For a region with exciting trails to explore, it’s no wonder why owning a quad bike or dirt bike in North America is a popular choice. For a population where even kids get their taste of riding over rugged terrains, the challenge of producing safe off-road bikes is on the manufacturers.
All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) is an industry where quality control is a must. This four-wheeled vehicle, with handlebars for steering and straddled the seat, uses non-pneumatic or low-pressured tires.
With its powerful engine but low-centered gravity, having no means of life-saving mechanisms such as seatbelts or airbags can mean danger for riders of any age.
The Dangers of Driving All-Terrain Vehicles
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it was 2018 when most fatalities related to ATVs occurred. There were 2,211 fatalities, and the most common causes of death came from overturning and collisions.
Rolling happens to an ATV when the rider loses control of the vehicle and goes faster than anticipated—losing control, if not mechanical malfunctions, occurs when the operator drives it apart from its restrictions. See, these vehicles should not ride on paved roads. They have rubber tires that grip on challenging roads, and bringing them on paved roads is risky.
Most ATVs are one-passenger bikes, meaning extra-human weight would go beyond its loading capacity, resulting in the vehicle to tip. That is why the CPSC is strict on manufacturers in dealers when it comes to standard compliance because these vehicles are dangerous.
During accidents, the most commonly affected body parts are the head, arms, torso, and legs, and these injuries may result in fractures or abrasions and, worse, death. While we can say that most of these accidents are human-driven, manufacturers in North America worked together to ensure that they have done their part to ensure their products are safe.
So how do manufacturers perform quality control and impose safety on these vehicles?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission
The CPSC is the certifying body that establishes the consumer safety standards for all-terrain vehicles. By assigning the development of these standards to the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), the CPSC has set one American National Standard for ATVs as mandated in the H. R. Bill 4040 of 2008. In 1985, the SVIA started developing the requirements for configuration, equipment, and performance of four-wheeled bikes.
According to the H.R. Bill 4040 of 2008, the lawful manufacturer or distributor of a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle must:
1. Produce ATVs that comply with the standard developed by SVIA for ANSI
2. Have an approved vehicle action plan
3. Produce vehicles with certifying labels that show standard compliance and documents supporting compliance.
4. Ensure that manufacturers and distributors are compliant with the approved vehicle action plan.
Setting the ATV Standards
The ANSI/ SVIA 1:2017 is the latest amendment of the standards developed by the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America for Four Wheels All-terrain Vehicles. The first version came in 1990. During these developments, CPSC established one standard for ATV makers to follow.
The standard aims to make a compliance requirement for manufacturing ATVs in different aspects like:
· ATV design
· Parts performance
· Requirements for clutch and gear shift controls
· Mechanical suspension
· ATV speed capability
· Pitch stability
· Fuel cut-off and engine devices
· Lighting and tire requirements
· Sound level limits
· Service and parking mechanism performance
· Electromagnetic compatibility
Parts and components such as batteries, electrical components, transmission parts, joysticks, motors, and accelerators, have their standards. ATV frames undergo rigorous testing, especially since these vehicles undergo rugged and extreme driving. Frame steel samples run through tensile sample preparation.
With that said, manufacturers need suppliers that invest in their testing and measuring equipment: spectrometers, PCB testing facilities, or tensile test sample preparation equipment. Also, you want to have documentation of these tests because a manufacturer should prove commitment to producing quality ATVs, and safe operation is a priority.
Requiring Manufacturers, Importers, and Distributors to Draft the All-Terrain Vehicle Action Plan
The vehicle action plan is a written plan or undertaking where a manufacturer or distributor is responsible for offering safety training and provides a detailed plan for promoting the safety of ATVs. As a manufacturer or distributor, you will present your vehicle action plan before the CPSC. The CPSC will review your action plan before approval.
In this letter of undertaking, manufacturers must include ATV’s age recommendation, dealer monitoring, onsite inspections, notices and warnings through product labels, advertising process, and ATV operation training.
Filing and Approval of Certifications for ATVs
After drafting the vehicle action plan, manufacturers should file it for certification before CPSC. An approved application means that manufacturers can now distribute their ATVs to the U.S. market. The certificate represents that the manufacturers and distributors are compliant with the manufacturing and quality standards set in the ANSI-SVIA.
For example, the vehicle action plan states recommended age based on maximum speed and speed limitations. Upon implementation, the ATV should have appropriate labelling of age-appropriateness on the ATV unit itself.
According to ANSI/SVIA, each ATV should have labels certifying that the manufacturer has a CPSC-approved vehicle action plan.
Another certification required is the General Conformity Certificate required for all ATVs manufactured overseas. The GCC certificate means the ATV is compliant with U.S. standards.
Monitoring and Reporting Compliance to the Standards and ATV Action Plan
Manufacturers should always adhere to standards stipulated in the vehicle action plan and the American National Standard. The vehicle action plan has a separate section for the manufacturer’s compliance monitoring. Manufacturers should be committed to monitoring their compliance, especially for the age-appropriateness of vehicles, product labelling, and safety training.
The vehicle action plan has a detailed process of passing on the needed training for ATV operators, which dealers and distributors will offer for free to new ATV owners for the first time.
Monitoring includes conducting onsite inspections by undercover independent inspectors. Inspections are necessary to ensure dealers offer a free safety training course for first-time purchases. The undercover inspections should have documentation that will prove that such dealer inspections occurred.
Manufacturers must report the results of their compliance monitoring to the vehicle action plan every February 1 and August 1 of each year.
What Does Safety Labeling Means?
There is no such thing as one size fits all for ATVs, especially youth ATVs. Every ATV would have an age-restricted label according to maximum speed and limitations. There are five categories for age appropriateness for youth ATVs and warning labels to state it’s risky for the youth outside the age range to ride the ATV.
Safety labels only mean that manufacturers meet quality standards for four-wheel terrain vehicles. However, these labels mean disseminating ATV restrictions.
So how do manufacturers come up with these safety labels?
All vehicles have standards for manufacturing and assembly. Different parts undergo a series of tests to comply with ANSI standards. Parts and component samples run through tensile sample preparation equipment and measuring tests. For ATVs, it is crucial to determine the capacity to break, malfunction, or lose at some point.
ATVs should have reliable components that can withstand rugged driving. This is where engineering comes in. Parts and components undergo different analyses and testing before being final.
The vehicle will undergo loading analysis, impact analysis (from the front, sides, and back), one-wheel bump test, and suspension test.
We are not only talking about age appropriateness labels. We also talk about passenger labels, tire pressure warnings, and discretionary labels. These are safety warnings, and failure to put these labels on the ATVs means a law violation and a safety risk.
As an ATV manufacturer or importer, enforcing a vehicle action plan is a sign of commitment that:
Standards are met.
You have disseminated necessary safety information about the product.
You have taken the initiative to educate first-time owners on operating ATV products safely and responsibly.
Safety labels mean compliance. And non-compliance means violation. Without the required labels, any distributor should not bring these ATVs to the market because it has not undergone the quality control process.