Correct Fitting of a Fifth Wheel

Preventative Maintenance is Vital

In Victoria, the demand for Approved Vehicle Examiners (AVEs) able to sign off on the correct fitting of a fifth wheel has been an issue. To get a fifth wheel certified, it has to be in a dealership and the AVE signatory needs to attend. This has worked okay in metro areas, but there were major issues outside of big cities. These limitations led to unnecessary periods of vehicle downtime.

Correct Fitting of a Fifth Wheel

VicRoads deemed the details of the method of fifth wheel fitting made it quite amenable to a new process, one similar to many other modifications. There are a high number of very standardised fitments. Fitting a fifth wheel from a manufacturer will be almost the same, no matter what vehicle it is fitted to and no matter who does the job, there are only seven fifth-wheel original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) operating on a national scale.


“No jurisdiction in Australia has previously done organisational certification,” says Peter Austin, NHVR’s Manager Vehicle Safety and Performance. “It’s not something which has been in the AVE space before. For VicRoads to be trialling this in such a limited environment, it’s something we are happy to see at the NHVR. Going into the national AVE project, we can learn lessons from the individual accreditation programs.


“Nobody had ever done it, so we would’ve had to go out and run our own pilot program. The pilot program in Victoria will provide us with useful information as we develop a national AVE program. They have kept us in the loop all the way along. We are more than happy for them to try this idea. When they come up with their reviews of the situation we can then use this nationally in the development of our project.


“Previously, under the VicRoads system, you had individual signatories who certified the work. Now under this pilot scheme, instead of the signatory being an individual person who does the work, the signatory can now be a corporation. There are now processes and procedures and quality systems underneath to manage that. With the person who is authorised as the signatory being able to supervise a number of technicians who will actually do the work.”


The team led by Peter at the NHVR is finishing off the review of VSB6 and its next project is a national AVE scheme. By the end of 2018, the NHVR should have a good idea of what it will need to do in order to put in place a national AVE scheme. Once it understands what any future scheme may look like, then it will be possible to work out how to manage the process across.


“When we sit down and open the lid on it, when we can see the kinds of models we will have to develop, we will then be able to work out how to develop the national AVE process,” says Peter. “At the moment, the National Heavy Vehicle Law says we can make regulations, but we don’t actually have any. We will also have to look at the states and territories to see how we will be able to transition from state-based programs into a national one.


“Our intention is that we will develop within the foreseeable future a situation where jurisdictions will no longer accredit individual vehicle modifiers. All modifiers will be accredited by the NHVR for any modifications.”


In the analysis Peter has already done on the differences between some of the state schemes and a potential national scheme, he is of the view the transition of qualifications across from those recognised by the state to those to be recognised by the national scheme will be a relatively simple exercise, as all of the qualifications have similar parameters set.


“For the big companies, where the importance of their corporate reputation is at stake, it’s probably one of the bigger risk controls for us,” he says. “If one of the big companies accredits 100 technicians across all of the states and territories, we don’t have to go and individually audit all of the 100 technicians – we only have to do one audit of the organisation itself.”


However, Peter makes it clear these ideas are not set in stone, “We are not locked in to including organisational accreditation in any new AVE scheme. However, it is one of the options we will be seriously looking at.


“There are three levels we have to look at. One is the individual mechanic or engineer who is working by themselves. We will need to come up with an accreditation process for those people. If we want to accredit an organisation, how can we control the risks for that organisation? That will depend on the types of company, the management systems they have in place. The same rules are going to apply for an equipment manufacturer as they will to a parts supplier, who may only have two sites and 10 employees.


“It will not be a matter of creating two schemes to oversee two different types of organisations. Instead, it will be a matter of creating a process which is scalable all of the way from the small one-man band to the large corporation.”   This suggests any legislation that will need to be put into place will take at least another 12 months after this. This takes us to the end of 2019.

Correct Fitting of a Fifth Wheel

The different jurisdictions around Australia have different time periods over which accreditations are given. For example, in Queensland any certification of accreditation has to be renewed every three years, for others it is often less. If we assume the process will say accreditation will need to be transferred across to any national scheme at the time at which it comes up for renewal in the state scheme, then we can expect at least a three-year process.


At the end of this we may see a national AVE scheme in place across the country. Of course, some of this is dependent upon the NHVR’s ability to bring all of the many and varied jurisdictions in both the states and territories into agreement on a national scale. Peter remains optimistic this kind of time schedule will be possible. It will probably depend upon any political changes or roadblocks that may appear in the next five years.