Off Road group: New guidelines for vehicles, ‘a major win’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TT Off Road Association founder and director Shawn Mohammed. –

The Transport Commissioner has issued guidelines for acceptable modifications for “off-road” vehicles.

It’s a move the TT Off Road Association (TTORA) is describing as a “major win” not only for the 4×4 community but motorsports in the country.

Issued on Monday, the guidelines signed by Commissioner Clive Clarke allow, within limits, many previously contentious vehicle modifications to improve performance on trails, such as lifting, wider wheels and tyres, iron bumpers and winches.

Shawn Mohammed, TTORA founder, director and owner of ABS Off Road, told Newsday the organisation has been working with Clarke and other stakeholders over the past few months on developing the guidelines.

“It is a major win,” he said, “for the off-road community as well as the motorsports community. You know drifters, drag racing – it shows them there is hope that we can work with the licensing office to achieve some sort of…system to have these vehicles on the road.”

Formed in 2019 and registered a year later, the TTORA has, among other things, worked closely with first responders during major flooding to get help to affected communities. The modifications that allowed them to conquer the trails also made them suited to entering flood waters to deliver aid to affected residents.

But ambiguity over the legality of these modifications led to a number of them being penalised.

“It have guys who were actually given tickets on their way to do flood relief,” Mohammed said.

He said the commissioner’s guidelines went into sufficient detail on what is allowed and what isn’t to provide a clearer guide to protect those who modify their vehicles within the criteria.

On Monday, the Transport Commissioner issued a notice to vehicle testing stations containing the guidelines for the altered vehicles, which will come into effect from February 1.

Although a monumental move for the community, it’s a new system which Mohammed said will be subject to review.

“It’s a work in progress. So we actually have a scheduled review in six months with the commissioner to review the process, to review the complaints or suggestions from people, to fine-tune the process, because, as with any system, it has to continually evolve. So we hope that we can continue working with the licence office to keep improving the system until we get to a point where you know, everything is almost perfect.”

Mohammed has started offering free lift-kit assessments at his Penal off-road supplies store.

Clarke told Newsday the guidelines were created to help regulate a practice that many were already doing, with some doing so in an unsafe manner. Additionally, he said inspection garages were passing these modifications.

“I saw one came to Licensing and this guy basically cut two pipes and raised his vehicle. We are saying we prefer to ensure these vehicles are raised according to a particular standard and give some guidelines,” he said.

He said the new guidelines have been circulated to all inspectors and officers in the Licensing Division.

Responding to a question from Newsday, Clarke said discussions are ongoing with the legal department to have these guidelines solidified into the existing legislation.

“We have put forward certain recommendations in terms of modification to the existing legislation to the necessary authority and we wait to see how that plays out,” he said.

Major new guidelines:

* Vehicles can be lifted to seven inches above the manufacturer’s height using reputable suspension or body kits and other associated equipment. Anything above this height will need to be inspected at a Licensing Office.

* Wider wheels and tyres are allowed but must fit under fender flares that do not exceed 6.1 inches in width. * Steel bumpers allowed with accompanying tow hitches which must not protrude more than eight inches. * Vehicle TARE (the weight when empty or not carrying cargo) must not increase more than 250 kg from the original weight, and must be under 300 kg of the gross weight. * A notice of change must be done for any alterations in TARE weight, installing a winch or a roof rack.* Additional lighting requires approval from the Licensing Authority.

* Guidelines warn that lifting a vehicle will raise its centre of gravity, negatively affecting stability. Guidelines also give advice on how that effect can be mitigated.