Industry News

The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) automotive department, which regulates complete new vehicles, motorcycles and auto- motive components such as child restraints, break friction material, break rubbers and seals, brake fluid, automotive glass, motorcycle helmets, automotive lights, automotive incandescent and halogen lights, and tires, is now also embarking on regulating tow bars.

To be approved for use on South Africa’s roads, all vehicles and automotive components must conform to the same standards, irrespective of the country of origin, NRCS automotive technical specialist Dries van Tonder tells Engineering News.

No person may import, sell or supply a commodity or product to which a compulsory specification applies, except in accordance with that specification.

“Products manufactured abroad might sometimes be cheaper than their locally manufactured counterparts; however, approval of the products mentioned is measured against the requirements of the relevant compulsory specification and the monetary value of a product is not considered during the approvals process,” Van Tonder explains.

Each model of vehicle destined for operation on South Africa’s roads has to go through the NRCS’s verification process to ensure that it meets the requirements set out by government.

A sample of the new vehicle, along with the necessary test reports to verify that the vehicle complies with the standards, has to be presented to the NRCS, he says.

Further, the test results will only be considered valid if the tests were conducted by a test facility that meets the regulator’s standards. This is to ensure that when vehicles come from abroad, they comply with South African standards, he explains.

“About 98% of the NRCS’s automotive standards derive from European standards,” Van Tonder says.

Further, in 2000, South Africa signed the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (Unece) 1958 and 1998 agreements. This forms a legal framework whereby participating countries agree on a common set of Unece regulations for type approval of vehicles and components. When an item is type-approved for a regulation by one participating country, the approval will also be accepted by all other participating countries.

“As the regulator, we still verify the test results before allowing vehicles and components into the country,” he points out.

After the initial approval has been granted, the NRCS sends inspectors unannounced to the sites where the vehicles and components are manufactured or imported to determine whether the vehicles or components manufactured or imported are of the same standard as the approved sample.

If vehicles or components are found not to comply with the standards, corrective action will be taken.

The method of correction will depend on the severity of noncompliance, Van Tonder says.

“For example, if a truck is not fitted with the required chevron board, a directive will be issued to the manufacturer or importer of the truck to prevent it from being sold. “The manufacturer or importer will then have a specific period of time in which to correct this, after which another assessment will take place.”

However, if the noncompliance is more serious and cannot be corrected, the product may be confiscated and returned to the country of origin or destroyed as decided by the NRCS board, he adds.

The method followed to assess individual automotive components is the same as for entire vehicles.

Meanwhile, the NRCS will soon start a risk-based assessment program which may place automotive manufacturers or importers into high-, medium- or low-risk categories. This program is still in its infancy and has to be finalized.

The formal process will be shared with the relevant industries within the next 12 to 24 months, says Van Tonder.

NRCS Overview 
The NRCS was transferred from being a department within the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to a separate entity in 2008 with the declaration of the NRCS Act.

The Act transferred the Regulatory Division of the SABS and all regulatory functions of the SABS to a new statutory Department of Trade and Industry institution – the NRCS.

The Act also transferred all employees in the SABS Regulatory Division to the NRCS, together with relevant regulation, including compulsory specifications, agreements, assets and obligations, says NRCS acting CEO Katima Temba.

The NRCS is a public entity that administers compulsory specifications, otherwise known as technical regulations, on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Industry. It has several divisions, including the automotive, electro technical, food and associated industries, legal metrology, and chemicals, mechanical and materials.

“Our main focus is to ensure public health and safety, as well as the protection of the environment,” he says.

To achieve this, the NRCS makes recommendations to the Minister of Trade and Industry with regard to compulsory specifications.

The regulator also administers and maintains compulsory specifications by undertaking market surveillance to monitor and enforce compliance, where needed.

Further, the NRCS enforces regulations under the Trade Metrology Act, ensuring that the most common measurements used in trade transactions, such as mass, length, volume and number, are reliable, and that measuring instruments are reliable and accurate, says Temba.

“The sampling, inspection and testing of products, the auditing of manufacturing and other processes and the examination of documentary evidence are used to assess compliance with compulsory standards and regulations.”

Efforts are made to assist manufacturers, importers, business and commerce, in general, to meet these standards, which are, wherever possible, aligned to corresponding international requirements. This assists local industry in becoming globally competitive and facilitates international trade by removing unnecessary barriers, says Temba.

A variety of sanctions is applied where products and services do not meet these minimum standards. These range from stopping the sale of nonconforming products to the seizure and destruction of those products or the prosecution of offenders.

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