Companies running light commercial vehicle fleets are being warned of changes to European rules that could affect lead times and costs.
There are fears that the introduction of European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) could cause confusion and delay for fleet operators.
From April 29, light commercial vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes will come under the remit of ECWVTA, requiring additional approval for any modifications made to them.
However, the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has announced that it has successfully negotiated a valuable Van Enhancement Scheme that removes the requirement for UK-based van manufacturers and bodybuilders to seek Type Approval on basic vehicle modifications.
The Enhancement Scheme, secured by SMMT with VCA and VOSA, removes the requirement for basic modifications (ply-lining, basic racking, etc) to be approved.
But, while some modifications qualify for ‘blanket approval’, more bespoke vehicles will have to go through more rigorous or individual testing.
Jeff Ball, specialist vehicle director at Staffordshire vehicle solutions business Motiva Group, said: “The implications for contract hire and leasing companies like ourselves are significant.
“We have to make sure contracts with dealers are absolutely clear about where responsibility for whole type approval lies.
“For example, if a chassis has been built to the wrong size for the body, then the contract has to make it crystal clear who is responsible. Any disputes will lead to increased costs and delays for the customer.”
The potential challenges will be greatest for fleet managers looking for Multi-Stage Build (MSB) vehicles, warned Motiva.
This is where a base vehicle – usually a chassis or chassis/cab – is produced and approved as an “incomplete vehicle”. Another firm – usually a bodybuilder or converter – will then finish work on it, making it a “complete vehicle” in the eyes of the regulators.
The MSB process always involves two or more stages, and each of the manufacturers is only responsible for the work done during their part of the build.
Ball said: “In this situation, the flow of information between all the companies involved is vital. It’s possible that modifications or additions made at stage two or three could invalidate stage one approval, for example.
“All this of course just adds to the administration involved, which in turns puts pressure on lead times and increases costs.
“The upshot for fleet managers is the potential for longer lead times – especially if they are looking for specialised, bespoke light commercial vehicles.
“Unless they are taking off-the-peg vehicles, they need to be factoring this into their annual planning and purchasing programmes.
“Fleet legislation is complex enough at the best of times, without Europe adding yet more red tape to the mix.”