RVIA Helps Clarify Transport Canada Rulings

June 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Bruce Hopkins, RVIA

Bruce Hopkins, RVIA

Following is a letter that responds to questions asked by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) staff in an effort to better understand Transport Canada (TC) criteria needed to export units to Canada in compliance with that country’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

“We will continue to work with TC in an effort to better educate our members,” Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of  standards and education, wrote in a brief introduction in an e-mail distributing the letter to RVIA members.

Dear Mr. Hopkins:

Subject: Clarification — Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada)

This is in reply to your letter dated May 18, 2010, further to our telephone conversation of May 12, 2010, regarding some issues related to the shipping of recreation vehicles to Canada from the United States. I will address your questions in the same order they have been submitted.

1. Do the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (“Act”) and Transport Canada regulations permit a U.S. company to make a declaration to come under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada in the area of compliance and vehicle recalls and then just establish a process server in Canada? If no, is this a new position?

A. No. There is no provision in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that provides for such a declaration. Transport Canada has always held the position that we have no jurisdiction outside of Canada and that the Act can only apply to somebody in Canada. The concept of an “Agent for Service” is not part of the current Motor Vehicle Safety Act. However, it is common for a foreign manufacturer to voluntarily conduct a “notice of defect” (recall) on behalf of its Canadian importers. It is also not un-common for a foreign manufacture to refuse to recall its product in Canada. The task is then defaulted to the importer who is accountable under the Act.

2. a) Do the Act and Transport Canada regulations permit a U.S. company on the pre-clearance list to maintain the compliance records and relevant engineering data in the U.S. rather than the Canadian resident importer of record?

A. Yes. The Act does not specify where records must be maintained. A U.S. company can maintain certification documents and test records in the U.S. rather than in Canada, and Transport Canada officers do not require this information to be on the importer’s premises. However, the importer must be capable of producing them to TC inspectors on request,.

b) If so, can the U.S. company submit all necessary compliance records to Transport Canada directly as opposed to going through the importer of record?

A. Yes. Certification documents requested from a Canadian importer can be submitted directly to Transport Canada by a U.S. company without going through the importer. This approach does not exclude the importer from its responsibilities under the Act.

c) Additionally, if the U.S. company can maintain the compliance records and submit them directly to Transport Canada, will Transport Canada work directly with the U.S. company in the event of an audit or on any other issues that may arise or must all communications go through the importer of record?

A. Transport Canada is prepared to deal directly with a foreign manufacturer on certification issues where it makes sense to do so. Transport Canada has no jurisdiction to work with a foreign company in the event of an audit, but if an issue warrants it we may ask the foreign manufacturer for information to assist us in an investigation, although the foreign manufacturer is not obligated to provide it. The Canadian company is obligated to provide it, and if a foreign manufacturer refuses to provide information, the Canadian company over which Transport Canada has jurisdiction must provide it. However, we cannot act as consultants for the foreign manufacturer. We can only allow one or two failed certification packages so as not to be using Canadian resources to provide consulting services to a foreign company to fix its certification program where the documents are submitted directly from the foreign manufacturer.

d) Finally, is it permissible for the U.S. company to handle directly all section 10 recall processing and filing?

A. Yes. It is permissible for a foreign company to handle directly all section 10 recall processing and filing. However, it must be noted that the Canadian importer must have the ability to handle this as well. Section 10 puts the obligation on a “company” to notify. The exemption from having to notify only exists where another “company” has already provided notice. Technically speaking, that doesn’t include a foreign company because of the definition under the MVSA, although for efficiency, Transport Canada will not require the importer to replicate the information already provided to Transport Canada. However, to operate in this manner, the Canadian importer(s) must ensure the foreign company provides the notice and follow-up reports. The requirement for the importer to provide notice on becoming aware of a defect remains and they may be prosecuted if it has not been provided. Canadian importers are ultimately those responsible under the Act.

3. a) Do the Act and Transport Canada regulations permit a U.S. company to have compliance documentation available upon Transport Canada’s demand for inspection rather than providing such documentation to Transport Canada for each make/model vehicle before it is imported into Canada?

A. An importer must be able to demonstrate the compliance of the vehicles it imports, either by providing certification documents directly to Transport Canada or by having the foreign manufacturer do so. Normally, when a Canadian importer applies for Pre-clearance status the importer lists the models it wishes to import on the application, along with certification documents for those models it wishes to import. Once the importer has qualified for Pre-clearance and the importer applies to add more models, Transport Canada mayor may not ask for further certification documents for the new models. This will depend on several factors, such as the level of comfort Transport Canada has in the importer’s ability to self-audit the new models or whether Transport Canada has recently examined the documents for the same model, and the quality of the documents.

b) Once Transport Canada determines it is satisfied with the compliance documentation submitted by the U.S. company, what notification and proof of compliance is provided by Transport Canada to the U.S. manufacturer?

A. Once Transport Canada is satisfied with certification documents submitted by a U.S. manufacturer or the Canadian importer, we usually return the documents along with a letter stating that we have reviewed the documents. If the documents have deficiencies, we will provide a report listing the additional information we still require. Transport Canada does not provide notification or approval for any audit in Canada or for any document review.

c) Because a recreation vehicle is a home on wheels and manufacturers have multiple makes, models and floorplans for each type of recreation vehicle with a wide variety of components (unlike an automobile), the compliance documentation burden on manufacturers is significant. Manufacturers have performed or obtained the requisite compliance documentation for all of the components of each model and make, but to collate and organize it for each such model and make is extremely time consuming. Transport Canada could still accomplish its goal of ensuring compliant products by random audits of models as warranted rather than requiring the manufacturer to provide documentation for each such model and make to Transport Canada before it is imported into Canada.

A. Outside of priority situations, Transport Canada normally conducts business by selective audits and requests documents on a selective basis. The exception is for new companies in Canada that are applying for a National Safety Mark to manufacture vehicles in Canada or companies that are applying for Pre-clearance to import vehicles into Canada. This initial audit is critical in protecting the Canadian public since both of these authorizations are based on confirming the compliance of the vehicles with prescribed safety standards. In this initial audit, the applicant usually submits documents for those models it plans to manufacture or for those models it plans to import. After that, we may audit applications for new models to be added or conduct a physical audit at a company’s premises.

4. Do the Act and Transport Canada regulations require manufacturers to retest components due to the age of the listing/testing even if the existing documentation is still valid? For example, manufacturers have been told that 302 tests more than six months old are no longer valid. If the documentation is still valid, it is an unnecessary expense to require additional testing.

A. No. There is no provision in the Act requiring a Canadian manufacturer or a Canadian importer to re-test vehicles or components if the documents are valid. Subsection 5 (1) (g) of the Act requires maintenance of records. If a test record is considered outdated and unrepresentative, depending on the vehicle or component, we will expect to see updated records of testing.

5. What are the requirements for the 302 burn test certification? What are the triggers, if any, for conducting a new 302 burn test for the same material? Manufacturers receive a certificate of compliance to 302 from the testing agency, whether it is the fabric treater or a third party agency, which is essentially the executive summary of the test results. Is this sufficient under the Act and Transport Canada regulations or are complete test reports required, including scope of purpose, objective, specimen preparation, procedure and results accompanied by photographs? Is a blanket statement from the fabric testing agency listing all of the fabrics that have passed certification testing sufficient if the fabrics in the recreation vehicle are identified on the list? Manufacturers often use hundreds of fabrics and collecting and maintaining complete test reports is very costly and unnecessary. An executive summary should be sufficient.

A. Regarding your question about CMVSS/FMVSS 302, “Flammability of Materials”, subsection 5 (1) (g) of the Act requires that test records must enable an inspector to determine compliance. This is the only “trigger” for requesting a new burn test. We cannot determine compliance with a “certificate” or statement from a component supplier. The vehicle already has a compliance label (certificate) affixed to the driver’s door post that makes the declaration that the vehicle complies with all applicable standards. A 302 test record must at least show burn rates, a test procedure, test equipment, and the location of the material in the vehicle. Where a vehicle manufacturer can demonstrate that certain material does not change from one roll to the next, we will review the documents. We believe that 302 is the simplest and least expensive test for the recreational industry to perform, and due to the volume and variety of materials used in an RV it may be the most important test. We have also observed over the years where a motor home manufacture relies only on the supplier and does not test its own materials in-house on an ongoing basis, 302 records will always be problematic for the company.

The following is an excerpt from a letter written to a U.S. test lab in response to questions similar to yours:

Since CMVSSIFMVSS 302 is a simple inexpensive test to conduct and requires minimum technical expertise it should be carried out in an ongoing basis as material rolls arrive at manufacturers’ facilities or preferably from excess pieces (scraps) of material as the vehicle is being up-fitted. Common sense and section 5 (1) (g) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act dictates that consistently non-flammable materials, such as wood and rugs, need not be tested as often and treated flammable materials need to be tested more often. Most RV manufacturers will know which materials require more frequent testing. A motor home manufacturer who does not test its materials in-house on an ongoing basis will always have difficulty keeping test records current and in the format required to meet 5 (1) (g). The documents required by 5 (1) (g) are the same documents that the plant engineer needs to determine compliance of the company’s product. We believe that six months between tests for flammable motor home materials is a long stretch regarding 5 (1) (g), but if the company engineer has reason to believe otherwise and can provide maintenance documents to demonstrate it, we will certainly review it. Reports that expire after five years is a guideline that applies to certain hardware testing such as seats, seat belts, door hinges and latches, etc. The only criteria we have is 5 (1) (g), which does not provide any specific time frames. For example, to state that hinges and door latches have not changed for five years may be acceptable, but to state that seat manufacturers have not changed their welds, welders, material suppliers, or have not made any improvements to their product over the years may require some maintenance documents. If you have any additional information you can offer, we would appreciate your input.

6. With regard to customs and Transport Canada documentation, two critical documents are the Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form -Form 1 and the Canada Customs Invoice (“CCI”). Do the names on each of these forms need to match? Specifically, the name on Block 14 on Form 1 and the name on Block 5 of the CCI. Block 5 on the CCI determines who pays the GST on the vehicle as it is imported.

A. We do not receive copies of the Customs documents and therefore we do not compare names between Form 1 and those documents The Motor Vehicle Safety Act does not contain provisions regarding the content of customs documents. We suggest that this question be referred to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

7. Do the Act and Transport Canada regulations permit the final stage manufacturer to pass through compliance testing performed by component manufacturers, suppliers and third party testing agencies or must all testing be performed by the final stage manufacturer? Recently, there has been confusion within the industry on Transport Canada’s position on this issue. Pass through certification has been how the recreation vehicle industry has been successfully operating since its inception, and a change in this position would be disastrous.

A. Yes. It is common for component and chassis manufacturers to provide pass¬through certification with their products. The Act does not specify who must perform the testing. In the motor home industry components that can be certified with out-of-vehicle tests, such as glazing, lamps, door hinges and the chassis itself, can be tested by component suppliers. Components that require in-vehicle testing, such as seating and restraint systems, are usually conducted by the final stage vehicle manufacturer, albeit, often by a third party lab.

Please allow us to summarize our position by stating that the source of test records and certification documents has never been an issue. Documents can be submitted from various sources. The Pre-clearance program is an administrative system to streamline the importation process. While in many cases it may be practical for Transport Canada to deal with a foreign manufacturer, the Canadian importer remains accountable for the compliance of the vehicles it imports into Canada. Accepting certification documents from a U.S. company does not exempt a Canadian company from the Act.

We hope this clarifies some of your concerns and if you have further questions please contact us. Should you require further information or clarification, please contact me at (613) 998-2157.

Youts truly,

Claude Roy, P. Eng. Director Motor Vehicle Regulation Enforcement

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