From July 1989 until 1 July 2021, the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (MVSA) and Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989 made it an offence to import, sell or present new or used imported vehicles to the Australian market for the first time unless they met the national standards, except in circumstances where an exemption was granted.
The MVSA applied to all road vehicles including cars, vans, utilities, small and large buses, trucks, trailers, motorcycles and 3 wheeled vehicles. It covered domestic and international vehicle manufacturers, vehicle importers, automotive parts manufacturers, vehicle owner/operators and other road users to ensure uniform standards applied to road vehicles across Australia.
Approved vehicles were fitted with an identification plate including compliance information and a certification statement from the manufacturer.
Search for approved vehicles fitted with an identification plate on the RVCS website.
Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme
The Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS) was administered under the MVSA and allowed used specialist vehicles (not available in the Australian market) to be imported and fitted with used import plates.
Eligible vehicles included:
- used vehicles – vehicles that have been used in transport outside Australia
- first manufactured after 31 December 1988
- eligible under the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme
Used 2 and 3 wheeled vehicles were also able to be imported and plated by RAWS, even if not eligible as specialist and enthusiast vehicles.
Search for an approved vehicle imported by a registered automotive workshop on the RAWS website.
Under the MVSA, Administrator’s Circulars provide guidance on the administrative arrangements supporting the vehicle certification process.
The MVSA brought national uniformity to the application of Australian Design Rules. The Vehicle Standards Bulletins (VSBs) provided information on design, manufacture and modification of vehicles. VSB Bulletin 1 (Revision 5) summarised construction requirements for trailers with an aggregated trailer mass of 4.5 tonnes or less.
Vehicle regulation after 1 July 2021
On 1 July 2021, the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 (RVSA) commenced in full and replaced the MVSA. On this date, a transitional period also began for certain segments of the industry, allowing them to continue to operate under the MVSA. This ended on 30 June 2023.
For information on the current interim arrangements for special purpose vehicles and pathways for MVSA vehicles that were unable to be supplied before 30 June 2023, visit the Transitional arrangements webpage.
Road Vehicle Standards laws
From 1 July 2023, importers and manufacturers of road vehicles, including trailers, must hold a Road Vehicle Standards approval before providing a vehicle to the Australian market for the first time. Road vehicles must also be entered on the Register of Approved Vehicles (RAV) which replaces the need for physical compliance plates fitted to MVSA approved vehicles.
Some vehicle marking arrangements from the MVSA remain, including Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), and vehicle plates for trailers and some heavy vehicles.
Visit the Road Vehicle Standards laws webpage for more information.