Brussels demands tighter restrictions for historic vehicles

| 2 Mar 2016

The Federation Internationale Vehicules Anciens (FIVA) has sparked widespread panic by calling for pan-European consensus on what constitutes an historic vehicle and what should be considered merely an ‘old car’ – with many of our cherished classics set to be excluded on grounds of age, use and condition. A defiant FBHVC has demanded FIVA withdraw its statement and consult with them first. 

FIVA president Patrick Rollet has called for a clear distinction between old and historic vehicles, stipulating that the latter must be ‘preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition and not used as a means of daily transport’, leaving a huge number of modified, regularly-used British classics out in the cold.

The organisation’s position has been presented in the context of gaining historic vehicles exemption from the region’s new Low Emission Zones, but has served to stoke fears that a restrictive classification of historic vehicles could lead to greater limitations on their use within European member states. 

“In summary, we are lobbying the EU politicians for three things,” said Rollet. “First, that there is a clear definition of ‘historic vehicles’ as opposed to simply ‘old’ vehicles. Secondly, that historic vehicles should be exempt from LEZ restrictions. And thirdly that the exemption is applied consistently – not only within each country, but across the EU as a whole.”

With historic vehicles (or old, depending on your definition) already exempt from Low Emissions Zones in Germany, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and the UK, there are growing concerns that FIVA’s restrictive definition and pan-European agenda could result in a large number of currently exempt classics losing their special status and affect Britain’s domestic treatment of classics, such as tax exemptions. 

“While FIVA has for some time followed the definitions of historic vehicles in its publications such as the FIVA Technical Code and Charter of Turin, these are concepts for use in FIVA’s activities and not intended to be incorporated into European Union or any law,” explains the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs. “FBHVC has requested FIVA withdraw their press release to give FIVA executive time to consider their positions on LEZs in the appropriate manner and with due consideration to national federations.”

However, similar definitions have already been adopted in some areas of European legislation, for example testing standards. The EU directive of the European Parliament Exceptions states: ‘Member states may, after consulting the Commission, exclude from the scope of this Directive, or subject to special provisions, certain vehicles operated or used in exceptional conditions and vehicles which are never, or hardly ever, used on public highways, including vehicles of historic interest which were manufactured before 1 January 1960 or which are temporarily withdrawn from circulation’. This EU directive helped pave the way for the exemption of pre-1960 classics from UK MoT tests. 

“It all comes down to definitions,” said Conservative Member of European Parliament Daniel Hannan. “There is currently an opt-out for ‘vehicles of historic interest’ provided they are more than 30 years old, are no longer in production, have not been updated or overhauled and are ‘never or hardly ever used on public roads’. Obviously, it is up to the EU to amend this definition; and, of course, EU law will take precedence over UK law.”

FIVA’s position on the modification of historic vehicles has loomed large for a number of years, with this statement the latest in a long line of attempts to create a niche definition of historic vehicles that excludes the vast majority of blue collar classic cars. 

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