Vehicle Certification in Australia

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Before a road vehicle can be registered for the first time in Australia it must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989. This applies to new and used imported vehicles and locally manufactured vehicles. The Motor Vehicle Standards Act requires vehicles to meet the national standards covering safety and emission requirements. The national standards are currently the Australian Design Rules (ADRs). When a 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 Motor Vehicles Standards Act, and it indicates to the registering authority that the vehicle is eligible for registration.

The process of obtaining approval to fit a Compliance Plate is called vehicle certification. The certification process in Australia is administered by the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch (VSS). Registration and 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 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.

Vehicle Safety Standards does not test vehicles itself 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 to VSS that the testing has been done correctly and that the vehicle passed, the manufacturer is required to submit to VSS key results from the testing process; that is, 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 VSS to inspect. This inspection also satisfies the registration inspection requirements of the States and Territory registration authorities (hence it called Single Uniform Type Inspection or SUTI).

When VSS is 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. The low volume scheme 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 wrecking, racing etc may be able to use the Imported Vehicles scheme.

Individually constructed vehicles are not required to be certified. They are administered directly by the State and Territory registering authorities.

Related Documents

  • Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989
  • Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations issued under the authority of the Act covering compliance plates, approvals, vehicle inspections, vehicle import requirements, fees and delegations
  • Australian Design Rules which are the national design standards for vehicles and trailers
  • Administrators Circulars which specify procedures including
  • Test Facility Inspection Manual
  • Conformity of Production Manual
  • SUTI Manual
  • Vehicle Standards Bulletins which provide information on the design, manufacture, sale, modification, maintenance, import and repair of road vehicles. The term 'road vehicles' includes both motor vehicles and trailers.
    • VSB 1 Building Small Trailers
    • VSB 2 Maximum Road Speed Limiting for Heavy Trucks and Trailers
    • VSB 4 Steering Conversions for Left Hand Drive Vehicles
    • VSB 5A Commercial Manufacture and Installation of Additional Seats
    • VSB 5B Construction and Installation of Additional Seats by Individuals
    • VSB 6 Heavy Vehicle Modification Code
    • VSB 7A Design Parameters Necessary for Compliance with ADR 59/00
    • VSB 7B Design Parameters Necessary for Compliance with ADR 59/00
    • VSB 8 Compliance Plate Approval Holders Imported Used Vehicles (No Longer available)
    • VSB 9 Installation of Lights on Road Vehicles
    • VSB 10 Importing Vehicles to Australia
    • VSB 11 Certification of Road-Friendly Suspensions


Send us an email: rvcs@infrastructure.gov.au

or call the RVCS help desk: (02) 6274 8290