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LCV industry wins conversion type approval reprieve

Date: 07 March 2013   |   Author: James Dallas

Thousands of UK-based van converters and manufacturers could be spared the administrative burden of complying with European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (EWVTA) regulations following an intervention by industry bodies.

The new Van Enhancement Scheme resulted from a collaboration between the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA), the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and the Department for Transport (DfT).

Under EWVTA legislation to hit N1 (up to 3.5-tonne) vehicles on 29 April, any modification would have required Type Approval but, the SMMT claimed, the Van Enhancement Scheme has removed the need for basic modifications, such as ply-lining and basic racking, to be approved as they have no impact on the van's safety. It said this would remove red tape entirely from 200,000 vans and claimed the scheme would significantly reduce it for a further 40,000 that undergo more complex modifications, such as changes to their electrical sub-systems.

SMMT commercial vehicle manager Nigel Base said the new scheme covers this 15% of vans - where there is no interference with safety or emissions systems - through the VCA reaching agreement with individual bodybuilders.

"The VCA type-approves the converter," Base said, without having to inspect every vehicle. But he stressed bodybuilders must have a recognised quality system in place - ISO 9000, for example. Whole Vehicle Type Approval is still required for the 5% of vans that undergo significant changes such as wheelbase alterations or exhaust removal.

"We have found a solution that works for all parties while maintaining safety standards for those converters making basic modifications to panel vans. This sort of administrative burden could have forced some firms out of business, but thanks to close collaboration with industry partners and the Government this will now be avoided," Base said.

EWVTA will still be required for products targeted at other European markets, but in the UK Base claimed the Van Enhancement Scheme has avoided "an administrative nightmare for the VCA and converters".

"It strips away a layer of bureaucracy and allows people to concentrate on the difficult safety issues."

Van conversion firms gave a qualified welcome to the initiative. Bott's boss Cive Woodward said: "The Van Enhancement Scheme appears to offer a fair compromise between a potentially overbearing administrative burden for achieving full multi-stage WVTA on a wide number of LCV variants, and no regulation at all. At least with this scheme, fleet operators working with VCA-approved converters can have assurance that their limited conversions meet minimum VCA/VOSA standards for WVTA.

"The Scheme now needs to be implemented, tested and later refined in-line with experience gained." Samantha Roff, head of Venson, said: "The Enhancement Scheme ensures vehicle manufacturer standards are upheld, while minimising the impact of modifications on both businesses and their customers."

Paul Railston, Tevo's commercial director, said: "We believe this provides a simpler process, whilst demonstrating new procedures within our business for the benefit of our clients."