Small Road Trailers Option

This option is covered by Regulation 21 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989.

What is classed as a small road trailer?

Under this option, road trailers with an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) not exceeding 4.5 tonnes may be eligible for importation. ATM means the total mass of the laden trailer when carrying the maximum load recommended by the manufacturer. This includes the load through the axles and the load applied to the vehicle towing the trailer. The ATM is not a value that can be measured, it is a value determined by the manufacturer when the vehicle is designed.

The purpose of this Option

Vehicle safety, including trailer design features, reduces road trauma. Every small road trailer imported to Australia is required to meet minimum standards that maintain this high level of safety.

What standard is required for small road trailers?

New and used small road trailers may be approved for importation to Australia if the Minister is satisfied that the trailer is capable of being modified to comply with the requirements of the National Code of Practice for Building Small Trailers (Vehicle Standards Bulletin Number 1).

Importantly, this option only applies to trailers which currently have an ATM not exceeding 4.5 tonnes and which also had an ATM not exceeding 4.5 tonnes when they were originally manufactured.

Importers should be aware that trailers manufactured for other markets may need significant modifications to comply. These may be costly and include:

  • Replacing or testing of braking systems.
  • Replacing the trailer couplings such as ball couplings or fifth wheels.
  • Strengthening the trailer's structure in particular, where the coupling is mounted.
  • Replacing the electrical wiring or connectors.
  • Replacing LPG installations.
  • Relocating and/or replacing the license plate holder and the stop/tail/direction indicator lighting.
  • Adjusting the axle group positions to reduce rear overhang.
  • Replacing the suspension system.
  • Replacing the safety chains.
  • Removing awnings and other protruding components to reduce the overall width of the trailer to within 2.5 metres.
  • Relocating the caravan doors to the left hand side or to the rear of the vehicle.

Importers of trailers with boats are advised to seek advice from the state or territory vehicle registration authority about road use requirements where the overall width of the boat exceeds 2.5 meters. It is recommended that you contact the relevant registration authority prior to importation.

How to apply

To apply for a Vehicle Import Approval for a small road trailer, you should provide to the Department:

  • A purchase document for the vehicle in your name (a purchase document can be a pro-forma invoice/receipt for deposit or full payment).
  • You will need to advise the clauses in VSB1 that your trailer does not currently comply with and will need modifications.
  • What type and class of trailer it is, the length, width, and height in metres.
  • Evidence of the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM), the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and TARE. This can be provided in the form of a photo of the manufacturer's plate, a letter/brochure from the manufacturer which details the ATM or GVWR, or the US Certificate of Origin.
  • If the trailer has been or is to be modified—a statement from the person who carried out (will carry out) the modification certifying that the modifications to the trailer fully comply with the requirements of the Guide to Building a Small Trailer (VSB 1).
  • You will need to provide evidence the coupling is complying with Australian Standards.

These documents are in addition to the documents required when you register on the portal. Refer to the How to apply page for further information.


The information provided on this page should be used as guidance material only for importing a vehicle into Australia. Please familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation prior to lodging an application.

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Last Updated: 17 June, 2016