LandCruiser 200
GVM Upgrade

Without a doubt, the most common question I'm asked in relation to the build is what I've done to manage the 200's legal Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM).

For those unfamiliar with the situation, the LandCruiser 200 -like most 4WD wagons and utes- quickly exceeds its maximum legal weight once you add accessories and load up for a trip, particularly if you're towing.

This article will discuss the options for increasing maximum legal weight of the LandCruiser 200.

Important Update:

On the 5th June 2018, the Federal Dept of Infrastructure (Vehicle Standards), issued a new circular which prohibits SSM approval of Braked Towing Capacity (BTC) increases, and -depending on interpretation- also notional GCM increases.

The department further clarified their advice on 29th June 2018, to say that the new restriction only applies to new/modified SSM approvals. This means that the Lovells GVM/BTC upgrades for the LandCruiser 200 are still valid, and can still be sold on new and existing vehicles.

They further advise that state-based approvals (post 1st rego) may still be possible. You should speak to your Engineering Signatory and/or State vehicle standards section to clarify the situation if you are proposing to have such an increase certified.

Terminology

It's important to understand the terms used in this article, so read these definitions in case you're unsure:

Tare The tare weight is the standard unladen weight of your vehicle (or trailer) as specified by the manufacturer, with all oils and 10L of fuel in the tank. You'll find it on your registration papers.

GVM stands for Gross Vehicle Mass. It is the maximum legal weight of your vehicle, including any fitted accessories, passengers, cargo, fuel and any downweight bearing on the vehicle via the towbar. The GVM is specified by the manufacturer and appears on your registration papers. In the case of the LC200, the standard GVM is either 3300kg for early models or 3350kg after the minor 2010 facelift.

BTC stands for Braked Towing Capacity. This is the maximum ATM of a trailer that can be towed with the vehicle. In the case of the LC200, it is 3500kg.

GCM stands for Gross Combination Mass. In the case of light vehicles this is generally not an officially recognised definition, but is instead simply the sum of the GVM and the BTC. In the case of the 'Cruiser (pre-2016 facelift), no GCM was specified anywhere, so it was theoretically 6800/6850kg depending on the year. From the 2016-facelift onwards, there was a GCM of 6850kg specified in the brochure, but not on any official document (such as rego papers, RVCS certificate or compliance plate). Whether the notional GCM remains at 6800/6850kg, or increases with a GVM increase depends on the method/kit you use to obtain a GVM increase, the state you live in and the engineer you choose.

Ball Weight This is the amount of weight a trailer imposes (vertically) on the tow bar of the tow vehicle. It is included when calculating the GVM of the tow vehicle. The maximum ball weight which can be imposed on a LandCruiser 200 is 350kg. You can buy relatively inexpensive scales to measure the ball weight of your trailer, and I strongly recommend buying a set. Too high a ball weight could damage your tow bar, while too low a ball weight is also dangerous, as it is a major cause of instability and trailer sway. The general rule of thumb is that the ball weight should be around 10% of the ATM.

ATM stands for Aggregate Trailer Mass. This is the maximum weight of your trailer (including the ball weight), as specified by the trailer manufacturer.

SSM stands for Second Stage Manufacturer. This means that a company has obtained federal approval for a modification. In this context, it means a suspension modification to allow a GVM (and possibly BTC) increase.




What's the issue with the LandCruiser 200's GVM?

It's not just the LandCruiser 200. With the exception of the large American 'trucks' (such as the Ford F-250/350 or Dodge RAM 3500), it's almost impossible for a family to tour whilst remaining below the standard GVM, particularly when towing.

None of the 4WD wagons ('Cruiser, Patrol, Prado etc) or the popular mid-size 4WD utes (Hilux, Navara, Ranger etc) have sufficient 'room' between their tare weight and their GVM to cope with the addition of typical accessories plus passengers, luggage and towball weight.

It's a pretty safe bet that a large proportion of the 4WDs you see touring Australia are travelling above their tow vehicle's rated GVM and/or GCM. And the various state road authorities have started taking notice, although at the time of writing no enforcement action was being undertaken.

Look at the following example using a LandCruiser 200 GXL:

Item Weight
Tare weight (GXL) 2590kg
2 adults/2 kids 250kg
Bullbar/winch/lights 120kg
Rear bar/twin spares 130kg
Long range tank/fuel 250kg
Luggage, fridge etc 130kg
Towball weight (camper-trailer) 150kg
TOTAL 3620kg
Standard GVM 3350kg
Overweight by 270kg

LandCruiser 200 standard GVM

Increasing the GVM

Depending on timing and your location, there are a few different options available to increase the legal GVM of your vehicle:

Federally-approved SSM kits (installed BEFORE 1st registration)

Some suspension manufacturers produce kits with federal approval for an increase in GVM. If fitted prior to first registration (ie: When you purchase a brand-new vehicle), they will include an additional compliance plate and can be registered with the increased GVM in any state or territory.  This is known as a Second Stage Manufacturer (SSM) approval. Available kits include:

Federally-approved SSM kits (installed AFTER 1st registration)

If you have one of the SSM kits installed after first registration, then the increase needs to be signed off by an engineering signatory in the state of registration. If you have the kit professionally installed, this certification is usually part of the installation process. If you install yourself, then you'll need to organise testing and certification yourself. Also if you transfer registration of the vehicle to another state, it will require re-inspection and re-approval in the new state.

Other brands of suspension

Most of the federally-approved GVM upgrade kits for the LandCruiser 200 consist of nothing more than heavier springs and appropriately rated shock absorbers. There are no modifications to axles or the chassis (except for the Creative 4200kg upgrade). So you'd think that by installing a similarly rated suspension kit from any manufacturer, the engineering approval process would be relatively simple.

Unfortunately, most states and territories have different rules for getting such an increase approved. And it's likely that every engineer will also have slightly different requirements. Some differences are major, some are minor. See the list below for a summary of what's required in each state or territory.

The easiest option

Without a doubt, the simplest option that provides the best legal outcome is a pre-first registration installation of one of the SSM kits. Automatic nationwide approval and no arguments over GCM. Unfortunately, if you buy a used car or prefer a different suspension system, you're stuck with the minefield of state regulations.







State by State

If you wish to install an SSM GVM upgrade kit after first registration, or you have a non-SSM suspension kit and need to go through an engineer for a GVM increase, here are the general guidelines for each state of Australia. Note that regulations change over time and engineers will have varying requirements. Ensure you speak to your local roads authority and an engineering signatory to confirm the situation in your case before you begin your modifications.

The information below was accurate as at December 2017.

 

Australian Capital Territory

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. Must be inspected/approved by an Engineering Signatory, then vehicle inspected at the Hume Vehicle Inspection Station.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. As above, although additional testing (such as a brake test, ISO Lane Change test etc.) will likely be required. The engineer will determine what testing is required.

Effect on BTC and "GCM"? No government policy. The approving engineer can decide whether to leave the BTC as is, meaning the notional GCM increases along with the GVM, or to reduce the BTC to maintain the factory notional GCM of 6850kg.

Contact details:

New South Wales

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. Must be inspected and approved by an Engineering Signatory.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. Must be inspected, tested and approved by an Engineering Signatory.

Effect on BTC / "GCM"? No government policy. The approving engineer can decide whether to leave the BTC as-is, meaning the notional GCM increases along with the GVM, or to reduce the BTC to maintain the factory notional GCM of 6850kg.

Notes:  The below details the procedures I had to follow to have my GVM increase approved in NSW. My engineer did not change the BTC, meaning the notional GCM increased along with the GVM, to 7300kg.

Typical procedure (for non SSM kit): You will need to take your vehicle to an engineering signatory, who will assess all the modifications fitted to your vehicle for safety and compliance with ADRs. This may include testing of brakes and handling. As my testing was completed in NSW, I can give the exact requirements and procedure I had to follow when going through engineering signatory John Wilson, from AKZ Vehicle Engineering:

  • Provide the engineer with details of all vehicle modifications
  • Obtain a weighbridge ticket showing current Tare weight
  • Have vehicle inspected by the engineer to check modifications, lighting and general compliance with ADRs
  • Attend a testing track for brake and handling tests. The vehicle was loaded to the proposed GVM (3800kg) using weights and sand bags. The testing consisted of:
    • Braking: 10 consecutive rapid stops from 90-100km/h
    • Handling: Pass the ISO double lane-change test at 90-100km/h.
  • Await arrival of engineer's certificate
  • Present certificate to RMS for update of registration details.

At the time of writing (December 2017), the regular cost of this approval was $1450.00, although John gave us a discounted price of $1100.00 each as we had 6 vehicles tested together on the same day.

Contact details:

Northern Territory

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. You must submit an "Application to modify a vehicle" form. This will be assessed by the Technical Advisory Committee. They will determine the conditions required for approval. In the case of fitting an exact SSM-approved kit, this may mean you don't even need to have the vehicle inspected by an engineering signatory.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. Submit the form as above. The committee will assess the request and determine the conditions required for approval. The most likely requirement will be to have the vehicle inspected and tested by an engineering signatory. The signatory will determine what tests are required (e.g.: brake test, lane change test etc.)

Effect on BTC and "GCM"? No official policy. Unless noted by the approving engineering signatory, the BTC remains unchanged, meaning the notional GCM increases in line with any GVM increase.

Notes: The NT will also generally accept the report of an engineering signatory who is approved with an interstate registration authority. This means that if, for example, you had a GVM upgrade assessed and approved by a NSW engineering signatory for registration in that state, that the NT Motor Registry would accept that report for transferring registration to the NT, and you would not need to have the vehicle re-assessed. This would be subject to them reviewing the engineer's report, and there having been no changes to the vehicle since the original report was written.

Contact details:

Authority/Department: NT MVR Vehicle Standards

Engineering Signatories: See list here.

Queensland

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. Must be inspected by an Approved Person.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. Maximum 10% increase over factory GVM (i.e.: to 3685kg). Must be inspected by an Approved Person, who will determine what testing is required.

Effect on BTC / "GCM"? Only increases if using SSM kits that already include an approved "GCM" increase. Otherwise, the BTC decreases by amount of GVM increase, to remain at the factory 6850kg. Unlikely to be possible after June 2018. Contact an Approved Person for clarification.

Notes: Because of the rules surrounding light vehicle modifications in Queensland, increases are heavily restricted. Under modification code LS11, You are essentially limited to fitting SSM upgrade kits, other than for small (10%) increases. Read the LS11 fact sheet.

Contact details:

South Australia

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. Must be inspected/approved by a Chartered Professional Engineer, then vehicle inspected at an approved inspection station.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. As above, although additional testing (such as a brake test, ISO Lane Change test etc.) will likely be required. The engineer will determine what testing is required.

Effect on BTC and "GCM"? No government policy. The approving engineer can decide whether to leave the BTC as is, meaning the notional GCM increases along with the GVM, or to reduce the BTC to maintain the factory notional GCM of 6850kg.

Notes: "To upgrade the GVM of your vehicle you would need employ the services of a Chartered Professional Engineer.  The engineer will assess the vehicle and modification and suggest any alterations and write a report on the vehicle.  They or you would need to submit a copy of that report to this office for it to be assessed and for a Statement of Requirements to be issued.  Once you have this you can book the vehicle in and present it for inspection. Once inspected and passed a Certificate of Exemption will be issued identifying the modification and the new ratings.

Quite often with GVM upgrades the engineer doing the certification does reduce the BTC by the same amount as the GVM increase, but this is left to the individual engineer as they have done the investigation of the vehicles spec and they are the one certifying the upgrade. If the engineers make no mention of a BTC downgrade then the vehicle can operate at the new GVM plus the manufactures BTC. It is left to the engineer". - Statement from Co-Ordinator Vehicle Standards, Dept Planning, Transport & Infrastructure

Contact details:

Authority/Department:  Dept Planning, Transport & Infrastructure

Chartered Professional Engineers: Find list here (scroll down to MR 426 list)

Tasmania

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. Must be inspected by Approved Vehicle Certifier.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? No.

Effect on BTC / "GCM"? As per SSM approval.

Notes: In Tasmania, it is essentially impossible to obtain a GVM upgrade unless you fit an SSM kit, such as Lovells', Pedders or OME. Only these kits can be approved by an engineer after first registration.

"In Tasmania vehicle modifications must be to the requirements of the National Code of Practice also known as Vehicle Standards Bulletin 14 (VSB14). In Tasmania the Approved Vehicle Certifiers (AVC) may use the SSM approval as part of their certification of modifications PROVIDED ALL components of the SSM were used in the modification and are for that make, model and series of vehicle. Tasmanian legislation prohibits the increase of a GVM above the Manufacturers specifications. For SSM we use this as the manufacturer and they retain compliance issues.  If there is no SSM the Original Manufacturers specs are used." Statement from Technical Officer, Tasmania Vehicle Registration and Standards.

Contact details:

Authority/Department: State Growth - Vehicle Registration and Standards

Approved Vehicle Certifiers: See list here

Victoria

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. Must be inspected/approved by a VASS Engineering Signatory, who will provide a VASS certificate. Submit the certificate and a Change of Vehicle Details form to VicRoads.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. As above, although additional testing (such as a brake test, ISO Lane Change test etc.) will likely be required. The engineer will determine what testing is required.

Effect on BTC and "GCM"? No government policy. The approving engineer can decide whether to leave the BTC as is, meaning the notional GCM increases along with the GVM, or to reduce the BTC to maintain the factory notional GCM of 6850kg.

Contact details:

Authority/Department:  VicRoads

VASS Signatories: Find list here (scroll down to Step 1)

Western Australia

GVM Upgrade using an SSM kit (post 1st rego)?  Yes. You must submit an "Light Vehicle Modification Application" form. This will be assessed by the DOT. They will determine the conditions required for approval. In the case of fitting an exact SSM-approved kit, this may mean you don't even need to have the vehicle inspected by an engineering signatory.

GVM Upgrade using other suspension? Yes. Submit the form as above. The committee will assess the request and determine the conditions required for approval. The most likely requirement will be to have the vehicle inspected and tested by an engineering signatory. The signatory will determine what tests are required (e.g.: brake test, lane change test etc.)

Effect on BTC and "GCM"? Unknown.

Notes: The above information should be treated with caution. It was provided by a WA Transport general call centre operator. The operator would not connect me to the Vehicle Standards section. Emails to the Vehicle Standards section requesting confirmation have so far gone unanswered. I will update this section if and when a reply is received.

Contact details:

Authority/Department: WA Dept of Transport

Engineering Signatories: See list here.

Comments / Q&A