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Special Purpose Vehicle Option

This option is covered by Regulation 20 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989.

What is a special purpose vehicle?

Special purpose vehicles include various types of non-mainstream motor vehicles. The vehicles are designed to perform a function other than the general transport of people or goods. They are typically heavy vehicles. Examples include city utility vehicles (fire tenders, garbage trucks, street sweepers), mobile cranes, mobile drilling rigs and mobile plant.

In particular, a special purpose vehicle should be constructed as a single unit—‘from the ground up’—to perform the special purpose.

A vehicle that is a mainstream (truck or other) chassis—with equipment simply placed or bolted on the chassis or tray—is not considered a special purpose vehicle. These types of mainstream vehicles are subject to normal certification arrangements, i.e. they must meet the National Standards (Australian Design Rules).

A modified vehicle should be permanently adapted to the special purpose, so that it cannot be restored as a mainstream vehicle.


All special purpose-built cranes should gain import approval. If your crane is mounted on a conventional truck chassis, it is not classed as a special purpose-built crane. If the crane is permitted to be used on public roads, you are required to submit with the import application a letter from an Australian state or territory registering authority stating they will allow the vehicle to be used on public roads.

The purpose of the option

The Special Purpose Vehicles option allows the concessional importation of these types of vehicles. The vehicles are imported outside of normal certification arrangements.

Special purpose vehicles are used on public roads. The vehicles are also nonstandard, in the sense that it is not feasible for the vehicles to meet Australian safety and emission standards. In many cases, the standards were never envisaged to apply to these types of vehicles.

How to apply

To apply for a Vehicle Import Approval under the Special Purpose Vehicle option, 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).
  • Details of the special purpose vehicle—such as the manufacturer's specifications, brochures, diagrams and photographs of the vehicle.
  • A written statement from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) or relevant state or territory (WA and NT only) registering authority permitting road use of the vehicle. For example, registration may be via a special or temporary permit.
  • Advice from the NHVR or relevant state or territory (WA and NT only) registering authority is requested as part of the assessment process. For the purposes of the option, the Department needs to confirm that the vehicle qualifies for use on public roads. Due to their special characteristics (such as being oversize, overweight, left-hand drive or dual-control), these types of vehicles may not qualify for normal road registration. Special conditions may apply. The advice from the registering authority should specify the vehicle—by year, make, model and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)—and should confirm that the vehicle is permitted for road use.
    Obtaining this advice ensures that a vehicle, once imported, is able to be used on public roads. It prevents the situation of an applicant importing a vehicle and then finding that the vehicle is unable to perform its intended purpose.

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.


Last Updated: 17 June, 2016