EU Roadworthiness Directive

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Posted: 140613

EU Roadworthiness Directive
Well, the Directive on Roadworthiness Testing is now in place. From now on its implementation is in the hands of the Member States so FBHVC will be looking to encourage the Department for Transport to apply it sensibly. Following the furore about this legislation it is probably worth us bearing in mind a couple of things.

Firstly, the underlying purpose of the Directive is to improve road safety across Europe. There are of course those who would wish that the UK was not affected by anything across Europe, but that is not a debate into which the FBHVC can enter. It is necessary for us to engage fully with the system in order to achieve the best outcome for our members. And the Directive is not solely, or even mainly, about historic vehicles. In fact its drafters have tried hard for it not to be about historic vehicles at all. So the Directive permits Member States to exempt historic vehicles from the new testing regime. It does

appear that the UK Department for Transport (DfT) will exempt them.

Everyone has laboured mightily over the terms of the definition of what a historic vehicle is, but there are genuinely different views across the EU Member States as to what makes a vehicle authentic and how important actual authenticity is to a historic vehicle.

Of course the FBHVC's position was, to simplify, that if it is old and cherished it is historic, but that does not make the people wrong who think that a vehicle should be fairly unchanged to qualify. And there is a valid question as to whether our fairly liberal regime in the UK permitting wide change to engines, brakes, gearboxes and bodies might not of itself be a safety risk. There, the devil will be in the detail and every example will be unique.

On the definition, part of it really helps us. DVLA already has its 'Historic' tax status, which they will wish to stick with as already being the national recognition of a vehicle as historic that the Directive requires. Their approach is already quite sophisticated in the way, for instance, it assumes buses and HGVs will be classified by what they do, not what they are.

The issue which will face us will be to make sure the DfT finds a practical way to interpret 'substantial changes in the technical characteristics of its main components'. DfT have already indicated that they will start by looking at safety, and if safety is not compromised they will wish to be as flexible as they can. I cannot guarantee we will satisfy everyone but we really will be making an effort to see that we have thought of as many of the problems as we can, and get them to the DfT.

Then we will be looking at testing. The test requirements set out in the Directive are the minimum standards. The UK may exceed some of them already. We simply don't know how DfT will wish to adapt the existing MoT to be compliant (which is how I am sure they will see it), but we will be concentrating on maintaining the most flexible approach to testing to make it no more difficult to test an old vehicle which has somehow not met the criterion for being 'historic', than it is now.

So this job is just starting. Depending on how DfT deal with their obligation and with their stakeholders, of whom we are just one, it might be massive, purely formal, or something in between. It could last for up to four years which is the maximum time allowed to member states for compliance. We will be taking it seriously.

If anyone thinks they have spotted a possible issue, do let me know. Many already have and I am starting to keep a list to use in support of the task. Don't necessarily expect a rapid reply as it will be a better use of my time to work up a brief for DfT than report back individually. And one piece of advice; the less you assume that everyone in Brussels, London or wherever, concerned with the Directive is an idiot out to get us, the more seriously your points will be taken. It may interest you to know that a key official in the commission with specific responsibilities for this Directive is a Land Rover Series l enthusiast. Hardly a faceless bureaucrat then.

Report from Bob Owen at the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC)

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