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Friday, 16 May 2014

Caravan compliance potential long-term win for both buyers and builders

RVMA member Jason Biewer (r) with Daniel Sahlberg.
RVMA member Jason Biewer
(r) with Daniel Sahlberg.

By Garth Morrison Editor GoSeeAustralia and GoSeeNewZealand

Two essentials need to be addressed by manufacturers and major industry bodies if the Australian caravan industry is to move forward to compliance which gives buyers and industry assurance of a consistently quality product.

1. payload (the caravans actual carrying capacity) must be fit for the (buyers) purpose. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate numbers must be legal, right, safe and within both the warranty parameters of the caravan and that of its potential tow vehicle.

2. The industry must embrace audited processes and compliance.

It would be really wonderful if all builders of Australian and New Zealand Recreational Vehicles managed their processes with a Quality Assurance tool like International Organization for Standardization (ISO) AS/NZS 9001 & 9002.

ISO 9001 is an internationally recognised standard that defines a systematic control of business activities to ensure that the needs and expectations of a business's customers are being met or exceeded.

This systematic control, also referred to as 'quality assurance' and 'quality management', is achieved through controlling processes in businesses that affect the quality of the products and services the organisation supplies.

Daniel Sahlberg of RVMA  checks Kingdom Caravans Kensington
Daniel Sahlberg of RVMA checks Kingdom Caravans Kensington

With a quality assurance business base in place auditing the compliance of caravans to Australian and New Zealand Standards becomes a tick-a-box process.

Right now it is hard to know the number of Recreational Vehicle (RV) manufacturers who have ISO accreditation.

One your correspondent knows of is Royal Flair a Quality Assured Company: ISO 9001-2008. They see the quality product process benefits. Royal Flair uses this high value to buyers and advertises it strongly. It is a major point of difference for that company.

Vanguard Caravans, in Epping Victoria, says it is another ISO Quality Assured accredited caravan builder.

RVM Australia, the peak body for Australia’s RV manufacturing industry, has launched a new Code of Practice & Compliance Standards.

The new Code of Practice has been comprehensively updated to reflect the latest regulations and complement the association’s Recreational Vehicle Manufacturing Accreditation Program (RVMAP). Recreational Vehicle Manufacturers Association of Australia (RVMA) CEO David Duncan said the totally updated code is the latest step towards total industry compliance.

“Our initiative to provide low-cost online access to Australian Standards has had an enthusiastic take-up by our members, and the Code is a key addition to their technical resources.

“These and our other technical projects will ensure the RVM Australia Accredited badge is, more than ever, an absolute assurance that an RV is fully compliant,” he said.

Kingdom Caravans Kensington  VIN
Kingdom Caravans Kensington VIN

RVM Australia, has produced a new vehicle plate for caravans and trailers. The plate combines everything previously shown on the vehicle and consumer plates, starting with manufacturer, model, VIN and build date, and including all relevant ratings and specifications.

David Duncan said the new plate will make it easier for consumers, owners and registration authorities to check all the important details of a trailer or caravan.

“The vehicle plate is available to all RVMAP Accredited manufacturers and, as with RVMAP itself, goes well beyond the basic legal requirements,” he said.

“In addition to the ATM rating required by law, it shows the tare mass, GTM rating and load carrying capacity, plus maximum towball loading, ball loading at tare, and axle group load capacity.

“It also has comprehensive tyre placard information: wheel rim size and profile, tyre size and load rating, speed rating and permissible tyre pressures – everything an owner needs to know.”

Recreational Vehicle Manufacturers of Australia Technical Advisor Daniel Sahlberg says: "In our proactive assessment if (RVMA) members do not have ISO we look at the processes they currently have and do not have like: Quality controls processes, documented processes for record keeping, processes for quality improvements, training records, processes for training procedures, design processes, design validation processes, component testing procedures, corrective action procedures".

"This allows us to show manufacturers where they can improve. Working drawings or checklists are requirements under our Recreational Vehicle Manufacturing Accreditation Program (RVMAP) program so without these they cannot be RVMA members", he said.

Daniel is one of two RVMA advisors. The other is former Holden engineer Anne Campbell. Anne and Daniel provide a combination of car and caravan industry experience. Anne's speciality is in the electrical area, and she played a key role in developing the electrical systems of Commodores and Statesmans during her time at Fishermans Bend.

Daniel Sahlberg and Anne Campbell
Daniel Sahlberg and Anne Campbell

Daniel Sahlberg invited GoSee to join him in working through a RVMA compliance audit at Kingdom Caravans in 'Darkest' Campellfield, Victoria.

This was a perfect fit in view of the Transitional Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAAust) board being in place to oversee the merging of operations of Caravan, RV & Accommodation Industry of Australia (CRVA) and RVM Australia. Caravan Industry Association of Australia Chairman Mark Lindsay says; "The ability to properly market the benefits to consumers, media and Government of compliance and accreditation will feature strongly as we strive to improve product quality within the industry, provide a genuine point of difference, and develop an open and level playing field for compliant and accredited businesses".

So with that in mind your correspondent fired up GSA1, Jeep Grand Cherokee. Sports was selected in the drive options for street ride height and power profile and your correspondent threaded the 'Grunt' of a 600Nm DPchipped diesel from Far Eastern Bonbeach to the labrynth which is Fawkner and Campbellfield in a two hour safari.

It is was a horrible traffic chocked experience.

The return trek was worse. It took two and a half hours (72.4km) due to a multi-car stack on Marvellous Melbourne's Eastern Freeway. But the Campbellfield to Coburg section is certainly good for deflating the ego. In the 0 to 30kmh stop start crawl GSA1 could not keep up with the many people on bikes.

Daniel Sahlberg RVMA Technical Advisor is a modern man who has designed an automatic assessment package which is loaded on his tablet.

It cross calculates essential measurements of caravan width, length, height, axle/axles and ball height, ball weight. wheel size and type and feeds them to the program on the tablet.

As the audit progresses outside and in the Kingdom Caravan it puts up a highlighted green yes or questioning no.

Tyre numbers check against load capacity
Tyre numbers check against load capacity

It is a huge timesaver for Daniel which, GoSee hopes, in the near future will include the security of instant RVMA/CIAAust mainframe backup.

The result with the Kingdom Caravans Kensington we looked at is an RVMA member compliance sticker on the right hand side of the caravan's door and a smile (pictured above) on the face of Kingdom Caravan's Jason Biewer.

The RVMA audit is practical and thorough, right down to fire-extinguisher, correct appliance labelling and a rivetted on VIN plate.

The VIN plate cannot be fixed to anything which can be removed from the caravan so the inside of an outside locker door will not do.

The process is not ridiculously demanding. There is sensible measurement lattitude for professional builders built into the compliance program. It takes into account that rarely are two caravans exactly the same.

As caravan builders know buyers are not like that. Personal touches make a difference. Particularly a weight difference.

Daniel has a background in caravan design going back to Windsor. Your correspondents background includes being trained as an ISO Internal Auditor for RACV and Editor with RACV Touring Publications and AAA Tourism Editor as the Auto Clubs of Australia joined forces to reshape the accommodation STAR rating system.

So, yes your correspondent is biased and a believer in International Organization for Standardization (ISO), compliance, process management and the right of the consumer to expect a consistent quality product which exceeds their expections.

Ball height checks out
Ball height checks out

Unfortunately GoSee has concerns about this in some products produced after interviewing and listening to some members of the caravan industry.

Payload, the actual carrying capacity of a caravan at Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) is an all too frequent problem compounded by actual loaded ball weight. GSA gets questions on this point too often.

In recent weeks GSA advised a new caravan owner who, on thinking through his Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate numbers in a genuine attempt to tow safely, found his caravans carrying capacity, on the numbers provided, was he said 76kg.

As he wanted to travel with a little more than his underwear and a few towels the matter was taken back to the manufacturer.

There was a mistake, the VIN plate has been amended. But often there is more to it than that. Carrying capacity in a caravan is being distorted by the increasing lack of suitable tow vehicles available as caravans get heavier.

This is compounded as buyers demand that caravan builders include home comforts which run to washing machines, driers, 190litres fridge, shower, toilet, full ensuite, airconditioning, TV, DVD and as Jayco founder Gerry Ryan said recently at the CRVA national conference in Hobart, the Y generation now demand wine coolers too.

So caravan builders are stretching Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate numbers around axle placement and related ball weight to extend the number of tow vehicles, from a decreasing pool, which can safely, under warranty be put in front of their caravans.

CEO David Duncan says RVM Australia has taken the mystery out of payload calculations with a new payload calculator exclusively for its members and their dealers. the calculator enables people to ensure their new caravan could genuinely carry all their gear.

“Our calculator makes it easy to tote up how much you plan to carry, including any accessories not fitted at the factory,” he said.

Kingdom Kensington neat and tidy underneath
Kingdom Kensington neat and tidy underneath

“It’s all too easy for a ‘best guess’ to be less than the total actual load, which can compromise both safety and legality, and our new calculator assists to overcome this problem".

“Dealers and customers can work out the load they need – customers know what they want, and dealers know what things weigh – and then specify the caravan accordingly.”

Editor note: About Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

All vehicles and trailers manufactured after 1988 must be identified by means of a 17 character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Vehicles and trailers must be marked with the VIN in accordance with the Australian Design Rules and Vehicle Standards Bulletin 1. Victoria and some other state and territory registering authorities require a VIN to be stamped onto a substantial part of the trailer, frame or chassis, e.g. the drawbar for registration purposes.

Unfortunately some vehicle makers are stretching their towing numbers and literally, sometimes, their vehicles too. Many vehicle builders are vague when it comes to what they will warranty if their vehicles are used for towing. Some, despite promoting their products as 'towing tug boats', will not stand by their warranty if safety towing aids like Weight Distribution Hitches (WDH) are used.

So tow vehicle maximum ballweight and axle loading are often the key warranty measures.

In the caravanning industry RVMA quality processes now allow the assurance of a consistently quality product through total industry compliance. It is a potential win for both buyers and the industry long-term.

A byline on a GoSee story indicates opinion.

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory
Fire extinguisher checks  out
Fire extinguisher checks out
Smoke alarm once over
Smoke alarm once over
Kingdom Caravans VIN plate held by rivots
Kingdom Caravans VIN plate held by rivots
Trailer numbers
Trailer numbers

Caravan Industry Australia (CIA Victorian Trades Division)

Compliance will give buyers and industry, assurance of a consistently quality product. 

Caravan Industry Australia (CIA Victorian Trades Division)

RVM Australia

Recreational Vehicle Manufacturing Association of Australia – is the peak body for Australia’s RV manufacturing industry, and represents over 90% of major Australian RV manufacturers.

RVM Australia
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