ICBC’s new numbers game

by Sandy Johnson

Have you ever been blindsided by a rule you didn’t know existed? Like, ‘Officer, honestly, I didn’t know this was a school zone.’ Or, ‘You mean this contract is for three years?’

Recently, I was blindsided myself by a rule in a game I play. It was a procedural penalty for – and I am not making this up – the tip of my finger touching my arm, which was deemed to give me extra stability and an unfair advantage. Really, the tip of my finger?

Once you’ve had your knuckles rapped for violating some obscure rule, you never forget it.
I’ll bet some of you have been surprised to learn that you need something called a financial responsibility number (aka FR number) before you can bring commercial loads into British Columbia.

The B.C. Motor Vehicle Act requires out-of-province commercial vehicles to be insured to a set of minimum requirements. Vehicle owners or lessees can meet these requirements by having their insurance company file a financial responsibility certificate with the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC). The certificate guarantees you have third-party liability insurance that meets B.C. standards and covers all vehicles owned and operated and/or leased and operated in your name.

If you don’t have an FR certificate on file with ICBC, then you have to buy basic insurance from ICBC when you buy your non-resident commercial permit (trip permit).

More than a few drivers with out-of-province carriers have been asked to produce an FR number as proof of insurance during enforcement stops.

More than a few have looked quizzically at the officer before rifling through their documentation in search of the right piece of paper.

And more than a few have complained about it. The current paper-based process is inefficient, unwieldy and frankly a pain to administer.

New procedure

The good news is that ICBC has made procedural changes that should make it easier for you to comply with the rule.

While you still have to file proof of insurance and get an FR number from ICBC, you no longer have to carry a paper copy in the cab. Out-of-province operators may quote the FR number issued by ICBC as proof that B.C. insurance requirements have been met.

The FR number can be validated electronically by officers at weigh scales, the Provincial Permit Centre and during roadside enforcement. FR filings may also be validated electronically when you provide the name of the vehicle owner or lessee (the carrier that filed the FR with ICBC).

If you’re not based in B.C. and don’t already have an FR number, ask your insurance company to file for one. The fee is $30 and the process can take several days.

Tips for owner-operators

If you’re an owner-operator under a lease agreement with a carrier, you can provide the FR filing number of the carrier you’re leased on to. Since the FR certificate covers all vehicles owned and operated and/or leased and operated in the name of the insured, you must also provide documentation to verify that your vehicle is leased to the carrier.

The following documents may be accepted:
– A cab card identifying the vehicle owner and the carrier. This is going to get tricky for Alberta-based owner-operators since Alberta no longer lists the owner-operator on the registration or the cab card.
– A lease agreement or statement of lease between the carrier and the vehicle owner. Alberta carriers, this might be your best option.
– For Americans, a state-issued document that identifies the vehicle owner and the carrier. For example, the Oregon weight receipt and tax identifier, or your vehicle registration and cab card.

If you have questions about FR filings, contact the ICBC Prorate Licensing & Financial Responsibility Department at 1-800-661-1866 (or 1-800-665-4336 if you’re in B.C.). You can also visit and search for ‘compliance circular 07/16.’

Whether you’re playing a game for fun or driving down the highway, it can be expensive to not know the rules. Make sure you have your insurance paperwork in order or ICBC will put the touch on your pocketbook.


Sandy Johnson has been managing IFTA, IRP, and other fleet taxes for more than 25 years. She is the author of the free book 7 Things You Need to Know About Fleet Taxes and operates, which provides vehicle tax and licence and compliance services for trucking operations. She can be reached at 1-877-860-8025 or

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