GVM and GCM VEHICLE UPGRADES – THE FACTS as at 16.05.2022

There has been much conflicting information on social media as to whether GVM and GCM vehicle suspension upgrades are legal / illegal in different states, and this causes much confusion.

Uneducated and ill-informed comments do little to bring a clear understanding on any subject and diminish the credibility of the writer.

Some people comment that the upgrade is not available is certain states, when in fact they may be. It may just not be approved, for their particular vehicle, or by that particular company, so clarification and factual information is needed.

Not all companies can do all work, so you will need to shop around as some may tell you it isn’t available, when in fact another company may be legally authorised to do the work.

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Here are the FACTS as at 16.05.22.

SO, WHAT IS A GVM AND / OR GCM UPGRADE?

GVM is the ‘Gross Vehicle Mass’ given on the vehicle compliance plate by the vehicle manufacturer. It states the maximum weight in kilograms, that the vehicle can legally weigh when fully loaded.

It is a legal requirement that the GVM weight is not exceeded, when driven on the roads or the vehicle will be legally deemed to be overweight, unroadworthy and illegal to drive on the roads.

You will also note that your vehicle insurance policy will usually exclude cover for a vehicle that is over-weight. Separately, it will also exclude cover for a vehicle that is unroadworthy. A double whammy.

GCM is the ‘Gross Combination Mass’ of the vehicle. Once again it is set by the vehicle’s manufacturer and cannot legally be exceeded.

The GCM, as the name suggests, is the combined weight of the vehicle plus any trailer / caravan it tows. Add the weight of the tow vehicle loaded and the caravan loaded to find the actual GCM and ensure that it is not over that figure stipulated by the manufacturer.

Once again, your vehicle and trailer / caravan combination is illegal to be on the roads if weighing over this combined weight and the same insurance exemptions apply.

MANUFACTURER – the name of the person or company who accepts responsibility for compliance with the Australian Design Rules and to whom the ‘Compliance Plate’ approval certificate is issued.

This definition of “Manufacturer” encompasses First Stage Manufacturers and all Second Stage Manufacturers for which a federally approved compliance plate has been issued for the vehicle. As defined by Vehicle Standards (Australian Design Rule – Definitions and Vehicle Categories) 2005 – dated 14/5/2016.

There is more information on the Truck Friendly web site and Facebook page that explains load carrying capacities etc.

EXAMPLE – A typical factory standard 200 Series Landcruiser has a GVM of 3,350 kgs. That is the total weight, fully loaded, INCLUDING drivers, passengers, all accessories, set of drawers, bull bar, tow bar etc. personal stuff and probably that (often illegal) boat on the roof if towing a large van. (610 kgs total load carrying capacity) In the case of utes that canopy on the rear is also load.

The Landcruiser has a GCM of 6,650kgs, and braked towing capacity (BTC) of 3,500 kgs, which means that it can tow a 3,500 kg trailer / caravan. The 3,350 GVM (Cruiser weight) plus caravan 3,500 ATM (caravan weight) gives 6,850 GCM. (Gross Combination Mass.) Remember these are the maximum weights legal allowed and hopefully we don’t exceed them. These GVM and BTC figures do not always add up to the GCM, as is the case with many dual cab utes. There is a full article on Truck Friendly Facebook page on that issue.

The caravan tow ball weight is included in the Caravan ATM and transferred to the tow vehicle load when the caravan is attached to the tow vehicle.

There is more to the story of weights than that, but let’s stick to the basics for the moment.

UPGRADES

Now we humans don’t like leaving things behind when we travel, so many people want to carry more weight than the vehicle will legally be allowed to carry. This is usually through lack of knowledge / education, human error or a blatant disregard for the law and other people’s safety on the roads.

The driver, passenger, fridge, winch, bull bar, recovery gear, toolbox, set of drawers, roof racks, canopy, tow hitch, etc all adds weight, even that extra child and car seat as passenger adds weight.

Some want to keep the same vehicle, so ask a qualified person to do a vehicle GVM upgrade on it. This is where a qualified and authorised, suspension specialist who is Government approved, will increase the load carrying capacity of the springs and other components on the vehicle.

The ‘qualified person’ must then issue a new compliance plate on the vehicle stating that it has been upgraded to the new load carrying capacity. Without this plate the vehicle is still legally at the original load capacity.

These upgrades can be done to the vehicle GVM and the vehicle GCM and the (BTC) braked towing capacity. (Conditions apply)

FOR EXAMPLE: – My Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series was upgraded prior to initial registration when I purchased it March 2020.

Lovells upgraded the Cruiser’s GVM from the factory original 3,350 kgs to 3,800 kgs, the GCM from 6,850kgs to 7,800 kgs.

The braked towing capacity was also upgraded from 3,500kgs to 4,000kgs, conditional on the use a weight distribution hitch when towing over 3,500 kg trailer / caravan to help transfer some tow ball download weight from the rear axle to the front axle. Tow ball weight upgraded from 350 kg to 400kg.

The rear axle was only upgraded from 1,950kg to 2,000 kgs, so the weigh distribution hitch will assist keeping the weight within legal limits.

WARNING: – A GVM upgrade MAY actually reduce your vehicles actual braked towing capacity, if fully loaded to the new upgraded GVM. This is because your GCM will remain the same as original unless you upgrade that also. As GCM is the adding of the car GVM and the trailer ATM, if you increase the car weight, the weight that is left for the caravan will be less to reach the original GCM.

It is a seesaw affect.

So, do your sums on your individual situation, and vehicles before committing to any expensive upgrades, A new vehicle or van may be a safer option. Ask why do believe that I need the upgrade and how will it affect my towing, if that is what you want to achieve.

TRUCK FRIENDLY NOW SORTS THE CONFUSION – WHAT CAN BE DONE, WHEN AND WHERE.

FIRSTLY – THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF UPGRADES TO VEHICLE GVM, GCM AND BTC.

The FIRST type is PRIOR TO INITIAL REGISTRALION.

This is where you talk to a new car dealer and arrange for a new vehicle to have the upgrade done BEFORE you purchase and first register it.

So, basically, you by a vehicle (first stage of manufacture) that has been built under Australian Federal Government Australian Design Rules, (ADR) and then ask someone to finish building it to your specifications, in a Second Stage of Manufacture. (SSM) still under the Federal RVSA Scheme.

As the individual states and territories register vehicles in Australia, the vehicle once fully built, under the ADR, is currently legal to register in every state and territory in Australia.

But Truck Friendly understand that not everyone can afford or justify the cost of buying a brand-new vehicle and paying for it to be upgraded.

The SECOND type of upgrade is AFTER THE VEHICLE HAS ALREADY BEEN REGISTERED in an Australian state or territory.

This is called an ‘In Service’ vehicle.

As the vehicle is now registered in one state / territory or another, it falls under the jurisdiction of that state or territory, and this is where the confusion starts, as they do not all agree on certain things. What may be legal in one state may not be legal is another.

 

SO, WHAT CAN AND CAN’T YOU DO.

After contacting each Australian state and territory minister for transport, the Federal Minister for Transport, several Second Stage of Manufacturer (SSM) approved suppliers, here is the current situation as at the 10th of March 2021.

KEN’S COMMENTS;-

  • TRUCK FRIENDLY ADVISE THAT DIFFERENT VEHICLES MAY NOT HAVE AN APPROVED UPGRADE KIT AVAILABLE, SO THIS INFORMATION IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION, AND MAY VARY BETWEEN MAKES AND MODELS OF INDIVIDUAL VEHICLES AND BETWEEN STATES AND TERRITORIES.

 

  • Not every SSM can or does nominate a revised GCM.

 

  • Different SSM’s have different authority, and some may not be approved to do certain work. So, check with different SSM’s on what they are approved to do to your vehicle in your state.

 

  • A vehicle that is legally registered in one Australian state of Territory with a BTC, GVM or GCM upgrade, can legally travel in another state or Territory.

 

  • KEN’S TIP. – Ensure that the vehicle insurance company has it stated in writing on your insurance policy that the vehicle has been upgraded and lists the new GVM, GCM and BTC ratings and not just that it has a 50mm lift etc..

 

QUEENSLAND

Qld Transport Dept, (TMR) is currently preparing a draft plan to review legislation on these GVM and GCM upgrades. A copy of this plan WAS due for release for comment by industry & SSM manufacturers in mid-2022, however, to my knowledge, at time of writing no copies have yet been made available. (Confirmed by Qld TMR – the draft plan is now due for release mid 2022). The draft has been approved by the QLD Transport Minister as of May 2022.

Current situation in Queensland.

GVM Upgrades of IN SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – APPROVED.

GVM Upgrades under SSM to vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

GCM Upgrade to IN SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – NOT APPROVED

GCM Upgrade under SSM to vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

TMR allows a braked towing mass (BTM) increase to an in-service or registered light vehicle in limited circumstances:

  • where the modification is undertaken by the same entity that holds the SSM approval to increase a vehicle’s BTM
  • where the in-service vehicle is of the same make and model
  • the modifications match the specifications approved under the SSM.

 

NSW, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, and VICTORIA

GVM Upgrades of IN-SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – APPROVED

GVM Upgrades under SSM of vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

GCM Upgrade to IN SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – APPROVED.

GCM Upgrade under SSM to vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

BTC, Braked Towing Capacity to IN SERVICE Vehicles – APPROVED

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA, ACT and NORTHERN TERRITORY

GVM Upgrades of IN-SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – APPROVED.

GVM Upgrades under SSM of vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

GCM Upgrade to IN SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – NOT APPROVED

GCM Upgrade under SSM to vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

BTC, Braked Towing Capacity to IN SERVICE Vehicles – NOT APPROVED

 

TASMANIA

GVM Upgrades of IN SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – APPROVED.

GVM Upgrades under SSM of vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

GCM Upgrade to IN SERVICE vehicles (currently registered vehicles) – APPROVED

GCM Upgrade under SSM to vehicles PRIOR to initial registration – APPROVED.

BTC, Braked Towing Capacity to IN SERVICE Vehicles – APPROVED

 

 

SO WHY DO SOME VEHICLES HAVE APPROVAL AND OTHERS DON’T?

All upgrade kits must be approved for each vehicle, model and make before being installed as a GVM / GCM, or BTC upgrade. Likewise, the installers / mechanics who do the work must also be approved.

This is a very expensive process and involves strict testing, and reporting procedures to gain approval.

The problem for some vehicles, is that the demand for upgrades, the suspension design added to the difficulty and cost of altering the vehicle, axle loadings, and other factors may make it uneconomical to develop a kit to upgrade those vehicles. Not all vehicles will have a kit approved for them, so check with different manufacturers on what is available for your vehicle.

In some cases, it may be better to upgrade your tow vehicle than have a GVM / GCM upgrade. Do not exclude the light trucks like Iveco Daily and similar, with heaps of load and towing capacity in your considerations.

As an example of what is involved with the vehicle GVM, GCM and BTC upgrades, I will finish with this statement sent to Truck Friendly from Mike Davison, GM of Lovells Automotive Systems.

It shows an expensive test regimen for any second stage manufacturer (SSM).

QUOTE: – “Lovells is committed to going above and beyond and believes it is the only SSM that has a full complement of test data and evidence packages to satisfy the recently-released GCM and Towing Upgrade Technical Working Group test regime.

This comprehensive new test regime is endorsed by the AAAA, exceeds OEM requirements, and includes the following tests:

  1. ADR35 TESTING- DYNAMIC BRAKING PERFORMANCE, HANDBRAKE PERFORMANCE AND GRADIENT STARTS.
  2. ADR88 ESC PERFORMANCE TESTING- SINE WITH DWELL.
  3. UPRATED AXLE ASSEMBLY TESTING- FEA (FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS), LAB TESTING, BEARING FATIGUE LIFE, MATERIAL TESTING, TEST RIG LOAD AND durability TESTING AND CAD MODELLING.
  4. SAE J2807 GCM VERIFICATION- DRIVELINE AND POWER TRAIN THERMAL TESTING.
  5. SAE J2807 DYNAMIC STABILITY TESTING AS A COMBINATION. UTILISING LOVELLS TEST TRAILER BUILT TO SAE STANDARDS. THIS IS THE ONLY SAE TEST TRAILER IN THE COUNTRY AT PRESENT AND FEATURES INCLUDE, ADJUSTABLE DRAW BAR/AXLE POSITION, ADJUSTABLE CENTRE OF GRAVITY, ADJUSTABLE MOMENT OF INERTIA, LOAD CELLS ON ALL COMPONENTS, YAW SENSORS AND DATA ACQUISITION SYSTEMS, ADJUSTABLE AERODYNAMICS AND FRONTAL AREA, ADJUSTABLE WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION WITH RAIL SLIDES AND INTERCHANGEABLE SUSPENSION TYPES.
  6. SAE J266 UNDERSTEER TESTING AS A COMBINATION.
  7. VSB6 GCM VERIFICATION CALCULATIONS- STARTABILITY AND GRADABILITY.
  8. COMBINATION VEHICLE AND TRAILER BRAKING TEST BASED ON ADR35 AND j2807.
  9. TOWING UPGRADE CHASSIS TESTING AND ADR-62 TESTING.
  10. TOWING UPGRADE HITCH RECEIVER LOAD TESTING AND DURABILITY/CYCLIC FREQUENCY EVIDENCE BY AN INDEPENDENT DIRDC ENDORSED TEST FACILITY.
  11. ADR62 EVIDENCE- MECHANICAL CONNECTIONS BETWEEN VEHICLES.
  12. LABORATORY REPORT ADR-62 – 1200LB WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM.
  13. DYNAMIC STRENGTH TEST REPORT – LOVELLS 5.5T HAUL ACE ALL TERRAIN HITCH.
  14. LABORATORY REPORT ADR-62 – STATIC TEST AS4177.1 -1200LB WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM.
  15. LABORATORY REPORT ADR-62 – STATIC STRENGTH TEST.
  16. COMPONENT REGISTRATION LOVELLS 5.5T HAUL ACE ALL TERRAIN HITCH.
  17. COMPONENT REGISTRATION LOVELLS 1200LB WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM.
  18. COMPONENT REGISTRATION LOVELLS TOW BAR/DROP SHANKS.”

MIKE DAVISON, GM OF LOVELLS AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS. (END OF QUOTE)

This clearly shows why very few mechanics, suspension specialists and SSM manufacturers can offer ‘full-service’ GVM, GCM and BTC upgrades on such the vast array of different vehicles, makes and models that are available on the Australian market today.

Stay safe everyone and I appreciate your feedback.

Thanks for your support of Truck Friendly caravan road safety program.

Cheers

Ken Wilson

#truckfriendly

 

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