Australian Design Rules

The Australian Design Rules (ADRs) are national standards for vehicle safety, anti-theft and emissions. The ADRs are generally performance based and cover issues such as occupant protection, structures, lighting, noise, engine exhaust emissions, braking and a range of miscellaneous items.

The current standards, the Third Edition ADRs, are administered by the Australian Government under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989. The Act requires all road vehicles, whether they are newly manufactured in Australia or are imported as new or second hand vehicles, to comply with the relevant ADRs at the time of manufacture and supply to the Australian market. When a road vehicle is first used on Australian roads the relevant state or territory government's legislation generally requires that it continue to comply with the relevant ADRs as at the time of manufacture.

The First Edition ADRs were distributed for discussion purposes. However, they were not adopted as a legally binding set of standards under either national or state/territory law.

The Second Edition ADRs first came into effect on 1 January 1969. These ADRs were selectively applied under state/territory law. They were subsequently made part of the national standards by Determination No 2 of 1989 published by the Commonwealth Government Gazette (Special Gazette series) No S 291 dated 1 September 1989.

The decision to develop a Third Edition of the ADRs was made at the 63rd meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council (ATAC) in February 1983 following a comprehensive review of the vehicle regulatory system. Several major recommendations were endorsed relating to ADR Development. The first was that international harmonisation of vehicle safety standards should be actively pursued, with close attention given to the alignment of vehicle categories and particular ADRs with their international counterparts except where there is sufficient evidence to justify unique requirements. Another was that all regulations relating to the design and construction of new vehicles should be integrated into the national ADR system.

The Third Edition ADRs, having been developed under the auspices of the ATAC between February 1983 and December 1986, became effective from 1 July 1988 as national standards for the purposes of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 on 2 August 1989 (Gazette number S 264). As initially published, the Third Edition ADRs were a combination of active Second Edition ADRs and existing essential “design and construction” requirements of the Consolidated Draft Regulations. They have since been added to and amended, to reflect the further needs of the community.

ADR Development and Review

The development of the ADRs continues as part of a normal program of review and revision. The program includes monitoring international developments and involves regular consultation with the Department's key stakeholders. This identifies implementation issues or changes in factors affecting existing ADRs, as well as any need to introduce new ADRs. The ADRs are also subject to a full review where possible every ten years to ensure they remain relevant, cost effective, and do not become a barrier to importation of safer vehicles and vehicle components.

Public comment on draft ADR amendments, draft new ADRs and draft full reviews of existing ADRs is an important part of the process. Australian Design Rule Development Program and Public Comment.

Much of the consultation takes place within institutional arrangements established for this purpose. The analysis needed, and the bodies consulted, depend on the degree of impact the new or amended ADR is expected to have on industry or road users. Consultation may involve some or all of the following groups: the Strategic Vehicle Safety and Environment Group (SVSEG); Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board (AMVCB) which includes the Technical Liaison Group (TLG); the Infrastructure and Transport Senior Officials' Committee (ITSOC); and the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers' Meeting.

  • SVSEG and AMVCB/TLG consist of representatives of government (Australian and State/Territory), the manufacturing and operational arms of the industry (including organisations such as the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and the Australian Trucking Association) and of representative organisations of consumers and road users (particularly through the Australian Automobile Association).
  • ITSOC consists of the chief executives of Australian and State/Territory departments of infrastructure, transport and road vehicle administrations.
  • The Infrastructure and Transport Ministers" Meeting consists of the Australian, state/territory and New Zealand Ministers with responsibility for infrastructure and/or transport matters.

New ADRs, or significant changes that increase the stringency of existing ADRs, may be subject to a vote by Transport Ministers. Following this vote, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development may then determine the new or amended standards.

Where a Regulation Impact Statement is prepared to examine proposed new or amended ADRs, it must meet the best practice regulatory impact analysis as required by the Australian Government or the Council of Australian Governments and administered by the Office of Best Practice Regulation.


The Australian Government's policy is to harmonise the national vehicle safety standards with international regulations where possible and consideration is given to the adoption of the international regulations of the United Nations (UN). Australia is a signatory to the UN 1958 Agreement and the 1998 Agreement. The policy to harmonise is also important to fulfil World Trade Organisation and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation commitments.

RVS legislation

To support the safety, environmental and anti-theft performance of all road vehicles being provided to the Australian market for the first time, the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 replaced the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 on 1 July 2021. The detail of how the RVSA regulatory framework operates is contained in subsidiary legislation, the Road Vehicle Standards Rules 2019 (the Rules). The RVSA, the Rules and other related legislation are collectively referred to as the Road Vehicle Standards (RVS) legislation.

Please visit the Road Vehicle Standards legislation implementation page for more information.