The Australian 4 Wheel Drive Industry is questioning the occupant safety protection afforded by the recent introduction by BHP Billiton of a new policy to limit light vehicle access to its mine sites.
In a phased approach from 2013 onwards, only vehicles with a Five Star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating will be allowed on sites.
The policy also prohibits the fitment of non ANCAP compliant bull bars and aftermarket suspension kits (and upgrades) as well as roll over protection.
The policy applies to both BHP fleet and contractor owned vehicles on any BHP site anywhere in the world and to all new vehicles brought into service from January 2013 onwards.
Spokesman for the 4WD Industry Council (4WDIC) Stuart Charity, said it strongly supports the drive to improve vehicle occupant safety on and around mine sites but is disappointed by the lack of consultation.
"On the surface, most people would view the BHP policy as a great step forward. However, the 4WDIC is disappointed at the lack of consultation and the 'one size fits all' policy outcome,” he said.
"Australia has a large and innovative 4WD aftermarket industry. It offers a wide range of Australian Design Rule (ADR) approved products designed to protect vehicles and occupants in our hostile remote regions.
"Among those proven products are bull bars, suspension enhancements for additional load bearing capacity and roll over protection systems (ROPS). The BHP policy takes little from the aftermarket industry's extensive knowledge and experience in engineering vehicles to suit their intended end use.
"While the 4WDIC supports the move to ANCAP Five Star ratings for mining vehicles, we see no need to ban the fitment of safety equipment that does not adversely affect compliance with mandatory vehicle standards and does not reduce the safety performance of the vehicle. The 4WDIC believes this ban will result in vehicles that are less safe on public roads and in remote areas."