Crunch time looms in quad bike safety debate

Quad bike buyers have rushed the showrooms as new safety regulations begin to bite

Machinery
Quad bikes could be banned from the market next year unless they comply with new rollover safety regulations. Picture: Supplied

Quad bikes could be banned from the market next year unless they comply with new rollover safety regulations. Picture: Supplied

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Manufacturers say the "fight is far from over", but new safety regulations are likely to force the biggest-selling quad bike brands off the market.

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Quad bike dealers around the country have been swamped by demand during the COVID-19 period, with farmers and graziers seeking to buy before new safety regulations come into effect which aim to force these products off the market unless they comply with controversial new regulations.

March, April and May saw a national boom in quad bike sales, highlighting the fierce political debate in which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is forcing through new regulations which will send the big-selling Japanese brands packing next year.

Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki are all understood to be withdrawing their quad bikes from sale next year after an ACCC campaign forced changes to safety regulations requiring all quads to be fitted with a so-called operator protection device (OPD), or rollbar.

Second-hand quads are exempt from the new safety laws.

Manufacturers have railed for years against the forced safety change and believe that the testing procedures were not a proper representation of the facts and that rollover bars provide no overall safety benefit because in an incident the rider can get tangled up in one, rather than separate from the machine.

"In fact, they [the devices] may increase the risk of serious injury," the industry body claimed in a statement.

Ahead of the first stage of new regulations to come into effect nationally on October 11, the ACCC has cited recent research from the US Consumer Safety Product Division to support its position.

However, the manufacturers claim that the ACCC has "cherry-picked" from the report, which makes draws no conclusion nor makes any recommendations.

The ACCC says that since 2011, 149 people have died from quad bike-related accidents in Australia, 23 of whom have been children.

Manufacturers have always maintained that children should never be allowed to ride adult-sized quad bikes and that the majority of accidents are a result of poor training, people using the machines when impaired by alcohol, children using quad bikes they can't control properly, and riders failing to wear helmets.

In April, the NSW Nationals launched a campaign called "keep kids off quad bikes", which claimed the machines are the "biggest killers on NSW farms".

Farmers are being offered a $2000 rebate as a one-off payment at the point of sale to upgrade their quad bike to a side-by-side vehicle, which has a cabin, rollover protection and in which the occupants sit alongside each other, rather than as a driver and pillion.

There are an estimated 186,000 quad bikes in use throughout Australia, and around 44 are sold on average every day as work vehicles, mainly in the agriculture and forestry industries.

The ACCC believes the inherent rollover safety issues "should be addressed at the design stage" where "it is often more economical to address product flaws", points which the industry has strongly refuted.

There is now a growing groundswell of support among farmers and graziers who see quad bikes as a vital product for their everyday farm and stock maintenance, and believe that the so-called side-by-side vehicles are no proper substitute.

From October 11, the Australian standard will require that all new quad bikes sold must carry tags and stickers, plus information in the instruction manual warning of the rollover safety issue. In 12 months, new quads cannot be sold without an aftermarket rollover bar.

The industry claims the issue is "far from over" and that farming and agriculture associations are now gathering their resources to fight the ACCC's dictum.

The story Crunch time looms in quad bike safety debate first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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