Type Approval - Classification of Special Purpose Vehicles

Tuesday 26th February 2013


Boat Trailers

The Type Approval Directive, 2007/46/EC, recognises a category of vehicles that might be considered as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV). All of the Type Approval authorities within Europe collectively recognise caravans as SPV but a situation had arisen in the UK where boat trailers have been recognised as SPV also, provided that they are used for launching and recovery. This view was not shared by our European partners.

Unfortunately, the two primary categories, European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) and National Small Series Type Approval (NSSTA) administered by VCA do not permit any exemption for boat trailers whereas the Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) scheme administered by VOSA does.

What does this mean? In effect, a trailer builder opting to use the IVA route where he would approve individually every trailer he builds, had an exemption from complying with the requirements of type approval until October 2014. However, those going down the other two routes have had to make their trailers comply with effect from October 2012.

This created a situation where those builders who have had to make significant changes to their designs in order to comply, thus incurring substantial costs in addition to already considerable type approval costs, couldn't compete with builders who had ignored the requirement or hd discovered the IVA "loophole".

We felt that this was unfair and have been pressing DfT for a fair and level playing field. Fortunately, despite widespread rumours to the contrary, DfT and VCA have agreed with us.

They contacted us on Thursday to advise that they had made a decision and asked us to publicise this decision to our membership. VCA issued a statement to us yesterday as follows:

Special Purpose vehicles

VCA has recently reviewed its opinion on the classification of vehicles as Special Purpose vehicles (SPV) for EU whole vehicle type approval. 

This review has been the result of VCA being presented with many questions on the treatment of a multitude of “special” vehicles of all categories. It has been particularly difficult to classify trailers designed to carry specific loads such as boats.

Our interpretation is that, if not specifically categorised as SPV in 2007/46/EC, a vehicle can be special purpose only if it is fitted with special equipment to enable it to perform a specific function and if its special equipment means that it cannot comply with legislation. The SPV must not be designed also for general purpose activities. Furthermore, a blanket interpretation cannot be made that all examples of a particular type of vehicle can or cannot be SPV – each design will have to be judged on its merits. “Equipment” in this context could include features to enable a specific load to be carried.

This interpretation is endorsed by the Department for Transport.

Boat trailers

By way of example, the issue of boat trailers has been of particular concern. In the opinion of VCA, the majority of boat trailers should have no difficulty in complying with technical requirements and so, on the basis of VCA’s interpretation, would not be SPV.

However, there might be a type of boat trailer, perhaps designed to transport a particular type of boat, that is not able to comply with technical requirements and so could be SPV.

A flat-bed trailer that can carry general loads but also has fittings to carry a boat would not be SPV.

Please Note

VCA role is to issue type approval certification if requested to do so, and in issuing approval VCA has authority to decide what approval should be issued e.g. SPV or not. However, it is not for VCA to judge whether approval is legally required in the UK or not under the Road Vehicle (Type Approval) Regulations 2009. Interpretation of these Regulations is the prerogative of the Courts and VCA can offer only its opinion. VCA will offer advice to the best of our ability, but we suggest that manufacturer should seek independent legal advice to help them to decide whether or not they require approval. 

VCA 21 February 2012

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