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Thumbs up for mandatory ESC for LCVs

Control order: The Foton Tunland does not have ESC available, but the Chinese brand has spoken of its plan to introduce the technology. Meantime, the Australian-designed Ford Ranger below does feature the technology.

Industry welcomes move for standard ESC on light commercials, but timeframe an issue

2 May 2013

LEADING motor vehicle industry representatives have welcomed the federal government’s move to make electronic stability control mandatory on all light commercial vehicles, which will bring vans, utes and light trucks into line with passenger cars and SUVs.

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA), Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A) and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) are among the industry bodies to support the regulatory change, however the FCAI will urge for an extension of about 12 months to the proposed implementation date of 2015 for new models and 2016 for all LCVs on the market.

FCAI technical director James Hurnall told GoAuto that while the FCAI supported fitting the proven life-saving safety technology to LCVs (up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass), the industry would need at least until the end of 2015 for it to undertake the necessary certification processes required with the proposed changes to Australian Design Rules.

“The FCAI and the industry support fitting ESC as it’s an important safety system,” he said.

“Obviously, the industry has been responding to this and fitting it in the absence of regulation – as we did with passenger cars previously.

“(But) I don’t think that’s a practical timeframe to actually undertake the administrative processes with the certification.”

Mr Hurnall said that even if a vehicle had ESC fitted, the vehicle manufacturer would still be required to go through the process of gaining regulatory approval.

“Once the design rule is gazetted, (we need) to ensure we have sufficient time so the company can undertake certification with the government,” he said, adding that this usually took around two years.

“The beginning of 2015 would not be practical.”

In announcing the proposed changes, and calling for submissions from interested parties (until June 26), federal road safety minister Catherine King said the government also planned to make brake assist systems standard in passenger cars, SUVs and LCVs in the same timeframe.

It is also currently consulting “relevant parties” on a proposal for mandatory anti-lock braking systems on heavy vehicles.

“Each year over 200 pedestrians and cyclists die on Australian roads and many more are seriously injured,” Ms King said.

“Mandating vehicle technology that helps drivers to avoid collisions is an effective way to make our roads safer for all users and will further bolster the government’s efforts under the National Road Safety Strategy, aimed at reducing deaths and injuries on Australia’s roads.”

Current regulations require ESC to be fitted to all new passenger cars and SUVs, although models currently on the market still have until November this year to install an ESC system.

The majority of light commercials sold in Australia do not have ESC fitted, however the market is responding.

A regulation impact statement published by department of infrastructure and transport highlights that ESC fitment in LCVs had increased from 8.3 per cent in 2010 to 45 per cent in 2012.

The FCAI has advised the department that this was expected to increase to 90 per cent by 2018 and 99 per cent by January 1, 2020.

With BAS, approximately 90 per cent of passenger cars and SUVs, and 45 per cent of LCVs, were fitted with the technology as at mid-2012. This was expected to climb to 99 per cent by 2018 for passenger vehicles (including SUVs), with LCVs following two years later.

As the peak national motoring and ‘mobility’ body, the AAA said the mandatory fitment of ESC to light commercials was certain to reduce the road toll.

“This is life-saving technology that many ute and van drivers have not been able to access,” said AAA executive director Andrew McKellar.

“Extending ESC to light commercial vehicles will no doubt save lives on the nation’s roads.

“This is a welcome road safety step that will be welcomed by the AAA and member clubs.”

The SAE-A has been among the most vocal advocates of ESC, arguing the case for mandatory fitment to LCVs since laws were passed for passenger cars and SUVs four years ago.

The peak body representing automotive engineers in Australia described the current legislation as “failing to protect workers and their families by not mandating ESC technology for passenger-carrying commercial vehicles”.

As GoAuto has reported, the Australasian Fleet Management Association (AFMA) – representing hundreds of vehicle fleet managers across Australia and New Zealand – has also called for mandatory ESC among a range of new safety initiatives, including standard-fit curtain airbags and minimum five-star safety ratings from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

“AFMA supports the drive to safer vehicles, and would like to see more initiatives from government such as a minimum ANCAP rating scheme where vehicles not meeting that minimum requirement would not be allowed in the marketplace,” he said.

“The association would also like to see the early mandatory introduction of certain safety-related features to be standard on all passenger and light commercial vehicles.

“Systems such as electronic stability control and side curtain airbags have been shown to be able to significantly reduce accidents and injury.

“There should be no reason that we are aware of why this should not be done as a matter of urgency.”

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