Commercial vehicle certification series — part three

European Union certification basics

By Bob Raybuck, NTEA Director of Technical Services

Tim Campbell, Managing Director, 
TruckWorld TV

This article was published in the October 2017 edition of NTEA News

Following is the last in a series of three articles on vehicle certification basics in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The first, which addressed U.S. certification, appeared in the August edition of NTEA News. The second part, covering Canadian vehicle certification, was featured in the September issue. Learn more at

Vehicle certification in the European Union (EU) is different from the United States and Canada. The U.S. uses Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Canada utilizes Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) to convey safety and performance standards vehicles must meet to legally operate on public roads. Countries within the European Economic Area, along with Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, use EU regulations. These include United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) requirements addressing design, performance and testing protocols of components and systems, and either use government labs for testing or require testing to be witnessed by a government-approved agency.

A 1958 ECE agreement allows for parts and components approved in one participating country to be used in other participating countries (although, the U.S. is not one). ECE regulations don’t cover the complete vehicle, but the European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval Program (ECWVTA) does. 

Vehicle type approval consists of testing a production sample representing a vehicle type to specific performance standards. The whole vehicle type is determined by a set of vehicles that share common characteristics. The manufacturer (OEM or upfitter) must submit the type (truck, van, multi-purpose vehicle, etc.) it intends to manufacture and sell in the country to the proper governing authority. The government entity will test one vehicle representative of the type using government-approved labs or a government-approved witness for certification testing. Often, there are specific government-approved authorities in each country that provide certification services.

This total vehicle certification is achieved in two parts: Certificate of Production and Certificate of Conformity. With the Certificate of Production, the appropriate government agency conducts periodic in-plant audits of production processes to ensure compliance. 

The Certificate of Conformity allows the chassis OEM, in partnership with the equipment manufacturer (upfitter), to pursue type approval. Either the chassis OEM or equipment manufacturer (upfitter) can lead the process to obtain the Certificate of Conformity. For example, a cargo van OEM may lead the partnership to meet type approval for a liftgate at the rear of a cargo van. In this case, the chassis OEM would need to certify each liftgate type and van.

Alternatively, the equipment manufacturer can partner with each chassis OEM using the liftgate to receive the necessary Certificate of Conformity. If leading the path to the certificate, the equipment manufacturer (upfitter) will need to determine which OEMs and vehicles are the best fit for their product and determine resources required to achieve the Certificate of Conformity. The equipment manufacturer would need to certify each specific combination created by the addition of the liftgate.

When compliance is demonstrated with the government or government-approved agency, a certification label with the associated registration number is placed in the door jamb of the vehicle and on the equipment (the liftgate, in this example). This certification is then recognized in other participating countries.

The EU certification process has resulted in a more streamlined work truck industry than found in the U.S. and Canada — both the equipment offerings within a specific OEM’s portfolio based on partnerships and the consolidation of available equipment types in the marketplace. Unlike in North America, an individual equipment item such as a liftgate of specific capacity, will need to fit a wider variety of applications (vans in two to three weight classes) using a type approval system.

ECWVTA means the manufacturer can sell the product in any EU market without needing additional national tests in another EU member state.

If you choose to sell and market in just one of the European countries, such as the UK, there are a few alternatives that are slightly less operationally and financially burdensome.

  1. ECSSTA (EC Small Series Type Approval) was created for low-volume van producers only. Like full ECWVTA, it allows Europe-wide sales but with technical and administrative requirements adapted to smaller businesses.
  2. NSSTA (National Small Series Type Approval) is a national scheme for low-volume manufacturers intending to sell only in that European country. The advantages of NSSTA are a reduced Certificate of Production requirement and a reduction in administrative mandates. Like ECWVTA, once the design is approved, individual vehicles do not need to be tested.
  3. IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) is a national scheme and the most likely route for those manufacturing or importing single or very small numbers of vehicles. IVA does not require a Certificate of Production, but most body builders and converters will work with manufacturers to ensure there is no warranty compromise. For instance, in the UK, vehicles must be inspected by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in Great Britain.       

EU vehicle certification is a more detailed and government-controlled process than what we are accustomed to in North America. Companies interested in exploring the European market will need to specifically identify their target chassis manufacturers and markets in order to enter a segment that supports the necessary investment required for achieving type certification.

Additional vehicle certification information, resources and products are available at If you have any questions or need further assistance, call NTEA’s Technical Services Department at 800-441-6832 from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. EDT, Monday–Friday.