale, some of which are always open, will get you the expert advice that you need for everyone to be safe.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit


Rossland slows down

The City of Rossland has done something rare in our motor vehicle centric world where many drivers think that faster is better. Effective on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 the speed on municipal streets has been lowered to 30 km/h. Hmm you say, that's the same speed as a school zone. Well, not in Rossland, the speed there has been lowered too. It's 15 km/h in pick-up areas and 20 km/h elsewhere. Interesting!

Reducing speeds on residential streets from 50 km/h to 30 km/h results in a significant reduction in injury and fatality when a vehicle collides with a pedestrian.

Reducing speeds on residential streets results in a more livable neighbourhood. Everyone will be more likely to play, walk or bike because they feel less threatened by drivers.

Do you have 30 seconds to spare? The city's newsletter contrasts travel times on one of the streets before and after the change. It will cost drivers half a minute.

It will be interesting to revisit this decision in a year's time to see if the citizens of Rossland keep this as their residential speed and to ask ICBC about its effect on collision rates. If it turns out to be successful perhaps this is the example you can use to help convince your municipality to follow suit.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

Read more Behind the Wheel articles


About the author...

Tim Schewe has been writing his column for most of the 20 years in his traffic enforcement service in the RCMP. It was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and now Schewe retired from the Force in January of 2006, but the column became a habit and continues.

E-mail him your questions or concerns: [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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