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Feds OK with pulsating brake lamps, but provinces have final say

Transport Canada has confirmed it will not restrict brake-activating pulsating lamps as long as the technology doesn’t interfere with the effectiveness of existing lighting standards.

“The regulation allows the installation of these devices as auxiliary lamps, as long as the minimum requirements in terms of lamp size, placement and colour of CMVSS 108 are met,” the regulator said, responding to questions from the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).

(Photo: Groendyke Transport)

“However, the systems themselves must respect Technical Standards Document (TSD) 108 S6.2.1, no additional lamp, reflective device, or other motor vehicle equipment is permitted to be installed that impairs the effectiveness of lighting equipment required by this TSD.”

The CTA’s request for clarity emerged after related safety gains were realized in the U.S.

The National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) and Groendyke Transport (Oklahoma) had asked the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for the right to use amber brake-activated pulsating lamps in addition to steady-burning brake lamps that would also remain in place. The number of related rear-end collisions dropped by a third after the light-related exemption was granted.

And in December 2020, Grote was granted a five-year limited exemption to further explore PBL technology on trailers.

The lighting systems offer “immediate safety benefits,” said CTA senior vice-president – policy Geoff Wood, explaining why the alliance asked Transport Canada to clarify its position.

But while federal regulations focus on manufactured vehicles, provinces and territories have the final say on maintenance, operation, and installation of aftermarket equipment, he added.

“As such, vehicles retrofitted with amber brake-activated pulsating lamps must be compliant with the requirements in the province or territory within which they operate.”

Provincial trucking associations within the alliance have been looking for guidance there.

 “The use of amber brake-activated pulsating lamps in the upper center position or in an upper dual outboard position on the rear of trailers operated within Ontario are in fact legal for application under the [Highway Traffic Act] and subsequent regulations,” the Ontario Ministry of Transportation said in its response. But it advised against using designs with red pulsating lamps because those would violate the Act.

Quebec officials noted: “The light impulsions produced by the braking light modulator before turning to a constant red can be interpreted by a law officer as a red blinking light, which is reserved exclusively to emergency vehicles. The officer can therefore submit a ticket according to article 285 because the light doesn’t meet the requirements of article 239.”

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