Gross Vehicle Weight - A Common Misunderstanding

by Brian Holland | January 12th, 2016 |    12comments
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The Gross Vehicle Weight rating of recreation vehicles and light trucks has been misunderstood for quite some time. I hope you will find the following interesting if not useful.

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) refers to the maximum weight a vehicle is designed to carry. This includes the net weight of the vehicle plus any accessories, passengers, fuel and cargo. The vehicle manufacturers set the GVWR of their vehicles, which are based on requirements set by Transport Canada.

The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the maximum weight a commercial vehicle or truck is licensed for. The GVW can be changed but cannot be lower then a minimum of 150% of the vehicle’s net weight and should not be greater then the GVWR of the vehicle.

All vehicles whether they are cars, trucks buses or trailers are charged along with the Insurance, a license fee. The license fee is based on a vehicle’s weight. The higher the weight the higher the fee. For cars the fee is based on the net weight while trucks & pickups are based on the GVW.

In 2000, changes in the GVWR regulations caused a misinterpretation amongst owners of RV’s & trailers. Many people who towed the large trailers & 5th Wheels thought the GVW needed to include not only the weight of their truck, accessories and cargo, but also the weight of the trailer.

The fact is, the truck or towing vehicle’s GVW only needs to include the combined weight of the truck, passengers, fuel, accessories and any cargo, but does not need to include the weight of the towed trailer. It does need to include the Trailer tongue weight.

Two reasons for this is:

1) If we added the weight of say a large boat and trailer, which can be as much as 4500 kg and would far exceed the GVWR of even a 1 ton pickup truck.

2) A license fee applies to the GVW (unit +load) of the trailer. So if the weight were added to the towing Vehicle, the license fee would be paid twice.

To make matters more complicated; this rule only applies to trailers, which are considered utility/recreational, (type 4). On commercial plates (type 6) the above is reversed. To tell the difference between a utility/recreational and a commercial trailer can be determined by it’s licence plate. The small plate is a type 4 and the larger plate is a type 6.

The licence fee on commercial trailers is a flat amount and does not show a GVW. So when a commercial trailer is involved, its total weight has to be reflected in the GVW of the towing vehicle.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. The exception would be if you were driving one of the large Sport Utility vehicles. These autos are classified as passenger vehicles with a station wagon body style. They do not have a GVW and are only restricted by their rated towing capacity. So if you have a New Excursion or a Suburban the above is moot.