Heavy Vehicles Converted Into Motor Homes

Heavy vehicles converted into motor homes for commercial use

If you convert a heavy vehicleVehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 4,500 kg or more, as indicated on the compliance label. into a motor home for commercial use, you must comply with several requirements to be authorized to put the vehicle back into operation. These requirements often involve installing permanent equipment, which must be certified according to the standards applicable to recreational vehicles. Any equipment that is not usually installed in a recreational vehicle may be refused.

You are considered an owner, operator or driver of a heavy vehicle, if your motor home has a GVWR of 4,500 kg or more.

If such is the case, you must comply with several requirements, in particular:

  • registering in the Register of owners and operators of heavy vehicles
  • keeping records
  • respecting the hours of driving and off-duty time
  • completing the circle check

For more details, consult the section entitled Heavy Vehicle Owners and Operators.

What Is a Motor Home?

A motor home is a motor vehicle permanently converted into a temporary dwelling. It must:

  • feature elements that are usually found in a dwelling (toilet, kitchen equipment, bed, etc.)
  • be outfitted with commodities (excluding the generator and external connector) permitting autonomous living for at least three days

It can be driven by an individual holding a Class 5 driver’s licence and does not require periodical mechanical inspection.

Access to Camping Grounds

Some camping grounds refuse access to a hand-crafted motor homes or refuse to let them be hooked up to their power grids and sanitation systems.

Characteristics of a Heavy Vehicle Converted Into a Motor Home

Maximum Length

The maximum length is generally determined on the basis of the rear overhang, namely:

  • 12.5 metres for all motor vehicles with a rear overhang of 4 metres or less
  • 14 metres for all buses with a rear overhang of 4 metres or less
  • 11 metres for all other cases

If you plan to hitch one or two trailers to the vehicle, its total length is also limited. See the Vehicle Load and Size Limits Regulation.

The rear overhang is measured from the centre of the axle or axle group to the rear end of the vehicle (including the bumper and load).

Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheelPart of the coupling device, secured to the tractor vehicle by a pivot axe that is perpendicular to the tractor vehicle’s median longitudinal plane, intended to bear the load exerted by the semi-trailer on the tractor vehicle by engaging the kingpin and allowing the transmission of braking and traction efforts., or a place to attach one, is not accepted on a hand-crafted motor home. A motor home may not be configured to transport merchandise, for example, with a semi-trailer.

Cargo Space

If the motor home has cargo space, it must not exceed 30% of the length of the vehicle or 3.65 metres.

Converting a Heavy Vehicle Into a Motor Home

Before converting a heavy vehicle into a motor home, read the steps to follow on the Modified Vehicle webpage.

You must follow all of these steps to obtain the certification necessary to register your heavy vehicle as a motor home.

General Requirements to Meet

Transforming the length of the vehicle may involve the following modifications:

  • modifying the wheelbase
  • adding, removing or replacing axles
  • lengthening the frame

If this is the case, an engineer’s report must be presented to:

  • certify that the original manufacturer’s instructions were followed
  • establish new capacity values (GAWRGross axle weight rating. and GVWRGross Vehicle Weight Rating.)
  • verify the compliance of the application and release time (timing test) of the air brake system, if the system was modified.

Some requirements may vary for an expedition vehicle

If the vehicle you are planning to modify is similar to an expedition vehicleStraight-body truck, all of whose wheels are driving wheels. It contains an independent living unit on a permanent basis. In addition, it has a high ride height as well as high approach, departure and ramp-over angles, giving it a high ground clearance capability., contact the SAAQ’s Direction générale de l’expertise légale et de la sécurité des véhicules (see the contact information at the bottom of the page) to check whether it belongs to this category.

Driver’s Compartment

The driver's compartment must be readily accessible from the vehicle’s living space through an opening that is as large as possible, and no smaller than 1.2 m (47.2 inches) high by 0.610 m (24 inches) wide.

With regard to expedition vehicles, if the vehicle’s structure does not allow for an opening of this size, you must ensure that it is as large as possible without being any smaller than 0.432 m (17 inches) high by 0.610 m (24 inches) wide.

If a system allows the opening to close, the opening must be openable on each side without using any tools. In addition, the system used must not feature any locking mechanism.

If an opening must be made at the back of the cabin of the modified vehicle, the seat belt anchors around it must be checked.

Interior Finish and Insulation

The materials used for the interior finish must have a flame spread index of 200 or less and a smoke-developed index of 300 or less. These indexes are indicated on the materials’ data sheets.

With regard to the insulation, it is recommended that you use non-combustible materials, such as mineral insulating materials.

Emergency Exits

All motor homes must have at least:

  • a main emergency exit on a wall, which must be a door
  • a secondary emergency exit on another wall or on the roof, which may be a door, window or hatch, if it is located on the roof

Each exit must be clearly identified. It must be possible to exit the vehicle without a tool or key through an opening of at least 0.610 m (24 inches) by 0.432 m (17 inches).

In addition, each space designed for sleeping must allow access to two emergency exits situated in opposite directions.

Mandatory Equipment

Basic Components

  • Sleeping quarters that include a hide-a-bed or bed
  • A set-up that allows for cooking, including a refrigerator, two cooking appliances or a cooking appliance with two sections, a counter, a table and a sink connected to a source of drinking water
  • A drinking water reservoir with a minimum capacity of 20 L per person who is sleeping in the motor home
  • One or more reservoirs for wastewater with an equal or greater capacity than the drinking water reservoir
  • A permanent toilet:
    • A certified Cassette toilet may be used, but a compost toilet may not.
  • An electrical system that is independent of the vehicle's motor
    • However, this system may be hooked up to the vehicle’s alternator for recharging when the vehicle is in operation.
  • A propane gas fuel supply system:
    • The system must be inspected by a qualified individual, such as a person who holds a qualification card allowing them to work on this kind of system. The system can be replaced by a permanent electrical distribution grid. It must be powered by an energy source capable of independently powering the basic components connected and that are used on a daily basis: electric heating, heater fan, water heater, cooking appliance, pumps, lighting, etc.
  • A number of seats and seat belts greater than or equal to the number of places to sleep (maximum 9):
    • Convertible benches and sofas are not included in the calculation of the number of places to sleep.
  • A heating system that is independent of the vehicle's motor
    •  Wood heaters are not accepted.
  • A smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector:
    • If the vehicle is equipped with a propane system, a propane detector must also be installed. Each detector must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Unless otherwise indicated, they must be installed in the living area or dining area.
  • An extinguisher with a minimum fire rating of 5 B:C, if the vehicle has a combustion device (it must be portable and easy to access)
  • A minimum of two seats with seat belts

Additional Basic Components for Vehicles With a Length of 6.7 M (22’) Or Longer

  • a bathroom with shower
  • a water heater

All mandatory equipment must be permanent and must be comparable to what is used in a manufactured motor home. The portable equipment (toilets, cooking appliances, refrigerators, etc.) that are not part of the vehicle are permitted, but do not count as basic components.

All mandatory equipment running on electricity must be plugged into a wall outlet, without using an extension cord, or be connected to a switchboard. Interrupters may be installed to partially offload the electrical system when the system is unable to simultaneously power all the appliances and wall outlets.

Cupboards and drawers must be fitted with latches in order to stay closed when the vehicle is moving.

Compliance With Construction Standards

To verify the compliance of a vehicle converted into a motor home, the SAAQ refers to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Z240 VC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 1192). We recommend you read these standards before converting your vehicle.

Equipment Standards

Much of the equipment installed in a motor home must be certified based on the standards applicable to this type of vehicle.

Equipment Certification required
Propane cooking appliance CSA CAN1-1.1/CSA CAN1-1.16/ANSI Z21.57
Propane refrigerator CSA 1.4/ANSI Z21.19
Propane water heater CSA 4.1/ANSI Z21.10.1
Propane heater CSA 2.3/ANSI Z21.47
Sanitary appliances (toilet, shower, bathtub, sink and water tank) CAN/CSA-B45
Glass for the bath and shower ANSI Z97.1 (safety glass with markings)
Electric appliances CSA-C22.2 (Canadian Electrical Code)

Certification can generally be identified by a label or marking on the equipment. If the equipment is not certified, the SAAQ may require you to replace it with certified equipment. Equipment that was originally installed in a recreational vehicle by a recognized manufacturer may exceptionally be accepted without a certification sticker or marking if it is possible to determine its origin.

Seats for Passengers

Each seat that may be used when the vehicle is in motion must be the original seat or be certified by a company recognized by Transport Canada or approved by an engineer. Each seat must also be equipped with a seat belt. If a seat is not equipped with a seat belt (armchair or bench, for example), passengers may not use these seats when the vehicle is in motion.

During the inspection, the SAAQ will require information regarding the purchase, source, and installation of the vehicle’s seats and seat belts.

General Requirements Regarding the Installation of Passenger Seats

Adding seats is allowed only when the heavy vehicle is converted into a motor home. The total number of seats must not exceed 9, including the driver’s seat.

  • Seats added facing the front or the back in a used vehicle: all seats must be equipped with a three-point seat belt and a headrest. Other types of seat belts will only be accepted if they were initially installed by the manufacturer.
  • Seats facing the side (installed lengthwise): seats may be added only if the vehicle already has 4 seats facing the front or the back. Two-point seat belts can be installed on this type of seat.
  • A seat added to the right front side of a vehicle in which this seat and other safety features are available in the original model (e.g. Ford Transit): the modified vehicle must be equipped with these same safety features (air bag, seat belt, seat belt indicator, etc.).
  • You may not install a seat belt on a seat that is not designed for it.
  • Seats and seat belts must be new, or in a condition that is as good as new if they are used. Seat belts with pretensioners must be new.
  • Seats without seat belts, even if they are the original seats (e.g. bus seats), must be removed. Two bus seats, if they are facing a table, may be kept, even without seat belts. However, no passengers may use these seats when the vehicle is in motion.
  • A table facing a seat with a seat belt must be foldable or removable. The table must be folded or removed when the vehicle is in motion and one of the seats facing it is occupied.
  • Seats with seat belts must not be placed in front of rigid components, unless those components are 1.1 m (43.3 inches) away from the seat backrest.
  • No seats may be installed in a place that may obstruct a staircase or in a place that was originally used for the transportation of merchandise (e.g. cargo space, cube truck space, shipping container, etc.).

Certification Based on Vehicle Type

In a New Vehicle

The installation of a seat or bench must be done by a company registered with Transport Canada that is authorized to affix the National Safety Mark (NSM) and that can apply the standards set out in the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (L.C. 1993, c. 16). A vehicle is considered new until it is sold to its first user. If the vehicle was purchased new in order to be modified, it will be considered new until the certification of the added seats.

In a Used Vehicle

An engineer belonging to the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec or a company that is authorized to affix the NSM must attest that the addition of any seats equipped with seat belts does not affect the vehicle’s compliance with MVSR standards. A document including the following information must be submitted along with the approval documents of the modified vehicle:

  • the name of the engineer or business that verified the installation
  • the nature of the modification (anchorage system, reinforcements, etc.)
  • the make and model of the seats and seat belts
  • the month and year the modification was done the new number of seats
  • the new number of seats

Child Safety Seats

Under the Highway Safety Code (the Code), children who are less than 145 cm tall or who are under 9 years of age must be seated in a restraint system or booster seat. Any added seats that will be used by a child to whom the Code applies must be equipped with the original universal anchorage system (UAS) in order to correctly install a restraint system or booster seat.

Specific Requirements for School Buses Converted Into Motor Homes

The original emergency exit, at the rear, must not be obstructed and should open from the inside without the use of tools or keys, if the back of the living space is used as sleeping quarters and no other exits are in the area.

In addition, the following labels and equipment must be removed:

  • labels indicating “Écoliers”, “school bus”, etc.
  • labels indicating that drivers of other vehicles must stop when the flashing red lights are activated
  • labels indicating that the vehicle stops at level crossings
  • any other labels pertaining to school buses
  • labels indicating emergency exits, on each exit that is no longer usable
  • alternately flashing yellow lights and flashing red lights, in the front and back
  • retractable stop sign and the deployment mechanism
  • crossing control arm

To avoid any confusion, it is suggested that a school bus converted to another type of vehicle, and that is no longer used to transport schoolchildren, be painted a different colour than “chrome yellow”. As this colour is reserved for vehicles used to transport schoolchildren in certain Canadian provinces and states in the United States, it may be necessary to paint the vehicle another colour if you plan to visit these places.

School buses are generally equipped with 3 or 4 metallic reinforcements on each exterior side. These reinforcements contribute to the structural rigidity and must remain intact further to the conversion of the vehicle. Some alterations may be accepted, for example, if it is necessary to make an opening for an appliance such as a propane water heater.

Vehicle Partially Converted to a Motor Home

A vehicle that does not meet all the requirements of a motor home may still be converted for leisure purposes. Even if you do not wish to have your heavy vehicle recognized as a motor home, it is recommended that you meet the standards of a fully converted vehicle. However, you may not add any seats equipped with seat belts.

In addition, the requirements for each category of registration must be met. For example, if a modified bus or minibus still has at least 10 seats (including the driver’s seat) or devices to secure wheelchairs against movement, it remains registered as a bus or minibus. If a bus or minibus has been modified and now has 9 or fewer seats, it must be registered under a different category of vehicle and meet the requirements of the new category before being put into operation. For this type of vehicle, each seat that may be used while the vehicle is in motion must be equipped with the seat belt originally provided by the manufacturer, among other requirements.

Mechanical Inspection

Regardless of the net weight of the vehicle, if its GVWRGross Vehicle Weight Rating. is 4,500 kg or more, the vehicle must undergo a mechanical inspection every year so long as it is not recognized by the SAAQ as a motor home. It must also be registered with the Commission des transports du Québec if it is not registered to an individual for commercial use. Buses and minibuses must undergo mechanical inspections every 6 months. We recommend you contact your road vehicle inspection agent to confirm that he or she will inspect your modified vehicle.

Registration categories

Generally, a vehicle designed to transport 9 or fewer people and having a net weight of 3,000 kg or less is registered as a passenger vehicle or a commercial vehicle (F licence plate). If the vehicle has a net weight of more than 3,000 kg, it must be registered as a truck.

The Class 5 driver’s licence authorizes its holder to drive a vehicle with a net weight of under 4,500 kg. If the vehicle weighs 4,500 kg or more or if it has three or more axles, a Class 3 (or even Class 1) driver’s licence is necessary.

Before Operating a Motor Home for Commercial Use

If the modifications made to the vehicle meet the requirements, the mechanical inspection, which is necessary to finalize the process, will be authorized and may be carried out by a road vehicle inspection agent. If the mechanical inspection does not reveal any mechanical defects, a certificate of inspection will be issued to confirm:

  • the presence of the mandatory equipment
  • the compliance of the installations and modifications

The certificate of inspection must remain in the vehicle and be presented to a peace officer upon request.

Registration

Once the inspection process is complete, the vehicle can be registered as a motor home. To proceed with the change of licence plate, you must go to an SAAQ service outlet with the following documents on hand:

  • the valid mechanical inspection certificate
  • the certificate of inspection
  • the registration certificate
  • your driver’s licence or other official document with photo

Class 5 Driver’s Licence

A Class 5 driver's licence is required to drive a motor home.

As long as the heavy vehicle has not been recognized as a motor home, you must hold the appropriate class of licence to drive the vehicle.

If you have any technical questions regarding mandatory equipment or the conversion of the vehicle, contact the Direction générale de l’expertise légale et de la sécurité des véhicules.

Direction générale de l’expertise légale et de la sécurité des véhicules
Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec
Case postale 19600, succursale Terminus
Québec (Québec)  G1K 8J6
dgelsv@saaq.gouv.qc.ca This link opens your default email software.
418-528-3214

For any questions regarding vehicle registration or drivers’ licences, contact us.

Last update: January 18, 2022