The Automotive EMC Directive 95/54/EC set fleets an October 2002 deadline to ensure every electrical device fitted to their vehicles carries an 'e' mark.
The 'e' mark certifies that any electromagnetic interference from electrical devices will not affect a driver's direct control of a vehicle.
A Home Office guidance note advised police, ambulance and fire service fleets that: 'aftermarket equipment including lightbars, sound systems, video systems etc will need to be 'e' marked for installation in vehicles which have already been type approved. 'Ongoing installation of non-'e' marked equipment in type approved vehicles after October 2002 will result in the user operating a vehicle unlawfully on the road.'
However, the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions issued the following statement following protests from blue light fleet operators, and a television appearance by former Fleet News Award winner John Bradley, fleet manager of Hampshire Police, as well as representatives of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service:
'Even though we gave six years for everyone to prepare for the implementation of the directive, it has recently become evident that this has not happened. In response to representations we intend to modify the construction and use regulations:
1) To allow vehicles first used before October 2002 to be exempt from the directive; and
2) To allow the continued fitting of legacy equipment to be used in new vehicles.'
This concession removes fears that the directive would be retrospectively applied, an order that would have forced police fleets to remove every single electronic item such as a light bar, tracking device or radio that does not comply with the regulations.
Peter Walker, deputy chief constable of North Yorkshire Police and chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' communications group, has been fighting the directive for over 18 months. 'It would have cost emergency fleets millions of pounds to comply with the directive,' he said.
Compliance costs would have involved replacing serviceable equipment and extensive vehicle downtime. The directive will still apply to new vehicles and aftermarket products from October 2002.