Commercial vehicle certification series — part two

Canadian certification basics

By Bob Raybuck, NTEA Director of Technical Services

Jeffrey Phillips, Dawson Strategic

This article was published in the September 2017 edition of NTEA News

Following is the second in a series of three articles on vehicle certification in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The first, which addressed U.S. certification, appeared in the August edition of NTEA News. The final part, covering European vehicle certification, will be available in the October issue. Sign up to receive the full series at

As the trend toward global chassis platforms continues, we thought it might be helpful to explain the similarities and differences in three major vehicle safety and emissions certification systems — the U.S., Canada and European Union. While all of these certification requirements have the same goal (ensuring safe and compliant vehicles), they do so in somewhat different manners. These differences can be important to final-stage manufacturers completing or altering a truck for use in any of those geographic regions.

In this second of three articles, we will look at the vehicle certification requirements in Canada.

Commercial work trucks are most often customized vehicles built for a specific purpose — beginning as either an incomplete vehicle such as a chassis cab, cutaway chassis or strip chassis, or as a pickup or full body van complete vehicle. OEM chassis manufacturers produce nearly identical U.S. and Canadian truck platforms as the foundation for work trucks.

As a result, many U.S. companies are interested in building commercial trucks for both markets. Although there are strong similarities in the chassis and in many of the motor vehicle safety standards between the two countries, there are also significant differences between their multi-stage vehicle certification requirements.

If you are considering the sale of commercial trucks in Canada that were originally built in the U.S., there are key regulatory differences to note and address. This article focuses on certification with respect to motor vehicle safety standards, though there are other areas of importance to the work truck industry, such as engine and emissions regulations, where variations may exist between Canadian and U.S. requirements.

The Canadian multi-stage vehicle certification process has more initial direct government oversight than the U.S. Transport Canada is the federal department that regulates motor vehicle safety standards, and subsequently, the certification of multi-stage-produced vehicles. The U.S. and Canada have made efforts to align or harmonize many of the motor vehicle safety standards that apply to cars and trucks as well as many of the emissions regulations, but the vehicle certification process is significantly different between the countries.

In Canada, multi-stage vehicle manufacturers must apply to Transport Canada for a national safety mark (NSM) before they begin multi-stage vehicle manufacturing. Additionally, safety standard documentation required by Transport Canada needs to be specific for each commercial vehicle type you plan to submit for an NSM. This includes detailed descriptions and engineering analysis of how the completed vehicle will comply with the required Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) for each body type and OEM chassis built.

For example, applications for the common box van truck must include separate submissions for each individual chassis manufacturer, model (e.g., conventional chassis cab, cutaway, cab-over), wheelbase, etc. Full compliance calculations and engineering documentation must be submitted to Transport Canada as proof the vehicle meets CMVSS standards for lighting, braking, visibility, noise, emissions, and more. Your compliance rationale must be confirmed by Transport Canada prior to receipt of NSM and before you can produce and certify your first box van truck and offer it for sale. 

This process would then be repeated for all different body variations (flatbed, dump, bus, etc.) and for each chassis manufacturer (Ford, Freightliner, Isuzu, GM, Ram, etc.) for which you plan to use your NSM. You must keep your compliance rationale up-to-date with every model year change and CMVSS standard change in order to satisfy Transport Canada requirements. Vehicle modifications outside limitations provided by the chassis OEM will require more stringent proof of regulatory compliance. Additionally, vehicle certification labels used in Canada are required to be in both English and French.

Some differences between U.S. and Canadian motor vehicle safety standards include the Canadian requirement for daytime running lights and additional noise suppression for electronic equipment like radios and other items.

Because of these differences, chassis OEMs require vehicles intended for sale in Canada be ordered as a Canadian vehicle to ensure all applicable motor vehicle safety standards are properly accounted for in the manufacturing process.

For more detailed information about obtaining an NSM from Transport Canada and the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, visit

Next month, we will review certification requirements in Europe, highlighting key differences from the U.S. and Canada.

Additional vehicle certification information, resources and products are available at If you have any questions or need further assistance, call NTEA’s Technical Services Department at 800-441-6832 from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. EDT, Monday–Friday.