BACKGROUND ON THE ANFWDC SUBMISSION FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE AMVCB WORKING PARTY on VSB 14
We are the peak body representing the interests of all four wheel drivers travelling within Australia. This includes many overseas travellers who seek assistance from ANFWDC each year. Our members appreciate the opportunity to get out of the cities for their recreation as often as they can. Their main activities are touring, sightseeing, camping and learning about Aboriginal & European heritage.
The member associations of this Council have over 300 affiliated 4WD clubs in Australia, and members numbering around 30,000 adults. Our members modify their vehicles for many different purposes, and rely on kit manufacturers and tyre retailers to supply items which do not jeopardise the safety and roadworthiness of their vehicles. Since Australian made kits are developed by automotive engineers who are acknowledged as world leaders in their field, our club members expect that on completion, the modified vehicle should be able to be legally accepted in all states and territories. Without a specific guideline for the modification of four wheel drive vehicles, owners justifiably feel that they run the risk of the vagaries of registration inspectors and law enforcement officers as they travel across state borders.
In our membersí view, our vehicles have been unjustifiably portrayed as unsafe and should be eliminated from our public road system. Our on road accident record and our self reliant capabilities when in the outback demonstrate that we travel safely through harsh conditions in exceptionally reliable vehicles.
Our members represent a significant percentage of all who venture into our deserts and outback towns each year but as enthusiasts, travel to the outback as often as they can afford to do so. Our members regularly visit out of the way, undeveloped places. The roads and trails leading to such places, whether in the outback or not, are poorly or never maintained to the standard required for motor cars. And that is the charm of our recreation. Getting away from the city to go camping by a remote creek or between desert dunes is a wonderful way to escape for a time from the stresses of work and city life. It is important that our vehicles are suitable for the duties we expect them to perform so we may survive when in such conditions. Too many who go unprepared do not.
By visiting the outback, four wheel drive tourists deliver real economic benefits. Each driver would plan to spend on average around $5,000 while on a typical trip to the Outback. Our contribution to some remote aboriginal run stores in tiny settlements has been reported by the proprietors as approximately $0.5 M per annum.
DURABILITY FOR AUSTRALIAN CONDITIONS
As delivered, almost all four wheel drive vehicles are not robust enough to survive on the rough roads travelled when used for touring in Australia. We are concerned that all who do so should be self reliant enough to do their trips in safety and that demands high standards of durability. The need for modified vehicles is thus: they are more likely to bring us home safely.
When properly modified, we can minimise suspension, tyre and under body damage. This is because each component has been developed and proven on our tough road conditions and built to automotive engineering standards which few manufacturers will provide, despite their claims during the sales pitch.
It is not well known, but some of our most dedicated club members are able to undertake projects for public land managers around the country because they have modified and equipped their vehicles to suit the projectís site conditions which may be beyond the capabilities of unmodified ranger or forester vehicles. This can only happen because the members are prepared to modify their vehicles with specialised equipment to ensure their own safety when operating in hazardous conditions.
In all facets of motoring there is a component of motor sport and four wheel driving is no different when it comes to competition events. The capabilities of our member enthusiastsí vehicles seem unbelievable to new spectators, quickly dispelling the notion that 4 WD vehicles fall over easily under severe conditions. Such performance is not possible without superbly engineered chassis & suspension systems.
COUNTERING ILL INFORMED ADVICE
Groups with intolerance of difference when it comes to sharing our roads with four wheel drives have overtly and covertly opposed our membersí rights to register and use standard and modified four wheel drive vehicles in the cities in which we live. Typically such groups use statistics from other countries to support their contentions that 4WDs are unsafe and should be banned from our cities because the statistics available in Australia show otherwise. Yet many commonly used types of everyday vehicle are no safer than 4WDs, such as people movers. These are just as wide, as high, as long as or even longer than the average 4wd and more lightly built. Opponents of 4WDs have used the media, surfacing when an unusual or newsworthy accident involving a 4WD. Such news items are in no way typical of the actual accident statistics relating to four wheel driving in Australia. We acknowledge that 4WDs are involved in road accidents, but as a component of the registered vehicles on our roads they are under-represented in most types of accidents, disproving any claims that they are unsuited for driving on city roads, modified or not.
Four wheel drives are not dangerous vehicles which need to be kept out of our cities. Our members agree that backyard built, inadequately designed and modified vehicles which are registered to use on our roads should be removed. Yet our regulators allowed these to be registered in the first place. In this regard, we fully support the move to further develop the national code of practice for modifications to four wheel drive vehicles, but contend that the code should recognise excellence of engineering, rather than arbitrary limits not having any direct connection to properly designed modifications which have been proven to improve both on road and off road performance. Accident statistics may improve even further given the adoption of demonstrated superior performance derived from limits based upon engineering excellence.
The ANFWDC with the expertise of its club members has developed nationally accredited driver training courses at basic and advanced driving levels. The texts are written to meet the requirements of the work place related authorities and are periodically reviewed as required. Our accredited members lead the way in encouraging professionalism amongst new drivers joining our clubs by conducting regular driver training/awareness days. Our larger member associations hold RTO status and are prepared to assist our smaller groups when required.
This Council has developed codes of practice for on road and off road driving. A camping code of practice and a long standing driversí Code of Ethics has also been developed.
Clubs assist national parks services, forestry authorities, heritage, conservation groups, rural drought and bushfire victims. Club activities also provide events for disadvantaged groups, projects for charities and deserving individuals. Activities are often related to maintenance of heritage listed sites. In many cases this requires the deployment of heavily modified vehicles to reach remote sites.
REGISTRATION OF MODIFIED VEHICLES
Modified 4WD vehicles are mostly owned by private individuals who as end users, rely heavily on the 4WD accessory retailer to supply and fit suitable goods for sale to the public.
If a product has been designed to modify a specific model by an automotive engineer employed by the manufacturer and is carried out by a corporate 4WD retailer/fitter, our members submit that the fitment of these goods should not require additional certification by an automotive engineer.
In the case where a one off vehicle is modified by an owner to their own individual requirements, then certification of the finished vehicle should be undertaken by a suitably qualified automotive engineer before registration may be renewed or continued.
A set of guidelines for the modification of 4WD vehicles should be developed by the AMVCB Working Party. These should be based upon real observable tests which are repeatable over different makes for any specific or combined modifications.