Must be a duck... Is it or isn’t it a ‘Trailer’?

Issue: 
July-August 2007

THE OLD ADAGE THAT what looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, must be a duck isn’t always true. While this rule does hold true in many respects of life and business, a common confusion that will be of interest to arborists involves the definition of towable equipment versus genuine trailers in accordance to the laws governing use of our roadways.

Often it is discovered that trailers are insured as equipment or equipment is insured as trailers. Without being properly assigned, the coverage received and premium required can adversely and seriously be affected to the detriment of the arborist.

Although seemingly simple, identifying what is and what is not a trailer can sometimes be tricky. Manufacturers of towable equipment often design their products in an effort to accommodate the varying needs of the markets in which they will sell their wares. For example, a company such as Rayco produces a towable chipper (model RC12) with a lighting system and license plate holder in addition of course to having wheels and a hitching system. With these features, it looks like a trailer and often is insured like a trailer. However, in Ontario (check the law in your province) it is not legally defined as a trailer and if insured as a trailer, the arborist will lose the benefit of a premium savings and better coverage that is available if insurance was instead arranged as an item of contractor’s equipment as part of a business policy rather than as a vehicle unit on an automobile policy.

What differentiates a trailer from towable equipment actually has nothing to do with the manufactured set-up such as lights or a frame for a license plate. In Ontario (check your own laws in other areas), the Highway Traffic Act defines a trailer as follows: “trailer” means a vehicle that is at any time drawn upon a highway by a motor vehicle, except … any device or apparatus not designed to transport persons or property.

On review and consideration of the definition, it will quickly be recognized that towable equipment such as chippers, etc., are not trailers as they are not designed to transport persons or property. As they are not ‘trailers,’ they do not need to be insured as trailers but instead can receive the same insurance treatment used for equipment that travels to and from job sites – a contractor’s equipment floater. The contractor’s equipment floater will usually have features that provide better protection than automobile insurance offers including provisions for replacement cost protection and other coverage benefits.
In review of the definition, it is important to bear in mind the key word – designed. If a float trailer subsequently has an apparatus installed (i.e. sprayer), it is still a trailer. The law refers to how it was ‘designed’ (originally), not how it is being used.

— Scott McEachern, Program Executive, TREESURE provided by: Hugh Wood Canada Ltd., smceachern@hwcanada.com

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