As a guide to how to modify a truck without weakening the structure, decreasing safety or breaking the law, VSB6 has been the reference point for workshops for over twenty years.
In legal terms, VSB6 is prescribed by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) as the primary standard used by Approved Vehicle Examiners (AVE’s) to approve modifications to heavy vehicles. This takes precedence unless adequate instructions are provided by the vehicle manufacturer. In which case the manufacturer’s instructions are paramount.
As of July 2015 VSB6 has been undergoing a comprehensive review to bring it in line with current methodology and technology. A recent event organised by the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA), gave those involved an opportunity to review the proposed changes and add their own input.
“We have a National Code of Practice and the National Heavy Vehicle Law gives the NHVR power to recognise those practices,” says Peter Hart, ARTSA Chairman. “This isn’t the only one we are going to have. This is a mechanism by which industry can influence outcomes, by developing sensible codes of practice, which are picked up.
“In the vehicle modifications’ domain, we have got so many opportunities to improve things, but a lot of the industry doesn’t recognise obligations and codes. We have a task to contribute to the code, but also to make it known to industry, the modifiers and manufacturers there are obligations, and it is, by the way, a good idea to get an accredited person involved from the start.”
The review of VSB6 is one of the many projects the NHVR has been asked to undertake in the last few years. The whole project is expected to take two years to complete. From the NHVR’s point of view, two documents are at the core of ensure vehicles on the road are fit for purpose. The first is the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual, which came out last year, and the second is an amended VSB6.
In 2014, when the new National Heavy Vehicle Law kicked in the NHVR took over responsibility for regulating heavy vehicle modifications. There is a three tier system for mods. One is seen as minor mods, like the fitting of accessories to a truck or trailer, these do not have any effect on the vehicle’s compliance with Australian Design Rules and, as a result, do not require certification.
The second group of mods are called ‘Section 86’ modifications, and these are standardised modifications which can be approved by the AVE network. This means the mod must be described in a code of practice like VSB6 and simply has to passed by the AVE.
‘Section 87’ is the system which picks up the rest of the many types of mods done in the industry. This is for anything outside either of the other two classifications. This is usually the innovative and experimental type of mod an operator or manufacturer may design to meet a new requirement or to improve productivity. These kinds of mods need to have an engineering assessment done and need to be sent to the NHVR for one-off approval. NHVR handle about 15 of these applications annually.