Type-approval of agricultural vehicles (EU ‘Mother’ Regulation 167/2013)

This is an English translation of the article‚ "La madre di tutte le omologazioni" by Stefano Pagliarani and first published in the July-September Edition 2014 of Mondo Macchina. http://www.mondomacchina.it/rivista-flip/613/#32

Type-approval is the official recognition given by a national authority or agency which certifies that a vehicle or component conforms to prevailing technical specifications or regulations. Before the product can be put on the market and before reaching the hands of the end-user, the manufacturer must complete its type-approval procedure, also referred to as “homologation” in Europe, and be certified by third-party verification that design and construction respect the pescriptions stipulated. In Italy, this role is taken by the Ministry of Transport and the Motor Vehicle Trial Centers (CPA).

Moreover, the manufacturer guarantees conformity with type-approval demonstrating to the agency that original characteristics are maintained throughout production in series. Historically, type-approval arose for the regulation of all motor vehicles in circulation, not only automobiles, trucks and motorcycles but also tractors, trailers and other agricultural machinery. Aside from complete motor vehicles, type approval also applies to components and systems essential for their operation such as engines and brake and steering assemblies, tow hitches and, in the case of tractors, ROPS, Rollover Protection Structures.

Past, present and future, what has changed

Up until a few decades ago type-approval was managed independently by the each of the European states with their own methods and procedures but then the market and those on the market felt the need, correctly so, for uniform and unified type-approval, at least at the EU level. Thus Europe began writing its own regulation in the form of EU Directives which slowly became more sophisticated and complicated with the technical evolution of motor vehicles, beginning with automobiles and then expanded to bring in agricultural machinery and especially tractors. At present, Framework Directive 2003/37/EC covers type-approval of wheeled agricultural and forestry tractors with maximum speed of 40 km/h. All other “agricultural” type-approvals remains at the discretion and competence of the Member States. The new “Mother Regulation”, published in March 2013, sets forth two highly ambitious objectives; one is covering many more machinery types and the other is to regulate type-approval to keep it in step with technological progress which is, fortunately, ongoing.

Which machines are covered?

First, the new regulation applies to all types of tractors independently of their maximum speed (which is not specified) and their traction system; this means it is no longer limited to top speed of 40 km/h and wheeled tractors but extends also to tracked units. All types come under application and if certified for conformity can all be given type-approval recognized in all the twenty-eight European Union Member States. An important distinction must be made, however. Type-approval regulations concern the product and its manufacturing characteristics but each country maintains the right to regulate circulation in national territory as regards speed limits, weight, size, etc. A concrete example is a tractor with type-approval for 60 km/h which must still comply with national or local speed limits in exactly the same way as an automobile, a truck or a motorcycle. It must also be pointed out that Regulation EU 167/2013 deals with type-approval for farm trailers and other towed agricultural machinery such as sprayers, balers and the like. This is totally new in that all interchangeable towed machinery now comes under national regulations which are very diverse and often not compatible with others; it is sufficient to name regulations for drawbar towing eyes and brake assemblies. However, for wheeled tractors this new type-approval will be mandatory whereas for tracked and towed vehicles the manufacturer can select European type-approval, with specifications harmonized and recognized at the European level, or national type-approval in the various Member States with validity limited to national territory.

The “Mother Regulation” format and what it deals with

Regulation 167 contains 78 articles defining various aspects of type-approval: field of applications, obligations of Member States and manufacturers, basic procedures and type-approval validity, measures for marketing and the regulation of vehicles, those on market surveillance (safeguarding the enduser), recognition of other international norms such as UNECE (UN Economic Commission for Europe) and OECD codes.

At the heart of the regulation are articles 17, 18 and 19 listing the numerous technical aspects which must be taken up in type-approval legislation: construction and function provisions, those for ensuring operator safety and respect for the environment (noise levels and exhaust emissions). All technical and administrative details related to the issues named above will be handled in some “children” regulations (in the Delegated Acts legislation language) currently being defined by the European Commission. These regulations will be officially published at the beginning of 2015 but discussions are now at a very advanced stage and these contents have been more or less made public.

When will Regulation 167/2013 enter into force and effect?

Theoretically, the regulation has been in effect since March 2013 but will be officially applied, become operative, on 1stJanuary 2016. As of that date it will be used for European type-approval of agricultural machinery. For wheeled tractors and their related components, the Mother Regulation will become mandatory 1st January 2018 for placing on the market and registering them. There is likely to be fallout involving vehicles for which national type-approval is still possible in that some Member States will find it difficult to ignore the new EU regulation and hopefully incentives will became available for bringing the related national regulation in line. This Regulation 167 will come along as a real clampdown, a leap ahead resulting in great work loads for type-approval experts. Special commitments will also fall on the shoulders of the manufacturers required, within less than two years, to update and re-type-approve their entire

Focus on tractors. What are their main new features?

In spite of their wide range of application from the technical point of view, tractors will remain the core business of the Mother Regulation. Many of the technical requirements are related to their role as the machine which symbolized agriculture. The new features introduced for type-approval are many and vary widely. The most significant of them are listed below: Brakes. The complexity and the safety level of brake systems have made great progress to become comparable with those of road vehicles. Increased performance, that is minimum deceleration applied to reduce braking space. Trailer braking systems have been improved and harmonized both for pneumatic and hydraulic variants. Also the arrival of electronics with acronyms like ABS and EBS; beginning in 2020 ABS will be mandatory on all tractors with speeds of greater than 40 km/h.

Driver and control locations. Ever more comfortable work environments have been aimed at by defining requisites for ergonomics, the location of all controls on board and ones external (now located on modern fenders).

More safety for the operator. New logic and safeguards have been introduced, especially for starting the engine and leaving or parking the vehicle. New type-approved components. Glasses, acustic warning device, rearview mirrors, seatbelts, tires and lights will have to be type-approved to comply with the international UN-ECE Regulation applied to automobiles. The specifics of laying tractors. The peculiarity of laying tractors has finally been recognized with the definition of ad-hoc requisites, especially for steel tracks.

It must also be mentioned that some of the current type-approval requirements will be maintained: Rollover Protective Structures, ROPS, with reference to the OECD code, seats, power takeoffs, PTOs, drawbar hitches and ballast.

Other agricultural machinery

Towed interchangeable agricultural machinery is not only presented but finally also given coverage and harmonization for these key features:

  • Brakes: Pneumatic and hydraulic system will be unified at the European level and made compatible as regards the safety level on new tractors. 
  • Lights: Given requisites derived from those on industrial trailers.
  • Towing devices: The various types are codified and coupled with those provided for tractors. 
  • Mass and size: For mass, a common European denominator is established as for industrial trailers; it will be possible to type-approve trailers of 10, 18, 24 and 32 ton capacities with 1,2,3 or 4 axles respectively. For all towed machinery other than trailers maximum width for travel is increased from 2.55 to 3 meters.

This brings the brief excursion in the world of type-approval to a conclusion.

Now there is nothing more to say except to wish experts in the field good luck while awaiting 2016 to see whether the Mother Regulation has given birth to good “children”.