In Victoria, all regulations automatically expire after ten years. The current Road Safety (Vehicles) Interim Regulations 2020 are due to be revoked (sunset) on 3 October 2021. A review of regulations is carried out every ten years to determine whether the regulations are still required, whether the regulations have achieved their objectives, and whether any alternative options have been considered.

One of Australian Recreational Motorists Association (ARMA) core objectives, is to engage governments and political parties at the local, state / territory, and federal levels, in order to improve land access, vehicle modification regulations, and other areas of concern / interest to our thousands of members across Australia. In the spirit of our Time To Align campaign, and recent submission and briefing to the Queensland Parliament with Superior Engineering, we have again made a significant submission on Victoria’s draft Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2021.

The public consultation period has now closed, and the Department of Transport will consider all feedback received from stakeholders and the community, and consider whether any changes to the proposed regulations are required. The Department will make recommendations to the Minister about the final form and content of the regulations, for the Minister to make the final decision. A public notice on the Minister’s decision will be made, with the new regulations proposed to commence later in 2021.

The ARMA submission is focused on significantly expanding vehicle modification opportunities for 4WD / recreational vehicles, supported by our philosophy of safe, practical and affordable vehicle modification regulations, and harmonisation opportunities with other state jurisdictions, where they should be:

  • Safe: for both on-road and off-road use;
  • Practical: testing and certification procedures are appropriate for modification; and
  • Affordable: cost of the testing and certification procedures are within reach of the general public.

One of ARMA’s main priorities is for VASS signatories to have the ability to certify safe, practical and affordable modifications using either Federal Australian Design Rules, published Australian Standards and equivalent Internationally recognised design, test and certification standards (like the US FMVSS standards), similar to the commitment recently provided by Queensland Labor Party. The Queensland commitment also allows for the development of alternate testing process / criteria, which should be readily available to the general public, allowing vehicle owners to be able to access testing and certification services at a reasonable fee, while still providing a level of certainty around vehicle safety and ESC functionality… i.e. develop an alternate testing criteria to replace the VSB-14 ESC testing which mandates a steering robot must be used to undertake the test, which has a price of $15,000 per assessment; this is simply cost prohibitive to everyday Australians.

ARMA recommends the automotive aftermarket industry, engineering associations and motoring communities are involved in communications and decisions to establish a national regulator for vehicle modification regulations.

ARMA recommends a National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) be established, comprising representatives from the automotive aftermarket industry, engineering associations and motoring communities, in order to provide oversight to the on-going management of vehicle modifications regulations, which are fed into the national regulator for enablement.

ARMA recommends modification regulations be amended to allow certified engineers to assess and certify internal roll-cages with “A” pillar support, using the head space requirements in either the ADRs, NCOP or other Australian Standards.

ARMA recommends the Queensland and Victorian Governments take a lead on harmonising Australia’s in-service vehicle modification regulations, by undertaking a national survey of all national and state incorporated motoring associations and aftermarket industry peak bodies, to identify key stakeholders across the motoring groups and states, and work to understand the current level of modifications available, and what changes to modification regulations are needed to achieve a nationally agreed direction.

However, there are many Australian Standards which do not have an active industry or engineering based working group, and after 10 years, these “stale” standards are marked for review / withdrawal, as they have become non-maintained standards and the industry / community have no further opportunity to provide input / development into withdrawn standards. ARMA believes the following additional clauses should be added to Schedule 1, Reg 19, stating:

Reg 19 – A vehicle is not required to comply with an adopted standard if:

(a) the standard is replaced by, or is inconsistent with, a later version of the standard; and
(b) the vehicle complies with the later version of the standard.

Additional clauses:

(c)   the standard has been withdrawn, or is no longer maintained by an active standards working group.
(d)   if modifications are certified under VASS, the approved signatory will be able to choose any standard appropriate.

Schedule 1 – Vehicle Standards, Reg 29 (vehicle protrusions) needs further definition on what constitutes a protrusion, as it is way too generic saying an object that is likely to cause injury to a person making contact with a vehicle. By this simple definition, a person could simply walk into a parked vehicle, bump their knee onto a towbar, and it would likely be classified as an illegal protrusion. This is an unacceptable definition of protrusion. Additionally, many incorporated 4WD clubs have legal / compliant bull bars fitted, which have equipment and fittings which are essential to the operation of the vehicle in general operational and emergency situations. These “objects” are fitted to the vehicle full time and simply can’t be removed on an as-needed basis, however they always draw attention during roadside inspections and defects.

Schedule 1 – Vehicle Standards, Reg 30 (obstructed view) also needs further clarification, as many 4WD / MC category vehicles have additional fixtures such as radio antennas, bull bars and other essential equipment, which may encroach slightly above the bonnet from the driver’s line of sight, but doesn’t necessarily obstruct the driver’s view from being able to drive the vehicle safely. Similar to window stickers being placed in the top or bottom of a windscreen does not always obstruct a drivers view of the road and other road users.

Department of Transport also need to provide formal guidance to the 4WD community, that there is no mandatory requirement under the ADRs, or AS 4876.1-2002 (Motor vehicle frontal protection systems), that bull bars or bumper style bars need to be the full width across the front of a 4WD / MC category vehicle; medium and middy bars are perfectly suitable / legal, however front tyres still need to comply with wheel arch coverage requirements.

There is also a lack of defined vehicle modification regulations referenced, which leads ARMA to assume the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2021 intends to allow VASS signatories to be able to certify safe, practical and affordable modifications using Federal Australian Design Rules, published Australian Standards and equivalent Internationally recognised design, test and certification standards, similar to the commitment recently provided by Queensland Labor Party. If this is correct, ARMA applauds this progressive position to allow CPE the freedom to certify modifications against any reputable / accepted engineering standard.