- With the development of international traffic, the harmonization of regulations for construction of motor vehicles has become essential. The reasons are multi-fold:
- It guarantees that motor vehicles are manufactured in accordance with internationally agreed requirements with regard to safety and protection of the environment.
- It allows for an optimal use of research spending by avoiding repetition and duplication.
- It decreases the cost of manufacturing; the production of vehicles to meet a single set of requirements is cheaper than the production of different vehicles to meet different sets of requirements.
- It allows for reciprocal acceptance of those requirements, which avoids the repetition of statutory national checks prior to the marketing of a vehicle in a given country.
- The economies and populations of all countries benefit from harmonized vehicle regulations, since transport, including international transport, which is vital to economic development and social well-being is made more efficient, safer and more environmentally sound.
- Producers are able to reduce manufacturing costs and price of vehicles as they can simplify their production.
- Consumers can be assured that they purchase at a better price a vehicle which has been manufactured respecting well-defined and high-level safety and environmental requirements.
- The Inland Transport Committee is the Principal Subsidiary Body of the UN/ECE responsible for cooperation in the area of transport with a view to facilitating international transport while improving its safety and environmental performance.
- The UN/ECE Working Party on the Construction of Vehicles is the international forum where vehicle Regulations are discussed and agreed upon.
- The Agreement on Regulations for Motor Vehicle Equipment and Parts which was reached in Geneva in 1958 and updated in 1995, is so far the legal framework within which vehicle Regulations are developed and updated as the needs arise.
- To this day, 33 countries, including Japan and the European Community (EC) are Contracting Parties to this Agreement. A total of 110 vehicle Regulations have been established and are applied by a majority of the Contracting Parties to the Agreement.
- An Administrative Committee, composed of all Contracting Parties to the Agreement, adopts new Regulations and amends existing ones to keep their requirements up to date with the political and social concerns of the Governments and with the progress in technology.
- The Working Party and its subsidiary expert bodies meet regularly to make proposals for improvement of existing Regulations.
- To make harmonization of road vehicle construction requirements global, the Working Party has recently adopted the Agreement on Global Technical Regulations which is currently open for signature. It shall operate in parallel to the 1958 Agreement.
- In addition, to ensure that vehicles in operation retain their initial performance, an Agreement on Periodical Technical Inspections was signed in Vienna on 13 November 1997 and it shall soon be implemented.
- The UN/ECE secretariat provides technical and administrative support to the work of the Working Party and its subsidiary bodies.
- The UN/ECE is working in very close collaboration with the European Community. The EC issues its own technical Directives, and equivalence between EC Directives and UN/ECE Regulations is being sought.