Post Brexit Motorcycle Type Approval Regulations Incoming

The UK Government has outlined a plan to bring in its own vehicle type approval regulations, but what does that mean and will it make a difference?

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May 2024 saw the UK Government set out its plan to implement its type approval framework for motorcycles, cars, vans and other vehicles sold in the UK.

It marks one of the few times that UK lawmakers have looked to stray from the regulations which our neighbours in the European Union adhere to. And while that might sound like a mass of sweeping changes are set to be brought in, don’t get too excited about a potential scrapping of Euro5+ and a return of the two-strokes! 

What is the transport minister proposing?

The news comes via a speech from the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, in which he introduced the idea of making the UK’s vehicle type approval regulations more streamlined while reducing the administrative burden of complying with regulations. 

There are three main principles behind this, which we’ll go through later, but generally they are:

Standardisation through the UNECE

The DfT acknowledges that the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) already has a framework in place that it estimates covers between 75 to 80 per cent of the vehicle type approval regulations. In reality, maintaining those regulations will save time, and money and means that in those areas at least, we remain aligned with our European neighbours.

A flexible approach to recognising standards and testing from elsewhere in the world

Should there be no international standards to follow, the DfT proposes de-regulation of certain ‘low risk’ areas and to adopt ‘alternative national standards’. 

Explore the potential for bespoke domestic requirements or processes, where this benefits Great Britain

One of the negative points of following European directives was that in some cases, they might not have been what was best for UK-based OEMs and consumers. Looking at that side of type approval will allow the government to, if appropriate, legislate on things that could help to boost the UK, its economy and its industry. It also means that potentially the one-size-fits-all approach of being in the EU, which in some cases doesn’t work for the UK motorcycle market (given its size in comparison to France, Italy, and Spain) may in the future become less of an issue.

Sitting above each of those principles is a desire to reduce what the government is referring to as “administrative burden”’ which we can roughly translate to meaning red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy. That all sounds rosy on paper, but it’s only a positive move if it doesn’t affect the safety of the products we can buy and ride, or hurt the stability of the UK’s £7.2 billion motorcycle industry. It’s also hoped that the changes will help the UK to keep pace with the EU, thanks to time saved not adhering to and implementing UNECE regulations. 

We’ve reached out to some of the OEMs which sell bikes in the UK, albeit ones made abroad, and also to Tony Campbell of the MCIA, to get their thoughts on the changes.

Honda’s view of the regulations was “We are supportive of this approach from Government to align as much as possible with international regulation.” This seems to be positive, but you get the impression that as an OEM that sells bikes on every populated continent on earth, aligning the UK’s type approval regulations with that of our neighbouring countries makes life easier for them, and selling bikes here an easier and therefore more appealing option.

A representative for Yamaha Motor UK was positive of the move, although they did mention to Visordown that it was quite early on in the process, and therefore the full scope of the changes might not be known for some time.

They said “Reference is made in the speech and related documentation to the proposed new GB type approval for motorcycles and Yamaha is working closely with the MCIA to support their work with the DFT and the government around future regulations and legislation that affect powered two-wheelers. With the latest TRACER 9 GT+ now featuring systems like Radar Linked Unified Brake System and with work underway to comply with the forthcoming Euro 5+ emission requirements, which will be introduced in 2025, our motorcycles and scooters are well placed to be able to meet the challenges of the future.”

Possibly the most insightful comment on the regulations though comes from Tony Campbell of the MCIA. He said “What has been announced is purely the Government making public that type approval regulation/process is under review where they are taking the opportunity to see how the UK / GB can improve the process / possibly reduce costs."

He also went on to confirm that while the chance to break away from the EU might seem appealing, especially to those over a certain age, it’s unlikely to yield a return to the old days of smokey two-strokes and inline six-cylinder engines. “It is important to note, there is no objective to diverge from EU regulation in terms of design and build standards,” he said “purely a consideration of the test processes and principles. We expect that if a manufacturer decided to type approve for the UK / GB market only, they may choose to use the GB scheme IF it were made easier and cost efficient. That said, the approval would likely only be accepted in the GB market and not the EU markets whereas, if the testing standard/approval is completed under the EU test standards it would be accepted in the EU, GB / UK.”

He went on to give an idea of when L-catergory GB / UK Would Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA) could come into force, and explained that the transition at that point should be smooth. “For L-Category, the type approval process/testing review for the GB WVTA Scheme will not commence until 2026 (estimated) with an in-force date of 01 January 2028. We expect both the DFT and Automotive sector will have learnt plenty by then meaning the L-Category transition should be fairly trouble-free.”

So in short, yes, the UK government is looking at a new type approval regulation framework, and more specifically was that the UK could be more agile in some cases, and save costs and ‘administrative burden across the board. That doesn’t, though, mean a raft of sweeping changes coming in to upset the apple cart, and the chances are that we, as consumers, will probably notice very little change to the bikes are can buy.