Firstly, we’ll need a Vehicle Plate.

A Vehicle Plate must show at least:

  • Manufacturers Name
  • Trailer model
  • Vehicle Identification Number
  • Date of Manufacture (month/year)
  • Certification Statement – This trailer was manufactured to comply with the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989
  • Can include the tyre placard (VSB1:section 16) to save having an extra plate.  Letters to be at least 2.5mm high
  • VIN issued by RTA

Ahhh, the VIN. That was where I came unstuck last time.. – At the time, I was doing contract work in Sydney (and living for the most part), but was officially living (and had my business registered) in the ACT.    VIN Numbers are theoretically managed by Standards Australia.  But in reality they just hand out chunks to each state Registering Authority.  Where it’s tricky for someone who lives/works across two states, is that the trailers VIN must be issued by the state Registering Authority in the state where 80% or more of the supplies were *delivered*. This is irrespective of what state you are actually going to do the initial registration in.  So in the case that I spent more time in NSW, and wanted the supplies delivered there, and I’d build the trailer at nights while in Sydney, after enquiring with the ACT, I was informed that I would have to contact the NSW RTA to secure a VIN number to provide to ACT Urban Services.

Ok, so I contacted the RTA.  No, they only issue VIN numbers where THEY are the actual Registering Authority.  They suggested I contact Standards Australia, as the ultimately responsible VIN issuer.  Standards Australia came back to me saying that no, they only maintain the STANDARD, and do not have ANYTHING to do with actually issuing the numbers, and please talk to ACT Urban Services to get a number, as they are legally required to issue a number at the time of registration.

At that point I replied to the lady from Standards Australia, Cc’d in the fellows from ACT US, and NSW RTA, with a ‘Hi all, I am EXTREMELY confused here..  My trailer will be built at nights in Sydney, registered in the ACT, as that is my official address.. HOW do I get a VIN number??  ACT says talk to RTA, as ACT only issues VIN’s where the trailer is 80% built in ACT, as proven by delivery addresses on receipts.  RTA says they ONLY issue VIN’s when they are the registering authority, but as I live in the ACT, I *CANNOT* register the trailer in NSW, so talk to Standards Australia to get a ‘federally issued’ VIN.  SA say that they only maintain the standard, but the standard says that ACT must issue the VIN.     Pleeease figure this out!! :)Thankyou.’   I received a reply from the fellow at ACT Urban Services, saying he’d push it up his chain of command and get something sorted out..  That was two and a half years ago now, and I haven’t yet heard back.

However I have since sorted out the clusterf*** that was transferring my license from the ACT to NSW (ACT never cancelled my NSW license when I shifted to the ACT back in the dark ages!), and I’m ‘officially’ an NSW resident, so I’ll just be registering an NSW-built trailer in NSW.

If you’re an itinerant contractor, you may wish to think about where you’re going to have your parts delivered! 😀

Ok, back to the checklist, where were we?

Oh, Vehicle Plate.  I’m sure I read somewhere that the RTA supply the plate.. But I can’t find that ANYWHERE.  You can buy plates from trailer supply places, so add that to my purchase-list..  But ask the RTA..

Now we keep reading through VSB1..

Registration plate.  Provision must be made for mounting of a 372x136mm registration plate to the rear of the trailer.  No part of the plate to be more than 1300mm above the ground. (This is a motorcycle trailer, that’s not a problem, lol!)

Rego Label holder.  Must be on the left hand side of the trailer.  See ADR61/02:9.2 for more information.  Ok we’ll look that up later..

Time to build a trailer!

So my bike is all happy for touring again, I’ve done ~ 2000km on it in the last month, trundling back and forward to work, and there’ve been no hiccups.  Working through my pack list for the Karuah River Rally in a month’s time, my brain started ticking over how it’d be nice to be able to pack some extras (you know, couple of extra car batteries for power, couple of 10L water cans, etc..), and just to get the normal camping weight off the bike..  And I started thinking about trailers again.  So lets pick it back up as a project, and potter on it :)

Note that everything here is geared towards a small trailer TOWED BY A MOTORCYCLE.  If you are looking at building a box trailer to tow behind a CAR, then the dimensions, and thus quite a few considerations (especially IRT lighting) will be VERY different..


First things first, we need to find out what regs we need to follow, and build a bit of a checklist!

First thing to do, is download Vehicle Standards Bulletin 1.  It’s the federal bible for trailer building!  VSB 1 lives here.