Queensland motoring communities and automotive aftermarket industry have secured a major win before going to the Queensland polls on Saturday 31 October, after the Australian Recreational Motorists Association (ARMA) received pre-election commitments from all the major political parties to reform state vehicle modification regulations.

Every brand-new vehicle manufactured and sold to the Australian public must meet the certification requirements of the federal Australian Design Rules (ADR) before they are first registered, after this point, modifications to “in-service” vehicles must be in accordance with the vehicle modification regulations legislated by each separate state or territory government. Unfortunately, the vehicle modification legislation, regulations, standards and processes are not the same across all state and territory governments, and these inconsistencies are a continual cause of frustration to motorists who are regularly pulled over when travelling interstate.

Additionally, if a person moves home between states and their vehicle has approved modifications, these modifications are not guaranteed to be automatically accepted by the new transport department. this regularly sees vehicle owners having to pay an engineer to re-certify their modifications, or remove the modifications altogether. Some state regulators refuse to accept modifications from other states because they have no trust in another state’s modification program.

Furthermore, certified auto-mechanical engineers and Australian aftermarket manufacturers are able to add modifications to brand-new vehicles prior to them being registered for the first time, using the federal Second Stage Manufacturer (SSM) scheme, these modifications use the measurements, limits and processes as specified in the ADRs for certification.

After a vehicle has been registered, any modifications must meet the requirements of the state in which it is registered, however, the state and territory modification regulations have different measurements, limits and processes defined than the ADRs, which means modifications to brand-new vehicles under the SSM scheme, can be classed as illegal under the state’s vehicle modification regulations, even though the vehicles and modification types may be exactly the same.

The only difference between legally applying the same type of modification to a brand-new vehicle before registration, versus the exact same type of vehicle which is currently registered, is a bureaucrat sitting at a desk saying “No”!

This is not acceptable, Australia already has a national set of regulations and certification processes in the ADRs, the individual state and territory legislation is an additional level of red tape, preventing the aftermarket automotive industry from delivering innovative and safe modifications to the Australian motoring community.

Queensland currently has over 819K registered 4WD owners, which is 27% of the national share, with an automotive aftermarket industry turn over in excess of $110M per annum. Street machine, street rod, Euro and motorcycle genres push these numbers even further.

The Australian Recreational Motorists Association believes in a philosophy of Safe, Practical and Affordable approach to vehicle modifications, where they should be:

  • Safe for both on-road and off-road use, and other road users;
  • Practical testing and certification procedures are not mandated where facilities are not available across the state, and the testing it practical to the modification type; and
  • Affordable testing and certification procedures are not cost prohibitive to the general public.

Some of the reforms ARMA have been discussing with the political parties are:

  • Allow Australian Chartered Professional Engineers (CPE) to freely undertake certified vehicle modifications based on sound Australian Standards and engineering principles, using the Australian Design Rules (ADRs);
  • Allow all Second Stage Manufacturing (SSM) modifications approved under federal ADRs to be automatically approved and accepted under state modification standards for in-service vehicles;
  • Recognise interstate modifications for registration transfers, or currently registered Queensland vehicles, where the modifications are undertaken by a CPE from interstate, and an appropriate engineering report is provided;
  • Commit to regular reviews of restrictive regulations, standards and red tape, where clear modification and certification details are already provided within the Australian Design Rules and are equivalent international standards;
  • Establish a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) from the motoring community and industry groups, to review, advise and approve requirements for department of transport enactment;
  • Provide 90 days of general road use each year for special interest, and historical vehicle registration, outside of sanctioned club events; and
  • Agree to transfer responsibility of vehicle modifications regulations and standards to the Commonwealth (or a national regulator), on the condition that:
    • Moving to a Federal model does not negatively reduce, restrict, or prohibit those provided by the state, and committed above; and
    • It is agreed by Queensland motoring community and industry representatives.

ARMA has also requested community awareness / education campaigns to assist Queenslander’s on the basics of 4WDing in off-road situations, including safe vehicle recovery procedures where participants and observers are being injured due to people not understanding safety procedures associated with recoveries.

While there is legislation which requires new safety straps being sold to include safe procedures on a label, people are not reading these safety warning due to the perceived simple use of the straps, therefore the education strategy needs to change.

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The changes requested to the Special Interest Vehicle Registration (SIVR) scheme will seek to harmonise with NSW, VIC, SA and WA:

  • Should be 90 days general use (personal or club activity) – at 75% discount to standard registration fees;
  • Applicable vehicles (car / truck / motorcycle) are based on rolling 30-year eligibility, and must be a member of an incorporated motor vehicle club;
  • Motor vehicles classes can comprise of classics, street rods, street machine, light trucks (pickups), modified, 4WDs, or motorcycle;
  • Not billed annually, rather it will be billed in 90-day blocks – when the 90 days have been used, they purchase another 90-day block of discounted registration;
  • No special registration plates required, use simple tag which fits on number plates;
  • Create a mobile phone application, then users sign-in to the TMR application on one of the 90 days they choose to drive the vehicle, then they are “logged on” to drive until midnight;
  • No need for clubs to have sanctioned trips, or to worry about ad-hoc / impromptu trips, as long as they have daily credits available from their 90-day block, just log in to application and go; and
  • Maintenance, inspections and test runs will simply use one of the 90 days, there will be no limit in distance travelled.

Australia no longer has a new vehicle manufacturing industry, and misaligned modification regulations does nothing to help the Australian automotive aftermarket industry and consumers. The Time To Align campaign vision in the longer term, is to see a national motoring cooperative established federally representing all motoring communities, feeding their requirements into the Australian automotive aftermarket industries, where they can filter the requirements and develop modifications using safe, practical and affordable processes.

This drives a mutually agreed set of modification standards, which are then ratified as federal government regulations, for automatic and immediate implementation across all state and territories. This way, we have a nation-wide, consumer driven, industry validated process to support the Australian aftermarket industry.

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Starting with Queensland Parliament Petition 1975 in 2012, 4WD Queensland Association started to formally petition the Queensland political parties prior to the 2017 state election due to inconsistent regulations between states and greater flexibility / opportunities for association members, however, failed to secure enough pre-election commitments from the key parties required to ensure modification reform, depending on the election outcome.

Operation Lift in 2018 reinforced the requirement for 4WD Queensland Association to continue engaging at the political level, as vehicle modification reform was a key community demand, as bureaucratic engagement was not supportive of the motoring community and automotive aftermarket industry requirements; community polls show the regulations are out of touch with community requirements.

The Time To Align campaign started prior to the 2019 federal election and received success from the majority of political parties two weeks before the election date, which was followed shortly by success at the NSW election.

ARMA was formed in late 2019 as a national peak body for all motoring associations and took over the Time To Align campaign leading into the NT, ACT and QLD elections.

Six months out from the March 2021 election of Western Australia, and all political parties have now been engaged under the Time To Align campaign, with several parties already providing written pre-election commitments. Watch this space.

ARMA would like to thank all of the Queensland political parties and MPs who provided assurance and written commitments leading into the election, we wish you all the best, and look forward to a new motoring future.

Pre-election commitment letters: https://www.timetoalign.org.au/qld-party-responses/

Miles Brennan
Australian Recreational Motorists Association (ARMA)