Alert! NSW outlaws some GVM upgrades - how this affects your 4x4.

Alert! NSW outlaws some GVM upgrades - how this affects your 4x4.


On the 20th of April, 2020 the NSW Roads and Maritime Services issued Notice #17 to all the engineers accredited under its VSCCS (Vehicle Safety Compliance Certification Scheme). 

Well, we say "notice", but really, it was more of a bomb, one which instantly destroyed the legality of a number of GVM upgrade products on the market.

Notice 17 says that:

Increasing axle mass [axle maximum load ratings] above the first stage manufacturer's rating is ONLY PERMITTED [their emphasis] when providing:

  • It is supported by documentation from the first stage vehicle manufacturer or axle manufacturer with specifications pertaining to Australian conditions; or
  • The standard components have been replaced with components of a higher rating as appropriate with specifications pertaining to Australian conditions.

  • This notice is to clarify future and existing modifications based on [VSB 16 and 6] which have been in place since February 2006".

    So let’s clarify what a GVM upgrade is, and why Notice 17 is important.

    What is a GVM upgrade?

    Your vehicle has a maximum permitted weight, known as the GVM or Gross Vehicle Mass, for example 3000kg. It also has an unladen weight, for example 2000kg. 

    The payload is the difference between the two, so 3000-2000=1000kg of payload. That's what you've got for not only yourself and your family, but every modification on the vehicle from bullbar to UHF antenna. 

    The problem is that today's payloads are around 600 to 800kg for wagons, maybe up to 1000kg for utes and that's not enough. Hence, GVM upgrades replace various components - normally just the suspension - and re-rate the vehicle from a 3000kg GVM to 3400kg, so you'd then have 1400kg of payload and be able to legally carry more weight. 

    Aside from the GVM, every vehicle has a maximum weight rating for the front and rear axle. The combined limit of the two axles is always equal to, or more than the GVM to allow a bit of front/rear load distribution. So in our example above, the front axle might be rated to 1450kg, and the rear 1650kg, total 3100kg, with a GVM of 3000kg. A GVM "axle-sum" upgrade just takes the GVM to the sum of the two axles, not a lot more than standard, so in that case, 3100kg.


     Before GVM Upgrade


    On the other hand, you can re-rate, or upgrade the axles. If that's done, then you can get much bigger GVM increases, in our example maybe 3400kg. Let’s say the axles in our example were re-rated from 1450kg to 1650kg for the front, and 1650 to 1800kg for the rear - the total of the two is now 3450kg, and the GVM might be set at 3400kg, a handy increase over the 3000kg standard.


    After GVM Upgrade


    You can learn all about GVM upgrades by watching this video: (Link opens in new window)

    So what does Notice 17 mean for you, the 4X4 owner?

    It means that in NSW, the only GVM upgrade you can now get is an axle-sum upgrade if the vehicle is upgraded after first registration, known as “post-rego GVM upgrade”.

    Pre-registration GVM upgrades for brand new vehicles that haven't ever been registered are federally approved and not subject to NSW legislation, for now.

    The only way around the new post-rego GVM upgrade is to replace the axles, which is possible for some vehicles such as the LC200 or LC70. The other option given - evidence from the first-stage manufacturer, is never going to happen - the likes of Nissan, Toyota and Ford will never re-rate their own axles for the benefit of the aftermarket. The third option is to buy a new vehicle.

    This ruling also means that vehicles upgraded interstate lose that GVM upgrade status when they are transferred into NSW registration. And, if NSW has re-interpreted laws that way, could it be that other states will follow, as the VSB 6 document they refer to is a federal standard.

    What worries us is the word 'existing', and the pointed reference to existing standards - could this mean that every current upgrade is de-registered? There would be a lot of very upset people if that was the case, who paid good money for vehicle modifications, watch this space. 

    Are you frustrated by all these regulations? Do you just want a vehicle that is legal, safe and fit for purpose?  Talk to us, that's literally our job. 

    MORE 4X4 doesn't do fit-and-forget builds, and we won't build something that isn't compliant to the regulations. There are ways and means to create a 4X4 tourer within GVM limits, such as:

    • Choosing high quality components which are lighter, for example new battery technology, aluminum roof racks;
    • Intelligent management of space;
    • Avoiding unnecessary modifications not required for your purposes;

    My visceral fibres are tingling at the thought of what’s to come. Is it too early to speculate on the future of pre-rego GVM upgrades because it sure looks like this document is the cancerous beginning of the end of all “suspension only” GVM upgrades

    Contact us today to talk about what you want to achieve with your 4X4, and leave the worrying about regulations to us! 



    • Peter Brown

      I bought an F150 2019 model and believed it could legally tow 4 1/2 ton. So far I have not been able to find out if that is correct. Even the mob I bought the truck off seem to be avoiding the question.

    • dg

      this ban on GVM upgrades is a great idea – too many accidents with fools towing too big & heavy loads thinking they are safe…

    • david zimmer

      I just had 2019 new F250 upgraded from 4500 to 5200 with airbags. Am wondering whether this gvm stuff will affect me. My axles and diff are exactly same as F350 which has 5214 gvm Going to be interesting.

    • Peter Moltmann

      I see a rush on aftermarket axles becoming available.

    • Brian Kerr

      7 yrs ago I bought an ex Govt L/C 200 2010 model with an ARB 2nd stage plate increasing the GVM from 3300 to 3580kg (done before 1st registration).. (The increase virtually only allowed for all the extras fitted for outback settlement work incl the upgrade to suspension didn’t really add to her load capacity). Able to legally tow 3500 kg braked her GCM was however limited to 6800 kg. My van is 3500kg so reluctantly last year I was forced to replace the tow vehicle to be legal. Enter the F350 (250 GVM is only 4217kg) with all the licencing etc issues.
      No weight problems anymore. Her compliance plate shows front & rear axles GAWR as 2540 & 3175 kg respectively giving a combined axle weight of 5715 yet her GVWR is only 5171kg! Not a misprint since weights are also shown in llbs & 12600 llb becomes 11400 llb. Doesn’t make sense to me nor fair. Any thoughts? Thanks, Brian

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