Checking brakes on all trucks is important

The brake check

The sign says "Trucks, Stop Here, Check Brakes, Steep Hill Ahead."

Ask almost anyone and they would likely tell you the sign only applies to heavy commercial trucks equipped with air brakes. But that is not the case . The sign applies to all trucks with a licensed gross vehicle weight (GVW) of more than 5,500 kilograms, regardless of the type of brake system. It could include everything from a truck tractor to a pickup pulling an RV.

Checking brakes is part of the basic training for all commercial drivers. ICBC's Driving Commercial Vehicles manual has a section called Pre-Hill Inspections that starts on page 228.

Basic training for light vehicle drivers also mentions a pre-trip inspection in chapter 2 of ICBC's Learn to Drive Smart manual, beginning on page 24. It simply mentions checking brake fluid level and parking brake adjustment.

The Towing a Recreational Trailer manual goes into a bit more detail under the pre-trip inspection procedure, starting on page 13.

Advice in the form of advisory signs posted at brake check sites tells drivers of vehicles equipped with hydraulic brake systems they must check pedal pressure and brake assist to make sure there are no fluid leaks and that the brake drums are not overheated.

Pedal pressure is tested by applying the brakes and holding them applied. The pedal must not be spongy or slowly depress.

To check brake assist, turn the engine off, pump the brake pedal to deplete the assist, hold the pedal down and start the engine again. If assist is working properly, you will feel the pedal rise slightly.

Are you towing a trailer equipped with brakes? You will find a sign that tells you what to check at the pullout.

Disconnect the vacuum lines, pull the pin on the electric switch or the lever on the surge brake to activate the breakaway brake. Try to drive ahead and the trailer wheels should lock.

In addition to checking for hydraulic fluid leaks, it is wise to check fluid levels in the master cylinder as well. The fluid should be a clear straw colour and at or above the minimum level mark. If there is no mark indicated, then no less than 13 mm from the top of the reservoir.

Failing to stop and check brakes is a violation of Section 125 of the Motor Vehicle Act and disobey a traffic control device could result in the driver being issued a traffic ticket with a fine of $121 and two penalty points.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Rules for cyclists when riding on the road with others cyclists

Riding bicycles side by side

Bill 23 - 2023 has received first reading in the B.C. Legislative Assembly.

The bill is an attempt to bring a bit more order into the interactions between drivers of motor vehicles and the operators of various types of alternative transportation, including bicycles. It does not change the current prohibition on riding bicycles side by side.

I've been asked to comment on two situations, a left turn at traffic lights that resulted in an interaction with police and another where a cautious driver was unable to pass a group of cyclists riding two abreast for a considerable distance.

The cyclist was stopped by an officer who pulled him over for riding beside another cyclist while he was stopped at a red light in a left turn lane waiting to turn onto a bike lane. Prior to the red light they were riding single file.

After making a proper approach, they came to a stop to wait for the red light. The three riders moved to take up less room in the left turn lane and two could be considered side by side as they waited for the green light.

The officer warned him for riding side by side.

A group of cyclists in the Lower Mainland insisted on riding side by side for 60 kilometres, 30 kilometres of which involved one driver's route home. She is unable to pass safely due to a double solid yellow line and the cyclist did not follow the slow driving rules.

She related the incident, where an impatient driver behind her tried to pass in the face of oncoming traffic. The driver was unable to complete the pass safely and pushed his way into the middle of the cyclists to avoid a head-on collision.

The Motor Vehicle Act says that a cyclist "must not ride abreast of another person operating a cycle on the roadway." Remember, the "roadway" is the part of a highway designed for vehicular traffic and does not include the shoulder.

Some designated-use lanes (bicycle lanes or mixed-use trails) exclude vehicular traffic as well.

So, if one cyclist is riding on the roadway, another may not ride on either side of them. The only opportunity to ride two abreast is when both cyclists have room to do so using the shoulder or a bicycle lane and it is not otherwise regulated by a municipal bylaw.

This rule would not prohibit one cyclist passing another, subject to following the rules that govern making a pass.

I would also observe that the left turn situation described could be looked at as one rider passing another that was suspended in time by the red light. If they did not continue riding side by side after the green light, no enforcement would be necessary.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

The rules for approaching lane closures

The key to safe merging

There is probably nowhere that the unofficial rules of the road are "enforced" by other drivers like that of the lane closure line up.

You know, it’s the long line of traffic that forms on one side of the highway after drivers pass the “lane closed ahead” advisory signs.

When a driver dares to drive by waiting traffic using the empty lane, I've seen people open their doors or swerve partially into that lane to let other drivers know they are supposed to be in the line up, not using the empty lane to get ahead.

These "enforcement" actions are illegal. One must not open a door when it is unsafe to do so or change lanes when doing so would affect other traffic.

If traffic is light and no line has formed, merging early is perfectly acceptable. Due to the lower volume, a backup will not form to cause delay.

When traffic is heavier than what can be accommodated by a single lane, continue with caution using both lanes and at the end merge like the teeth in a zipper before proceeding through the zone single file.

A zipper merge alleviates the risks of queue jumping and road rage by creating a uniform system of merging that uses the full capacity of the road and increases the fairness of merging under conditions that are high stress for many drivers.

Other benefits include a reduction in speed differences between lanes and a reduction in the overall length of traffic backup by as much as 40 percent.

These practices are acceptable because the black on orange signs used in these situations are advisory. A driver can choose to take the advice (or not) as their experience, traffic and road conditions dictate in the circumstances.

Flag persons, cones, barricades and the like are traffic control devices that must be obeyed. Once you reach them at the point where the lane is closed, it is an offence to fail to follow their requirements. Then you must move over as indicated, but not before.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Be careful and vigilant turning left at an intersection

Yielding on left turns

A driver from Rutland e-mailed with a concern regarding the intersection of Nickel Road and Highway 33.

Highway 33 is five lanes wide with a two-way left-turn lane in the middle and Nickel Road is a two-lane residential street.

The driver regularly stops and waits to turn left off of Highway 33 onto Nickel Road and is horrified when through traffic on the highway stops to allow her to make the turn.

She was involved in a crash in this intersection, one of 16 between 2017 and 2021, when an oncoming driver stopped and waved for her to complete her turn. A driver in the lane beside the polite motorist failed to yield the right-of-way and struck her vehicle.

She raises two issues, the danger to left-turning drivers in this situation and also the risk to the drivers who yield being struck from behind.

It's always dangerous when you turn left in an intersection. You usually have to cross over opposing lanes of traffic, which leaves you vulnerable in a crash. It also exposes you to drivers who would never think they might have to yield and let you turn left.

The rule in B.C. for turning left at an intersection requires you to yield to any opposing traffic in, or approaching, the intersection so closely it would be an immediate hazard. Once you have done this, opposing traffic must now yield to you and allow you to make your left turn.

Never, ever expect the on-coming drivers to follow this rule, even if you are at an intersection controlled by traffic lights that have turned yellow.

In fact, this may be one of the more dangerous times to try and turn. Drivers wanting to get through before the light turns red may not be watching for you.

The tendency of most drivers is simply to carry on if there is an empty lane in front of them. Little or no thought is given to why that vehicle ahead is slowing down or stopped. Many pedestrians and drivers trying to turn have found this out the hard way.

Even if you have the right of way, do not proceed until it is safe to carry out the movement. If you can't see, you can't go.

If you are at an intersection with traffic lights, it would be far safer to wait for them to turn red and have all the opposing traffic stop before making your turn. In this situation, you have right-of-way over cross-traffic facing the green light to do so.

That, of course, assumes you have properly entered the intersection on the green light to prepare for the turn.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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