The End of the 'ECE' Era? Print
Monday, 29 August 2011

For 53 years, the vehicle regulations developed and promulgated under the well-known 1958 Agreement have been known as "ECE Regulations", referring to the United Nations' Economic Commission for Europe—the body charged with facilitating pan-European harmonisation to minimise trade barriers and maximise consistency. That nomenclature has become obsolete as the ECE Regulations have been adopted almost universally throughout the world, well beyond Europe's boundaries. To resolve the awkwardness of nominally "European" regulations now being developed by consensus among—and adopted by—a truly international, nearly global community, and to harmonise terminology across all three international accords on vehicle regulation, the Administrative Committee of WP.29 has decided the regulations under the 1958 Agreement shall be called "UN Regulations", those under the 1997 Agreement as "UN Rules", and those under the 1998 Agreement as "UN Global Technical Regulations". Likewise, the old term "ECE Type Approval" is giving way to the new "UN Type Approval". It is not known whether the familiar circle-(E) type approval mark will eventually morph into something not nominally associated with "Europe". We can only speculate that if such minutia falls under scrutiny for de-continentalisation, the new mark might be such as a circle-(U) for "UN", a circle-(G) for "Global", or a circle-(W) for "worldwide". Of greater import is the effect the new nomenclature might have on progress towards truly global vehicle regulations. Surely subduing the overt reference to the regulations' exclusively European origin will likely help to make existing non-European participants feel valued and integral in the process. And it might well encourage, however subtly, more new non-European participants.

There does remain the matter of the intransigent American hold-outs. Whatever their technical objections to the vehicle regulations used virtually everywhere else, there are deep and perhaps understandable currents, borne of the United States' early history, behind a philosophical rejection of anything that might could be perceived as regulatory deference to Europe. On the other hand, large segments of the American population regard the UN as a frightening, dangerous, evil proponent of unitary worldwide government. Whatever name the international consensus regulations go by, there is an equal and opposite hot button in the American psyche, as it seems. That notwithstanding, DVN applaud's WP.29's effort to update regulatory nomenclature to reflect today's reality, and while old habits die hard, you will see us transitioning to the new "UN Regulation" and "UN Type Approval" terminology in our news and reports.