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AAMVA's best practices guides for unconventional vehicles provide guidance for jurisdictions.


In response to the increasing appearance of modified vehicles in jurisdictions across the United States and Canada, AAMVA formed the Unconventional Vehicles Working Group in 2005. “We were hearing from several jurisdictions that they were handling vehicles that had been rebuilt or modified, and as [those vehicles] moved across jurisdictions, it created confusion,” says Cathie Curtis, director of vehicle programs for AAMVA.

The Unconventional Vehicles Working Group aims to create titling, registration and inspection standards for unusual vehicles or vehicles that don’t meet federal safety standards. Covered vehicles range from pocket bikes and motor scooters to Japanese mini-trucks and homemade vehicles. The most recent best practices guides released by the Working Group are titled Best Practices Guide for Title and Registration of Reconstructed/Replica Vehicles and Best Practices Guide for Title and Registration of Rebuilt and Specially Constructed Vehicles.

The guides are meant to achieve a few important goals. “The main idea was to recognize and address problems with the variety of unconventional vehicles that administrators—including people [in] law enforcement—encounter, and also to address the public safety concerns, not only for operators or users, but also for other road users like pedestrians and cyclists,” says Mark Francis, manager of provincial vehicle registration and licensing for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and chair of the Unconventional Vehicles Working Group.

The standards recommended by the guides speak to these goals. In particular, adopting consistent definitions across jurisdictions would make a big difference, says Curtis. “As the Working Group researched these types of vehicles, they found that many jurisdictions classify the vehicles in many different ways. The lines are blurred, so defining [vehicles] consistently will really help going forward,” she says.

While the best practice suggestions differ depending on which types of vehicles are being discussed, there are common themes that appear across the guides. Beyond general consistency, most of the guidelines suggest some type of standardized record-keeping, whether it’s assigning and affixing a new VIN to specially constructed vehicles, retaining a list of all VINs recorded for rebuilt vehicles, or branding the vehicle “reconstructed” or “replica” for those vehicle types.

In addition, for most of the vehicles, the guides recommend inspection, either for structural integrity and mechanical safety in the case of rebuilt and specially constructed vehicles, or a use-based inspection for replica vehicles.

Although it will take time before most or all jurisdictions adopt the suggested rules, according to Francis there are already jurisdictions creating rules based on the suggestions, including his own.

“In British Columbia, we’re redesigning our collector and antique vehicle programs using the replica vehicle guidelines,” says Francis. “So our program is under revision as we speak, and we’re using the best practices guide to guide that redevelopment. I’ve [also] heard other jurisdictions are using it, taking it to their legislatures and saying ‘this is why we want to make these regulatory changes.’ The AAMVA name and community carries weight and credibility, so building off that to help jurisdictions influence their state regulators works.”