In my line of work, I occasionally end up falling down the rabbit hole of online 4WD chat forums. I’m always amazed at how gallant weekend warriors turn into petty, mudslinging keyboard warriors as soon as the WiFi is connected. Blokes that would share a steak, a stubby and a yarn over the campfire end up hurling abuse at each other over what amounts to pretty much 1/3 of bugger all when they’re in front of their devices. Put them each behind a keyboard, and it’s a McGregor vs Mayweather pre-fight press conference.   

In our previous post, we tackled the murky maze of regulations regarding the mounting of LED Light Bars from state to state. Since then I’ve been contacted by numerous people with questions or comments that prompted me to head into a few of those online forums, where I had the dubious honour to witness some of the aforementioned breathtaking examples of digital biffo. This prompted me to dig a little bit further to get to the bottom of the whole dog’s breakfast

Lucky 13

So, it turns out that while each state may have different interpretations, in practice there are uniform rules and guidelines that in principle govern the installation of LED light bars.

These are as follows:

  1. Australian Design Rule 13 (ADR13) – Installation of Light and Light Signalling Devices
  2. Australian Light Vehicles Standards (LVS) Rules, 2015

“Yippee!” I hear you say, “Finally some clarity!” Ummmm, not so fast. If only it were that simple. You see, there is a host of issues associated with these regulations:

  • ADR13 is a legally binding set of regulations. However, Section 2.1 states that “This national standard applies to the design and construction of vehicles”. There is no explicit indication that it has any legal binding over after-market modifications. A read through this coma-inducing document will leave little doubt that it targets vehicle manufacturers and assemblers, which is ironic given the state of the automotive industry in this country.
  • The LVS Rules are set out by the Transport and Infrastructure Council and describe how ADR13 is applied to all vehicles operating on the roads. This should give us some hope, except for the little nugget on the front page that screams out that “It does not, by itself, have any legal effect.”
  • Neither set of regulations deals specifically with LED light bars. ADR13 does account for the fitting and use of optional lamps. However, as stated above, it is only legally binding on manufacturers and assemblers.

You Spin Me Right ‘Round, Baby

Is your head spinning yet? Mine certainly is. If I’m reading this right, it looks we’re stuck with a bunch of laws that are legally binding but not applicable to after-market LED Light Bars, and another set that is based on the former, should, in theory, control the after-market but are not legally binding in any way.

Looks like we’ve been going around in circles and are now back where we started, doesn’t it? This is precisely why the laws are applied so inconsistently from State to State. Some states, such as Queensland, mandate that aftermarket lamps must comply with ADR13. This amounts to state law that makes it compulsory for private individuals to comply with a manufacturing sector standard. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, and it arguably makes life simpler for everyone. If only every state did the same. I contacted the NSW Roads and Maritime Services, and they reckon that nominally, after-market LED Light Bars should comply with ADR13.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are any LED Light Bar laws in NSW that mandate that. While there is a fair amount of overlap, other states also don’t appear to make compliance with ADR13 mandatory.

Oh dear.

The Plot Thickens

The major contributing factor to all this confusion is that fact that previous versions of ADR13 mandated that additional headlights be installed in pairs. This unwittingly made LED Light Bars illegal, and states scrambled to put in place their own legislation that either bypassed ADR13 or tried to work around it to somehow redeem our beloved accessories. Queensland came up with the ingenious idea of fitting an opaque perspex cover to the centre of the bar, effectively dividing it into two.

Nice idea, but bloody annoying and totally ruins the Light Bar mojo.

Thankfully, ADR13 has removed that stipulation. However, state legislation aligning with the old version of the regulations is still on the books in WA and QLD, so drivers in those states still need to comply, irrespective of the fact that it’s no longer part of the standard.


Not So Common Sense 

Where does this leave us? Not a great deal further than when we began. Nevertheless, I think this at least makes it clearer for our feuding mates to lower their keyboards and walk slowly away from each other.

Ultimately, whichever state you’re in, the rules are there to ensure that common sense prevails and you don’t blind, dazzle or confuse anyone driving in the opposite direction. It is worth noting that all these rules and regulations apply only to cars operating on the roads. ADR13 is even kind enough to define what “the road” means, just in case any of us were confused. Thanks for that. Off the beaten track, and you’re pretty much free to fire that bad-boy up. Theoretically, you might be best served to rely on your factory headlights for road travel and switch your LEDs off altogether.  However, that does not mean that our upstanding friends in the Queensland Police won’t pull you over and fine you even if your LED Light Bar is switched off.

Your best bet is to check with the locals before you head off and make whatever modifications required based on the local situation.