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A regulatory body and new legislation to crack down on “cowboy” horsebox builders promises to drastically reduce problems faced by buyers.

The industry has been dogged recently by bad press — first with the demise and bad debts of Highbarn and lately over a spate of complaints received by Horse & Hound regarding overweight three-stall non-HGV horseboxes.

Typically, these are sold as falling within the 7.5 tonne threshold beyond which an HGV licence is needed, but when loaded with horses, tack and water etc, they far exceed it, making them illegal.

The Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association Ltd (VBRA), which regulates vehicle service standards, last month set up a category for horsebox manufacturers, to help consumers source reputable box builders.

“Cliff Evans of Equicruiser wrote to us saying a group of horsebox manufacturers wanted to distinguish themselves from the makers causing problems in that sector,” said the VBRA’s John Morecroft. “Now we have three horsebox manufacturer members — Equicruiser, Sovereign and Olympic — and we’re auditing another four.”

To gain VBRA membership, a company must pass a comprehensive audit of its premises, expertise and business references. Should customers encounter problems with a
VBRA member, the association can arbitrate.

“We run a customer follow-up scheme, regulated by the Office of Fair Trading,” explained Mr Morecroft. “If there is a problem we can arbitrate on the customer’s behalf. Part of our code of conduct is that the client’s request is traceable — so we will know if they wanted a three-horse 7.5-tonne box.”

Mr Morecroft said new legislation currently being worked on by the government will ensure quality control on goods vehicles — including horseboxes. Vehicles will be subject to Whole Vehicle Type Approval, which regulates the way vehicles are built — from design approval to final testing.

“It means people will not be able to convert goods lorries into horseboxes,” said Mr Morecroft. “And it should put the cowboys — people building inappropriate units on the back of an inappropriate chassis — out of business.”

  • Read this news report in full, including facts about the rules and regulations regarding lorry weights, in today’s Horse & Hound (19 October, ’06)