From July 1, 2018, there will be no more GCM upgrades permitted on new vehicles. This change, which was issued via an updated Circular by the National Vehicle Administrator at the beginning of June, effectively bans the practice of increasing the rated towing capacity of a vehicle – expressed as Gross Combination Mass (GCM) – above that specified by the first stage manufacturer. It has been a long-standing practice in Australia to modify vehicles and change out suspension components, tow bars and hitches to effectively increase both the GCM and GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass). These upgrades were only able to be completed on new vehicles pre-registration, and with modification plates affixed to detail any changes from original manufacturing specifications. The process was referred to as Second-Stage-of-Manufacture.
Following widespread concerns from regulators and the aftermarket industry in relation to the safety implications of GCM re-rating, changes to the administrative arrangements relating to modifications have been made following consultation with all State and Territory Transport bodies, and will be effective nationally. The change has had the full support of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) and the 4WD Industry Council after being implemented by the Federal Department of Transport. Complete details of the revised Administrators circular can be found HERE.
So, what does the change mean for you? Most likely, the greatest impact of this prohibition will be felt in caravanning circles where the weight of a large, heavy caravan will be too great for the average mid-sized Ute without GCM modification. With upgrades no longer permitted, this may reduce the list of options available to you without stepping up to a vehicle that has a higher towing capacity and GCM. It is likely that camper trailer buyers will be less affected as the lower mass of the average rig usually comes well within towing limits. However, it’s worth noting that hard floor and off-road style camper trailers are inherently heavier, so you may have to think more carefully about what combination of tow and tug will best suit your needs, but more importantly, will be legal. This change has been made due to safety concerns and as such we should also expect an increase in the operation of weigh bridges and random spot checks to regulate and enforce towing weight limits on our roads.
One example where the ban will have an impact, citing a popular mid-sized Ute, is the Ford Ranger XLT dual cab. It has a GVM of 3200kg and a GCM of 6000kg, which leaves 2800kg of towing capacity when fully loaded – which will include all accessories like a bulbar, winch, dual batteries, roof rack or fridge. An average caravan may only weigh 2200kg, but once food, water, gear and equipment are added you’ll be quickly pushing the limits of the Ranger’s safe and legal towing capacity – it doesn’t take a lot to add 600kg. To put it into perspective, a typical GCM upgrade allowed for an extra 500 to 1000kg – that’s a heck of lot more gear added or a larger, more comfortable caravan in tow. Long term, we may see more American style Utes and trucks on our roads simply to enable people to have what they want. Caravan manufacturers may also have to alter their designs or risk closing off a vast proportion of their buyer’s market. Camper trailer demand may increase, as many people will not be able to upgrade their vehicle to tow a larger caravan and will find that a top-spec camper with all the latest and greatest will suit their needs and wants just as well. One thing’s for certain, there will be no more GCM upgrades, so both sides of this leisure manufacturing industry will have to adapt to accommodate the change.
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