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Vehicle Certification in Australia

Overview

Before a road vehicle can be registered for the first time in Australia it must meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (the Act), which applies to new and used imported vehicles and locally manufactured vehicles. The Act requires vehicles to meet the national standards covering safety and emission requirements known as the Australian Design Rules (ADRs). When a new vehicle has been certified as meeting the ADRs it can be fitted with a compliance plate. The fitment of a compliance plate is mandatory under the Act, and it indicates to the registering authority that the vehicle meets all the required ADRs.

The process of obtaining approval to fit a compliance plate is called vehicle certification. Administrators Circular 0-1-2 titled Guide to Certification of New vehicles—Type Approval, [PDF PDF 76kb] [DOC Word 133kb] describes this process. The certification process in Australia is administered by Vehicle Safety Standards (VSS) in the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. Use of vehicles, roadworthiness of vehicles in service, and approval of modifications to vehicles in service, are administered by the various State and Territory registering authorities.

The Australian vehicle certification system for new vehicles is a type approval system. This means that a vehicle representing the design of that make-model (the “type” of vehicle) is tested to demonstrate compliance with the safety and emissions standard. If the vehicle tested complies then all others of the same design (ie the same “type”) will also comply.

VSS do not test vehicles for certification purposes. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring compliance with the ADRs. The Australian certification process allows the vehicle manufacturer (“the licensee”) to conduct the tests required by the various ADRs. The manufacturer can conduct those tests wherever is convenient to the manufacturer providing, of course, that the tests are conducted properly. In order to demonstrate compliance with all the applicable ADRs several test vehicles are usually required, especially for passenger cars and light commercials.

Having conducted all the appropriate tests, the manufacturer must then submit an application for approval to fit compliance plates to the particular make/model of vehicle that has been tested. In order to demonstrate that the testing has been done correctly and that the vehicle passed, the manufacturer is required to submit to VSS , a summary of the evidence of compliance to the applicable ADRs.

For some vehicle categories a sample of each of the model variants must also be made available for inspection. This inspection also satisfies the registration inspection requirements of the States and Territory registration authorities and is called Single Uniform Type Inspection or SUTI).

When VSS are satisfied that the vehicle complies, the Administrator of Vehicle Standards issues a document known as a Compliance Plate Approval. This is the authority to allow the manufacturer to fit compliance plates to vehicles of the specified make/model.

The information provided by a manufacturer is subject to checking using quality assurance audits of the manufacturing facilities and inspections of the test facilities. Together these ensure that the vehicles (or parts of vehicles) tested were constructed to the production design, that the tests were carried out correctly, that the tests showed that the vehicle (or parts) passed the tests, and that all the vehicles being produced are to the same design. Thus, if the design is known to comply, and all of the production is to the design, then all the vehicles produced also comply.

Manufacturers who supply limited numbers of vehicles may be able to use the Low Volume Scheme for new vehicles, which caters for manufacturers who supply less than 25 or 100 vehicles per year depending on the category. Vehicles imported into Australia by individuals, or for racing etc may be able to use the Imported Vehicles scheme.

Individually constructed vehicles are not required to be certified however, they must meet the requirements of the State and Territory registering authorities. The Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme applies to used imported vehicles.