The Craziness of Trying to be Legal with a Pickup Truck and Trailer in Ontario
Here are the factors that affect how much you can carry or tow in Ontario:
- The colour of your license plate
- Your driver’s license classification
- The registered weight on your vehicle’s ownership
- The weight that your trailer tires are putting to the ground when connected to your vehicle.
- The amount of weight your trailer is capable of carrying
- If the load is being carried/towed for compensation
- CVOR and Annual Inspection Sticker
If you don’t want to read all the details and you just want to get to your buddy’s place this weekend, here’s the easiest general rule. In a nutshell, any loaded truck/trailer combination weighing less than 4500 kg (9918 lbs) will not draw the attention of authorities as long as everything is safe (safely loaded, lights working, safety chains attached, etc.) Here’s a simple example of when you’re going to the cottage with your family and towing your side-by-side on a trailer:
1/2 ton pickup @ 2270 kgs (5000 lbs)
Family of 4-5 @ 295 kgs (650 lbs)
Gear @ 225 kgs (500 lbs)
Trailer @ 455 kgs (1000 lbs)
UTV @ 680 kgs (1500 lbs)
Your total is 3925 kg (8650 lbs)putting you well within your limits and with a “safe” trailer and load you will not have any problems with authorities.
But the law is written that if the combined truck and trailer GVWR exceeds 4500 kgs, you will require an annual inspection sticker on the truck and trailer, and in most cases, unless you’re pulling a light-duty utility trailer, even a 1/2 ton truck (most are rated over 3000 kgs) pulling a trailer with a 1500 kg GVWR will put you at or over the limit. This is also the reason why most 1 ton dually pickups have a yellow sticker on them right from the lot – their GVWR exceeds 4500 kgs on their own, before adding a trailer. What this means for you is that if you’re pulling a trailer with more than a 1500 kg axle in it, you’re almost definitely going to require an annual inspection sticker on the truck and trailer to be 100% assured of avoiding fines.
And by the law, camper/RV trailers are completely exempt from all the rules governing safe towing weights behind a vehicle, and I believe even the tongue weight is not included in the actual weight of your vehicle. (more information on the “actual weight” is below) – but this post is not about campers/RV’s so I won’t be going into any more detail on this subject.
1. License Plate Colours
Blue lettering on white plates are for cars and SUV’s. They are non-commercial stickers and this has nothing to do with whether or not the vehicle is used for commercial purposes, but more to do with the weight the vehicle can carry. Blue and white stickers limit vehicles to pulling just one trailer, but ironically have no weight restrictions.
2. Driver’s License Classification
A standard ‘G’ license allows you to operate a vehicle with a total weight of vehicle and trailer(s) not exceeding 11,000 kg unless your trailer is a recreational vehicle (5th wheel, or tag-along) and then there is no restriction.
3. & 4. Registered Vehicle Weight and Trailer Weight to the Ground
To make sure you have a safe load (i.e. not overweight), here are a couple of key definitions:
GVWR – the maximum weight your truck can be registered for according to the manufacturer
RGW – the actual weight your truck is registered for according to your ownership
How does the ministry calculate the weight you’re vehicle is carrying?
The actual weight your vehicle is carrying is measured one of two ways by the ministry:
- Your truck including the weight of the truck, passengers, gear, and the tongue weight of any trailer when the trailer puts up to 2800 kgs to the road when connected to your truck.
- Your truck including the weight of the truck, passengers, gear, and the entire weight of the trailer when the trailer puts more than 2800 kgs to the road when connected to your truck.
However the actual weight is measured, it must be less than the RGW that is printed on your ownership.
I believe the RGW is selected by default when you register your vehicle, but I’m not 100% sure about that because I’ve always had dealers do the registration for me. At any rate, you can request to have the RGW increased if it doesn’t cover the actual weight that you might be carrying with your vehicle but you will be charged more for licensing. The RGW can be increased to the vehicle’s max GVWR which can be found on the door of your truck. Keep in mind that every truck, year, engine, rear-end gear ratio, and cab configuration has a different GVWR, so don’t go by what your buddy’s truck’s GVWR is when you’re researching this stuff. For example, a 2017 regular cab GM has a lower GVWR than the crew cab version with the same engine.
5. Trailer Weight Capability
Sometimes the conversation comes up that you must have an annual inspection on a trailer if it is tandem axle. This is not exactly how the law is written, but is largely true. The annual inspection is required for any trailer capable of carrying more than 4500 kgs. This really comes back to the combination weight discussed in my opening scenario. If the truck/trailer is over 4500 kg, you will require an annual inspection sticker for both the truck and trailer – from that, obviously if the trailer is capable of carrying over 4500 kgs, it will automatically require the inspection sticker on the highway.
7. CVOR vs. Annual Inspection
In Ontario, there is quite a bit of confusion and misinformation about when you need a CVOR or an annual inspection sticker for your trailer, and what this commercial sticker (also called simply the “Yellow Sticker”) means for you as a trailer owner. First off, don’t confuse the CVOR for your truck and the annual inspection sticker for your trailer. They are two completely separate things. Unfortunately, the forums and personal discussions often confuse the two terms and because the weight limit of 4500 kg is a tipping point for both, things get very mixed up.
Technically speaking, every truck on the road with black on white license plates is a commercial vehicle, however, there is specific wording in the Highway Traffic Act that excludes commercial vehicles with a GVWR up to 6000 kgs that are being used for personal use as long as they are alone or towing a trailer that is not carrying commercial tools or equipment. The CVOR requires commercial vehicles that are being used for commercial purposes (i.e. vehicles being used for purposes where the owner is being compensated in some manner) – we’ll call this “business purposes” from here on out to avoid confusion – to do daily inspections, keep log books, etc. I won’t get into the requirements for the CVOR because it’s out of scope for our discussion. Know that the Highway Traffic Act related to Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspections (Ontario regulation 199/07) is very specific on the point that commercial vehicles do NOT include commercial vehicles being used for personal use, but it’s up to you to convince the officer that has you pulled over that it’s personal use, not business use. (see Part I, Chapter 1 – Definitions and interpretation @ https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/070199)
Annual inspections are a completely different animal. The annual safety inspection is required for your truck if it has a GVWR that is greater than 4500 kgs whether it is being used for business purposes or not. Therefore, a 3/4 ton truck weighing 3357 kg (7400 lbs) pulling a utility trailer with a maximum capacity of more than 1143 kg (2520 lbs) requires an annual inspection sticker on the truck and trailer.
There are 2 main points you will need to be aware of:
- Make sure your truck and trailer load is within the limits as defined by your vehicle ownership.
- Make sure to stay within the 4500 kg combined truck and trailer GVWR if you want to avoid any problems, but the common sense approach seems to be taken by police and MTO here.
I believe this is simply a place where the laws haven’t caught up to the consumer market. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, 3/4 ton trucks were rarely used for personal use. Today, 3/4 and 1 ton trucks are as common as 1/2 tons. I think eventually this law will change, but until then, be aware you can be fined for having a combined max GVWR weight over 4500 kgs, particularly if you drive a 3/4 or 1 ton truck and pull a trailer.
Good luck on your road to the Dirty Life!