Towbar type approval testing in the UK was introduced for private light goods vehicles (small passenger vehicles) on 1st August 1998. The regulation referring to this is EC 94/20. Light commercial vehicles (vans, chassis cabs, and pickups up to 3500kg gross vehicle weight), including motor homes based on commercial vehicle chassis cabs, had to meet type approval from 29th October 2012.
The EC 94/20 legislation stipulates that the towbar must mount to the vehicle frame in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer's specification and that the towball must be in a specified position in relation to the mounting points. Once the design criteria have been met a towbar is produced and subjected to an endurance test. The towbar is fastened at the vehicle mounting points to a rigid test rig and is subjected to a 2 million cycle fatigue test. The towbar is then independently inspected and tested for fatigue failure by the VCA, Vehicle Certification Agency. Following a successful inspection, the towbar is issued with a unique type approval number and can now be sold as an approved unit.
Recently introduced throughout Europe, Regulation 55 has now replaced EC 94/20 towbar regulation in the UK. This does not mean that a towbar tested only to EC 94/20 is no longer suitable for use, fitment or sale. Regulation 55 is fundamentally similar to EC 94/20, with additional test and administration requirements. For an EC 94/20 towbar to meet Regulation 55 requirements the towbar and submission document has to meet additional requirements as detailed below:
- Secondary coupling static force test
- Submission of vehicle axle weight data
- New approval submission format
- New approval label format
The area of towbar installation where Regulation 55 affects towbar usage is where a towbar is installed to an unregistered commercial vehicle. The installation procedure must be approved by the VCA and the towbar must be approved to Regulation 55.
There is also the requirement for Motorhome manufacturers under the N1 Whole Vehicle Type Approval Scheme. If you own a Motorhome registered in the UK after 29th October 2012 you must have a type approved towbar installed; custom made towbars are no longer suitable.