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Drivesmart column: Trailer must have lots of light and reflectors

9 lamps and 6 reflectors are the minimum required by law
Tim Schewe

By Tim Schewe

Nine lamps and six reflectors are the minimum required by law to be installed and functional on your trailer. If that trailer is not a small one, the number grows rapidly to stay in compliance depending on its length and width. Not just any lamp or reflector will do either, they all must be the right device for the right place and comply with standards.

Manufacturers of trailers must comply with the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act and Regulations. Transport Canada publishes a guide to light and reflector requirements for trailers that shows where these items must be located and which compliance markings they are required to show.

Should you choose to build your own trailer, you will have to comply with Division 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Those regulations hold you to the same set of standards as the commercial manufacturers.

The police and designated inspection facilities enforce them after construction is completed and the trailers are in use on our highways.

The minimum consists of yellow side marker lights and reflectors at each side of the front, red side marker lamps and reflectors at each side of the rear, red stop lamps, tail lamps and reflectors at both sides facing the rear and finally a white licence plate lamp.

All of these devices are marked according to standards identifying them as acceptable for their purpose and may or may not be combined in the same unit.

If your trailer happens to be more than 2.05 metres (80 inches) in width or 9.1 metres (30 feet) in length, additional lamps will be required. These generally consist of intermediate side marker lamps, clearance lamps and identification lamps, depending on which dimensions are exceeded.

Conspicuity markings in the form of reflective tape will be required for trailers over 2.05 metres in width and having a GVWR more than 4,356 kg (10,000 lb).

When I started policing in the 1980s trailers that were narrow enough not to obscure the lights on the vehicle pulling it were not required to have brake lights. This has not been the case for many years now and all lights and reflectors are required, even for narrow trailers.

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