The Motoring Advisory Council (MAC) have been advocating that a seamless national approach to vehicle standards can reduce costs incurred by business and enthusiasts in complying with unnecessary and inconsistent regulations across jurisdictions.
It is lunacy that an Australian vehicle owner can drive a legally certified vehicle
Vehicle Standards in Australia must be nationally consistent for the whole of a vehicle's life. Especially within a 100% import model for vehicles first supply to market. This approach should be applied regardless to the extent of its age or modification, provided adequate engineer certification is in place to deem the vehicles are safe and fit for Australian roads at all times.
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National harmonisation of vehicle standards
5.20 A number of stakeholders were concerned that differences between jurisdictions in relation to the regulation and enforcement of vehicle standards were frustrating for motoring enthusiasts and detrimental to parts of the automotive manufacturing industry. For example, the MAC contended that:
With sensible reform, the unrealised potential of the aftermarket and motor sport industries is simply staggering. The full growth potential both domestically and internationally within niche markets can be unlocked with sensible nationally consistent regulatory reform.
5.21 Regulatory restrictions on the ability of motoring enthusiasts to modify vehicles are limiting the potential of the industry significantly. State based inconsistency and enforcement around modifications creates layers of confusing red tape and paperwork.
5.22 Issues also arise with the legality of modifications when enthusiasts travel interstate where there are different regulations. The MAC's view is that:
It is lunacy that an Australian vehicle owner can drive a legally certified vehicle in their home state, but then be deemed defective in another.
5.23 These cross border issues are exacerbated when inspections of, and judgements about, vehicles are generally undertaken by people with insufficient training with respect to rules surrounding vehicle modifications. Mr Peter Styles, Chairman of the MAC, described the situation faced by many enthusiasts:
At the moment, the state based inconsistencies and the layers of regulations created in every state are too hard for the community and the industry to bear...you pass from one state into the next, and your control measures and your guidance change. They are the same ADRs but are interpreted differently by the states. How can business deliver products and models that are economically viable when they cannot even sell to the neighbouring state or the person driving the vehicle may not be able to drive it into the next state?
5.24 Mr Styles went on to provide an example of a Sydney‑based company that manufactures a muffler system that enables the user to vary the noise associated with the exhaust. The technology was subsequently banned by regulators in some states despite similar technology being allowed on certain production vehicles.
5.25 The MAC offered a regulatory and compliance solution to improve national consistency based on existing frameworks.
5.26 The National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (VSB14) is considered by the MAC to be a 'fair, effective, transparent and easy to follow mechanism for determining the requirements of vehicle modification'. As it is only a model law, however, states have chosen to put their own layers of regulation on top or not apply it at all. The MAC believes that if VSB14 was adopted consistently by all states and territories, there would be significant compliance cost savings.
5.27 The Vehicle Safety Compliance Certification Scheme (VSCCS) is used in New South Wales and allows a licensed certifier to assess vehicles and modifications in specific licence categories. The MAC contended that the VSCCS model reduces the regulatory code from state and territory road authorities and enables governments to reallocate and strengthen compliance operations.
5.28 The MAC considered that harmonising regulations through incorporating VSB14 into the National Road Safety Strategy and the Motor Vehicle Standards Act, and adopting a measured approach to certification nationally, based on the VSCCS, would reduce compliance costs and deliver significant efficiencies and effectiveness in the enforcement sphere. In addition, it is proposed that this approach be applied to personal imports with modifications, thus offering further opportunities to cut unnecessary red tape burdens.
5.29 In summarising the benefits of harmonisation, the MAC contended that:
For state and territory governments, this presents an opportunity to realign resources by implementing better systems that harmonise with personal imports an engineer certified modifications to assure regular checks for vehicle safety occur.
5.30 More broadly, Mr Robert Bryden outlined how relaxing regulations could benefit the wider industry:
Encouraging the growth of the aftermarket industry in Australia will occur with the removal of ADR [Australian Design Rules] impediments and also through the adoption of inexpensive Certification procedures and National Regulation, removing the anti‑industry discretion used by Registration Authorities and Police in some jurisdictions.
5.31 The committee recognises that there may be potential benefits from harmonising vehicle modification regulations between states and adopting a national approach to compliance and enforcement by people who are appropriately qualified. Recognising that these are predominantly state issues, however, it is probably an issue more appropriately pursued through the Council of Australian Governments.
5.32 The committee recommends that the government, through the Council of Australian Governments, pursue reform options to harmonise vehicle modification regulations and adopt a consistent national approach to compliance and enforcement with vehicle regulations. A critical part of this work will be the harmonisation of emerging federal, state and territory legislation and regulations designed to deal with the arrival of autonomous vehicles and driving systems.