Despite recent government technical announcements being a bit evasive, is the GCM-upgrade situation getting better?

GROSS COMBINED MADNESS?

The issue with modern tow vehicles and their Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and Gross Combined Mass (GCM) limitations has been one of the hottest topics in caravanning circles for the last few years. Why? Because, by the time you hook up a trailer approaching the maximum towing capacity of most modern 4X4s, you'll have scant remaining cargo-carrying capacity thanks to either a limited GVM or GCM rating.

As a result, some aftermarket specialists have been offering upgrades to overcome these limitations. These range from a simple suspension upgrade to a full six-wheel conversion costing tens of thousands of dollars. Some will even increase the braked towing capacity well beyond the original manufacturer's specification.

GVM upgrades are, for the most part, well understood, and the regulatory framework for these upgrades is clearly defined. As for GCM upgrades, well, the regulatory framework is anything but clear. Depending on who you talk to or, more importantly, where you live, absolute certainty about whether GCM upgrades are either legal, safe, or insurable is debatable. Click here to view DITCRD GVM Policy.

FEATURE GCM Upgrades

ABOVE A large GCM is what we're talking about. That's the weight of everything in your rig

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH AND TIM SCOTT

Click here
for the
true story
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?
To further cloud the issue, GCM is almost a mythical creature. According to sources RV Daily spoke with, it’s not always an ‘engineered’ number, with claims that some manufacturers pick a number that suits the market 'benchmark'. 

“I've spoken with engineers who've been involved with vehicle testing for OEMs, including Ford, Holden, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen, and what I can tell you is that methodologies for establishing GCM and BTC [braked towing capacity] vary greatly," said Mike Briggs, director at Six Wheeler Conversions.

"Some manufacturers conduct physical on-road testing, some do a few dyno tests, some do computer simulations, and some just pick a figure that aligns with what the rest of their competitors are doing."

We asked Damion Smy, Product Communications manager from Ford re GCM with Ranger and Everest. He said:

“When calculating GCM, a combination of factors come into play. This includes payload, mass, engine capability and factors such as cooling capability, brake size, etc.

"We test on long, steep terrain, such as Grossglockner Pass in Austria, Davis Dam in the US (Arizona/Nevada state border), and Brown Mountain in the Southern Highlands of NSW. We push the powertrain on these roads, as they’re long, slow and steep drags up steep inclines. We re-test with a braked trailer added, ensuring the cooling works, etc. and adjust accordingly. The current benchmark we test for is 3500kg; if we take out towball weight of GVM, the most GCM we can have is 6650kg. We also repeat this testing at extreme temps, both hotter and colder.”

This muddiness is partly why federal ADRs don’t recognise GCM figures and subsequent upgrades for light vehicles, only for heavy or freight vehicles. Enforcing a GCM framework for light vehicles is a grey area for the states. However, the aftermarket is a bit more definitive in its approach.

ABOVE A RAM 2500 can tow big, with a decent payload too

Mr Briggs continued, “Australia's SSMs (second-stage manufacturers), on the other hand, do plenty of real-world physical testing. I have many years of experience with our products towing at substantially increased GCMs, and I know from experience that mechanical failures only become an issue when people start modifying engines. That's because regardless of the weight of the load, the torque on the driveline is never any more than the engine/powertrain can produce and the driveline should always be engineered to take everything the engine can throw at it.

“When Volkswagen released the V6 Amarok in Australia, it reduced the GCM and BTC well below what it advertises in the rest of the world, based on mistaken assumptions about Australia’s climate. These numbers were revised in consultation with VW’s marketing department. There's also a popular assumption that Australia's towing conditions are among the toughest in the world, but this is far from correct.” (See a report Mike prepared for the GCM Technical Working Group here.)

Still, it seems the Feds don’t want to dive in and take on vehicle manufacturers to introduce mechanical tests to guarantee the reliability of the stated gross combination mass figures.

So aftermarket industry engineers are left to battle this scenario of handballing. As usual, it would help everyone if there was a level playing field of country-wide, uniform legislation, and not the convenient swerve of federal-to-state inconsistency we have now.

It’s unlikely you will be fined at the roadside for exceeding your GCM, but you will for being over your towing capacity or GVM. So who is responsible for this mess?

ABOVE Original compliance plate and SSM upgrade compliance plate on an MY13 200 Series. Note no GCM rating

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SCROLL TO CONTINUE

ACCOUNTABILITY
For a motor vehicle to be allowed onto Australian roads, it needs to be registered, and, for that, it must comply with the Australian Design Rules (the ADRs). The ADRs are enshrined within the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (the Act), which controls the safety, environmental, and anti-theft performance of all vehicles entering the Australian market for the first time. The federal government department responsible for the Act is the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. Within the department, the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch (VSSB) administers the Act.

At this point, you might be looking at the date of the Act and wondering why it hasn't changed in 30 years. After all, motor vehicles have changed a lot in that time. Well, the answer is quite simple. Acts of Parliament are incredibly complicated documents, and getting them passed into law is a long, drawn-out political process. Once an Act becomes law, public servants are very reluctant to try to change them.

Acts of Parliament become an overarching framework under which rules are developed, hence we have the ADRs. The problem is, these are also extremely complicated. They take a lot of time and effort to create and implement. However, when an issue arises that is not satisfactorily addressed by the rules, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development issues written advice (called a Circular) to the motor vehicle industry to clarify the issue and provide guidance. Unfortunately, the information received to date hasn't explained the situation regarding GCM upgrades.

BELOW A Six Wheeler Conversion may well solve your GCM situation, not to mention create a talking point everywhere you go 

ADRS AND GCM
Then, on October 3, 2019, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development released its much-anticipated Circular 0-4-6 and, in it, it states: "There are no ADRs that require the GCM of a light vehicle to be certified by testing or evidence provided by a manufacturer. Therefore, the Commonwealth does not assess, endorse, or approve any purported change to a light vehicle's GCM specification by a second-stage manufacturer.”

Essentially, what the department is saying is, at the time, it issued approval to a Second Stage Manufacturer (SSM) for a GVM upgrade, it was only ever meant to cover the GVM. Any SSM that has assumed its approval covered a GCM upgrade was incorrect in that assumption.

The department also stated: "State or Territory laws may impose requirements relating to changes to a vehicle’s GCM specification”.

In other words, it has palmed the problem off to its state government counterparts and washed its hands of the issue.  So what do the various States and Territories have to say about GCM upgrades?


ABOVE This 200 Series has had a Lovells GVM upgrade // BELOW Original compliance plate and Lovells SSM upgrade compliance plate on a 200 Series LandCruiser showing increased braked towing capacity and increased GCM

ABOVE Six Wheeler Conversions SSM compliance plate on an Isuzu D-Max showing increased GVM but no GCM

ABOVE Six Wheeler Conversions Towbar rating plate showing increased towing capacity. Note the text in the disclaimer

As you can imagine, there’s a lack of consistency. However, Mike Davison, General Manager at Lovells Suspension, told RV Daily that his company would continue to offer GCM revisions for pre-registration vehicles.

"We maintain our position that Lovell's GCM revision is legal, and we continue to offer as such for pre-registration vehicles based on previous advice from DIRDC, existing ADR definitions and evidence packages based on SAE Standards, which verify the revised GCM and that the vehicle is fit for purpose," he said.

According to Mr Davison, Lovells GCM and Braked Towing Capacity (BTC) upgrades are approved in NSW, Victoria, and South Australia. In Tasmania, GCM upgrades are allowed, but BTC increases are not. In Queensland, braked towing capacity increases are allowed, but GCM upgrades are not (which makes no sense whatsoever). Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not allow either BTC or GCM upgrades. Mr Davison has had no response from the ACT government to his enquires.

RV Daily sought further clarification from Mike Briggs, director at Six Wheeler Conversions, who said: “As a member of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association’s Gross Combination Mass Technical Working Group (TWG), we're working hard to develop more consistent regulations and guidelines regarding GCM upgrades on light vehicles.

As stated in the SSM fact sheet: "There are no ADRs that require the GCM of a light vehicle (i.e. a vehicle less than 4.5 tonnes GVM) to be certified by testing or evidence provided by a manufacturer". There are currently no ADR’s relating to GCM on light vehicles.

“Six Wheeler Conversions holds current SSM approvals for a range of models with federally (SSM) approved 4500kg braked towing capacity, but we also hold heavy vehicle (more than 4.5t GVM) approvals for this current range, with GVM's ranging from 4700 to 5495kg. These 'heavy vehicle’ approvals carry approved GCM upgrades ranging from 8200kg to 8995kg. These heavy variants are identical to the light variants,” Mr Briggs said. 

"Western Australia approves GCM upgrades with extensive modifications such as multi-axle conversions, on a case by case basis," Mr Briggs added. "Victorian engineers can also approve GCM upgrades on individual vehicles. Victorian engineers can use SSM evidence where available, which does exist and can be used on light vehicles, where the light vehicle is the same as its HV (NB2) equivalent. They can also perform their own testing and assessment, where SSM evidence isn’t available. Tasmania also allowed GCM in similar circumstances to Victoria and they were also accepting some interstate certifications."

South Australia will allow them once specific tests have been completed and, to date, no-one we’re aware of has completed those tests. Finally, NSW we understand allows GCM upgrades where overlapping heavy vehicle approval applies, so in general for light vehicles, doesn't.

An interpretation minefield, as you can see, even for the industry players.  

ABOVE Six Wheeler Conversions upgrade in a fifth-wheeler application

ENFORCEMENT
All this leaves unanswered questions. What happens if you have a Victorian registered vehicle with a GCM upgrade, and you drive your rig into Queensland and get weighed by the police? Can you be fined for driving an overweight rig because the GCM upgrade isn't recognised in Queensland?

RV Daily spoke with Sergeant Graham Shenton of Victoria Police, who spearheaded weight checks on RVs in regional Victoria. According to Sergeant Shenton, as a state police officer, he can only police state laws. If the GCM upgrade is clearly displayed on the SSM's compliance plate and it has been approved, he said, then that will guide police and road authorities in determining whether a vehicle is overweight or not. He also said he couldn't hold a driver responsible for what could be an SSM compliance plate that may have been issued in error.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development offered the following advice to owners under the impression their vehicle modification included a GCM upgrade, "The owner or vehicle modifier will need to talk with the applicable State/Territory registration authority to:

  1.  confirm that a GCM upgrade is available for the light vehicle in question, and
  2.  determine the requirements that need to be met allowing approval for the upgrade of the GCM".

Again. More handballing to the states.

INSURANCE
The bigger question for every owner of a vehicle that has had, what they believe, is a legitimate GCM upgrade is what an insurance company does in the event of an accident? Would a vehicle's insurance claim be knocked back because of the advice in this new circular, potentially costing the vehicle owner thousands of dollars?

Our advice is to reach out to your insurance provider and obtain written confirmation the insurance policy remains valid in the event of a GCM upgrade. To that end, RV Daily spoke with Kalen Ziflian at Club 4X4 Insurance about the legality of GCM upgrades and their potential effect on insurance coverage.

“In my role at Club 4X4 and, as a member of the National 4WD Council, I am acutely aware of the challenges the 4WD industry faces with differences of opinion across federal and state governments," said Mr Ziflian.

"The lack of clarity and confusion the misalignment across these entities creates challenges for both the end-user and anyone that services the market, including accessory manufacturers, and insurance providers and agents, like Club 4X4. That understanding and involvement in the industry has driven our stance to take a position of reason in the claims management process.

"As our customer set consists of tourers, one of our biggest challenges is how one makes a ruling on both the legality of a vehicle that may be involved in an incident away from the state where said vehicle is registered and on what legislation. Specific to GVM and GCM upgrades, this is rarely an end-user driven modification, so the reliance moves to the business installing these upgrades, so, always seek the advice of reputable service providers who will note whether what they're doing to your vehicle is for on- or off-road use only; the latter denoting that the change you’re paying for is, in fact, illegal for road use. Ultimately our reasonability test is around whether an 'illegal' modification may have contributed to the incident.

"So if you have an illegal modification on your vehicle and it could have contributed to the incident you need to claim for, then there will be an investigation into the matter which could lead to us [Club 4X4 Insurance] declining some, or all of your claim. It is important to note this stance is not the same across the insurance landscape; others may decline a claim regardless of whether an illegal modification may have been contributory to the claim or not," Mr Ziflian concluded.


CONCLUSION
So, the situation is fluid. The aftermarket industry is working to arrive at an outcome that satisfies all parties in the face of government reluctance to take the lead. While nothing is impossible, as ever, though, it’s up to you to do your research and take the route that maintains your legality. 

ABOVE The combo weighed 7.4 tonnes; inside the 7.9 GCM on a 50mm towball

BELOW A 200 Series runs out of payload with a big van attached

FEATURE GCM Upgrades

The issue with modern tow vehicles and their Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and Gross Combined Mass (GCM) limitations has been one of the hottest topics in caravanning circles for the last few years. Why? Because, by the time you hook up a trailer approaching the maximum towing capacity of most modern 4X4s, you'll have scant remaining cargo-carrying capacity thanks to either a limited GVM or GCM rating.

As a result, some aftermarket specialists have been offering upgrades to overcome these limitations. These range from a simple suspension upgrade to a full six-wheel conversion costing tens of thousands of dollars. Some will even increase the braked towing capacity well beyond the original manufacturer's specification.

GVM upgrades are, for the most part, well understood, and the regulatory framework for these upgrades is clearly defined. As for GCM upgrades, well, the regulatory framework is anything but clear. Depending on who you talk to or, more importantly, where you live, absolute certainty about whether GCM upgrades are either legal, safe, or insurable is debatable. Click here to view DITCRD GVM Policy.

Despite recent government technical announcements being a bit evasive, is the GCM-upgrade situation getting better?

GROSS COMBINED MADNESS?

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH AND TIM SCOTT

ABOVE A large GCM is what we're talking about. That's the weight of everything in your rig

Click here
for the
true story
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?
To further cloud the issue, GCM is almost a mythical creature. According to sources RV Daily spoke with, it’s not always an ‘engineered’ number, with claims that some manufacturers pick a number that suits the market 'benchmark'. 

“I've spoken with engineers who've been involved with vehicle testing for OEMs, including Ford, Holden, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen, and what I can tell you is that methodologies for establishing GCM and BTC [braked towing capacity] vary greatly," said Mike Briggs, director at Six Wheeler Conversions.

"Some manufacturers conduct physical on-road testing, some do a few dyno tests, some do computer simulations, and some just pick a figure that aligns with what the rest of their competitors are doing."

We asked Damion Smy, Product Communications manager from Ford re GCM with Ranger and Everest. He said:

“When calculating GCM, a combination of factors come into play. This includes payload, mass, engine capability and factors such as cooling capability, brake size, etc.

"We test on long, steep terrain, such as Grossglockner Pass in Austria, Davis Dam in the US (Arizona/Nevada state border), and Brown Mountain in the Southern Highlands of NSW. We push the powertrain on these roads, as they’re long, slow and steep drags up steep inclines. We re-test with a braked trailer added, ensuring the cooling works, etc. and adjust accordingly. The current benchmark we test for is 3500kg; if we take out towball weight of GVM, the most GCM we can have is 6650kg. We also repeat this testing at extreme temps, both hotter and colder.”

This muddiness is partly why federal ADRs don’t recognise GCM figures and subsequent upgrades for light vehicles, only for heavy or freight vehicles. Enforcing a GCM framework for light vehicles is a grey area for the states. However, the aftermarket is a bit more definitive in its approach.

ABOVE A RAM 2500 can tow big, with a decent payload too

ABOVE Original compliance plate and SSM upgrade compliance plate on an MY13 200 Series. Note no GCM rating

Mr Briggs continued, “Australia's SSMs (second-stage manufacturers), on the other hand, do plenty of real-world physical testing. I have many years of experience with our products towing at substantially increased GCMs, and I know from experience that mechanical failures only become an issue when people start modifying engines. That's because regardless of the weight of the load, the torque on the driveline is never any more than the engine/powertrain can produce and the driveline should always be engineered to take everything the engine can throw at it.

“When Volkswagen released the V6 Amarok in Australia, it reduced the GCM and BTC well below what it advertises in the rest of the world, based on mistaken assumptions about Australia’s climate. These numbers were revised in consultation with VW’s marketing department. There's also a popular assumption that Australia's towing conditions are among the toughest in the world, but this is far from correct.” (See a report Mike prepared for the GCM Technical Working Group here.)

Still, it seems the Feds don’t want to dive in and take on vehicle manufacturers to introduce mechanical tests to guarantee the reliability of the stated gross combination mass figures.

So aftermarket industry engineers are left to battle this scenario of handballing. As usual, it would help everyone if there was a level playing field of country-wide, uniform legislation, and not the convenient swerve of federal-to-state inconsistency we have now.

It’s unlikely you will be fined at the roadside for exceeding your GCM, but you will for being over your towing capacity or GVM. So who is responsible for this mess?

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

ACCOUNTABILITY
For a motor vehicle to be allowed onto Australian roads, it needs to be registered, and, for that, it must comply with the Australian Design Rules (the ADRs). The ADRs are enshrined within the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (the Act), which controls the safety, environmental, and anti-theft performance of all vehicles entering the Australian market for the first time. The federal government department responsible for the Act is the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. Within the department, the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch (VSSB) administers the Act.

At this point, you might be looking at the date of the Act and wondering why it hasn't changed in 30 years. After all, motor vehicles have changed a lot in that time. Well, the answer is quite simple. Acts of Parliament are incredibly complicated documents, and getting them passed into law is a long, drawn-out political process. Once an Act becomes law, public servants are very reluctant to try to change them.

Acts of Parliament become an overarching framework under which rules are developed, hence we have the ADRs. The problem is, these are also extremely complicated. They take a lot of time and effort to create and implement. However, when an issue arises that is not satisfactorily addressed by the rules, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development issues written advice (called a Circular) to the motor vehicle industry to clarify the issue and provide guidance. Unfortunately, the information received to date hasn't explained the situation regarding GCM upgrades.

BELOW A Six Wheeler Conversion may well solve your GCM situation, not to mention create a talking point everywhere you go 

ADRS AND GCM
Then, on October 3, 2019, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development released its much-anticipated Circular 0-4-6 and, in it, it states: "There are no ADRs that require the GCM of a light vehicle to be certified by testing or evidence provided by a manufacturer. Therefore, the Commonwealth does not assess, endorse, or approve any purported change to a light vehicle's GCM specification by a second-stage manufacturer.”

Essentially, what the department is saying is, at the time, it issued approval to a Second Stage Manufacturer (SSM) for a GVM upgrade, it was only ever meant to cover the GVM. Any SSM that has assumed its approval covered a GCM upgrade was incorrect in that assumption.

The department also stated: "State or Territory laws may impose requirements relating to changes to a vehicle’s GCM specification”.

In other words, it has palmed the problem off to its state government counterparts and washed its hands of the issue.  So what do the various States and Territories have to say about GCM upgrades?


As you can imagine, there’s a lack of consistency. However, Mike Davison, General Manager at Lovells Suspension, told RV Daily that his company would continue to offer GCM revisions for pre-registration vehicles.

"We maintain our position that Lovell's GCM revision is legal, and we continue to offer as such for pre-registration vehicles based on previous advice from DIRDC, existing ADR definitions and evidence packages based on SAE Standards, which verify the revised GCM and that the vehicle is fit for purpose," he said.

According to Mr Davison, Lovells GCM and Braked Towing Capacity (BTC) upgrades are approved in NSW, Victoria, and South Australia. In Tasmania, GCM upgrades are allowed, but BTC increases are not. In Queensland, braked towing capacity increases are allowed, but GCM upgrades are not (which makes no sense whatsoever). Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not allow either BTC or GCM upgrades. Mr Davison has had no response from the ACT government to his enquires.

RV Daily sought further clarification from Mike Briggs, director at Six Wheeler Conversions, who said: “As a member of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association’s Gross Combination Mass Technical Working Group (TWG), we're working hard to develop more consistent regulations and guidelines regarding GCM upgrades on light vehicles.

As stated in the SSM fact sheet: "There are no ADRs that require the GCM of a light vehicle (i.e. a vehicle less than 4.5 tonnes GVM) to be certified by testing or evidence provided by a manufacturer". There are currently no ADR’s relating to GCM on light vehicles.

“Six Wheeler Conversions holds current SSM approvals for a range of models with federally (SSM) approved 4500kg braked towing capacity, but we also hold heavy vehicle (more than 4.5t GVM) approvals for this current range, with GVM's ranging from 4700 to 5495kg. These 'heavy vehicle’ approvals carry approved GCM upgrades ranging from 8200kg to 8995kg. These heavy variants are identical to the light variants,” Mr Briggs said. 

"Western Australia approves GCM upgrades with extensive modifications such as multi-axle conversions, on a case by case basis," Mr Briggs added. "Victorian engineers can also approve GCM upgrades on individual vehicles. Victorian engineers can use SSM evidence where available, which does exist and can be used on light vehicles, where the light vehicle is the same as its HV (NB2) equivalent. They can also perform their own testing and assessment, where SSM evidence isn’t available. Tasmania also allowed GCM in similar circumstances to Victoria and they were also accepting some interstate certifications."

South Australia will allow them once specific tests have been completed and, to date, no-one we’re aware of has completed those tests. Finally, NSW we understand allows GCM upgrades where overlapping heavy vehicle approval applies, so in general for light vehicles, doesn't.

An interpretation minefield, as you can see, even for the industry players.  

ABOVE This 200 Series has had a Lovells GVM upgrade // BELOW Original compliance plate and Lovells SSM upgrade compliance plate on a 200 Series LandCruiser showing increased braked towing capacity and increased GCM

ABOVE Six Wheeler Conversions SSM compliance plate on an Isuzu D-Max showing increased GVM but no GCM

ABOVE Six Wheeler Conversions Towbar rating plate showing increased towing capacity. Note the text in the disclaimer

ABOVE Six Wheeler Conversions upgrade in a fifth-wheeler application

ENFORCEMENT
All this leaves unanswered questions. What happens if you have a Victorian registered vehicle with a GCM upgrade, and you drive your rig into Queensland and get weighed by the police? Can you be fined for driving an overweight rig because the GCM upgrade isn't recognised in Queensland?

RV Daily spoke with Sergeant Graham Shenton of Victoria Police, who spearheaded weight checks on RVs in regional Victoria. According to Sergeant Shenton, as a state police officer, he can only police state laws. If the GCM upgrade is clearly displayed on the SSM's compliance plate and it has been approved, he said, then that will guide police and road authorities in determining whether a vehicle is overweight or not. He also said he couldn't hold a driver responsible for what could be an SSM compliance plate that may have been issued in error.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development offered the following advice to owners under the impression their vehicle modification included a GCM upgrade, "The owner or vehicle modifier will need to talk with the applicable State/Territory registration authority to:

  1.  confirm that a GCM upgrade is available for the light vehicle in question, and
  2.  determine the requirements that need to be met allowing approval for the upgrade of the GCM".

Again. More handballing to the states.

INSURANCE
The bigger question for every owner of a vehicle that has had, what they believe, is a legitimate GCM upgrade is what an insurance company does in the event of an accident? Would a vehicle's insurance claim be knocked back because of the advice in this new circular, potentially costing the vehicle owner thousands of dollars?

Our advice is to reach out to your insurance provider and obtain written confirmation the insurance policy remains valid in the event of a GCM upgrade. To that end, RV Daily spoke with Kalen Ziflian at Club 4X4 Insurance about the legality of GCM upgrades and their potential effect on insurance coverage.

“In my role at Club 4X4 and, as a member of the National 4WD Council, I am acutely aware of the challenges the 4WD industry faces with differences of opinion across federal and state governments, said Mr Ziflian.

"The lack of clarity and confusion the misalignment across these entities creates challenges for both the end-user and anyone that services the market, including accessory manufacturers, and insurance providers and agents, like Club 4X4. That understanding and involvement in the industry has driven our stance to take a position of reason in the claims management process.

"As our customer set consists of tourers, one of our biggest challenges is how one makes a ruling on both the legality of a vehicle that may be involved in an incident away from the state where said vehicle is registered and on what legislation. Specific to GVM and GCM upgrades, this is rarely an end-user driven modification, so the reliance moves to the business installing these upgrades, so, always seek the advice of reputable service providers who will note whether what they're doing to your vehicle is for on- or off-road use only; the latter denoting that the change you’re paying for is, in fact, illegal for road use. Ultimately our reasonability test is around whether an 'illegal' modification may have contributed to the incident.

"So if you have an illegal modification on your vehicle and it could have contributed to the incident you need to claim for, then there will be an investigation into the matter which could lead to us [Club 4X4 Insurance] declining some, or all of your claim. It is important to note this stance is not the same across the insurance landscape; others may decline a claim regardless of whether an illegal modification may have been contributory to the claim or not," Mr Ziflian concluded.


CONCLUSION
So, the situation is fluid. The aftermarket industry is working to arrive at an outcome that satisfies all parties in the face of government reluctance to take the lead. While nothing is impossible, as ever, though, it’s up to you to do your research and take the route that maintains your legality. 

BELOW A 200 Series runs out of payload with a big van attached

ABOVE The combo weighed 7.4 tonnes; inside the 7.9 GCM on a 50mm towball

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