Until today (November 1, 2019), a legal loophole has meant child seat top tether anchorages in utes did not have to comply with the same rules as cars, because they are classified as commercial light goods vehicles. You may think sounds crazy because the two top-selling vehicles in Australia have been utes for years and are used to carry children and families around on a daily basis. You can read more about this here.
Now, Australian Design Rule 34 (ADR34) regulating the design and construction of child restraint top tether anchorages in cars applies to all new commercial light goods vehicles released onto the market.
The bad news is that utes currently on the market don't have to comply with ADR34 from today. It only applies to new models that are launched on or after today and does not apply to existing models or updates to existing models. So it is business as usual for utes that are already on the market.
Not until November 2022 will ADR34 become mandatory for all commercial light goods vehicles.
Because of this loophole in the law, most ute manufacturers will continue getting away with not having to comply with any regulations when it comes to top tether anchorages, meaning they did not have to provide sufficient top tether anchorages for the safe installation of child seats. And we have seen some horrors, such as in the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Mercedes-Benz X-Class with woven fabric loops that are not only very confusing for parents and hated by professional child seat installers but clearly not as safe or robust as proper metal ones found in cars and SUVs.
It is worth noting that including a child restraint anchorage of any kind in commercial light goods vehicles still remains optional and ADR34 only applies if there is one or more top tether anchorage or ISOfix point installed.
The first ute likely to see this take effect in is the new-generation Isuzu D-Max that is out already in Thailand and probably coming to Australia in 2020.
This new model D-Max has ISOfix in both the rear outer seats (as we discovered on the Thai Isuzu website, screengrab shown below) and I'd like to think behind the central armrest is a zip like the Mitsubishi Triton has, to make top tether installation easier but that is yet to be confirmed!
The new 2019 Isuzu D-Max will also have to undergo ANCAP Child Occupant Protection crash testing, which ANCAP introduced to its testing in 2018. The current model D-Max did not undergo Child Occupant Protection testing so we will wait to see how it fares.
Mazda's next BT-50 will be based on the new D-Max, so we have hope for improvements there too, as the current model comes out of the factory with NO top tether anchorages!
Utes tend to have a ten-year life cycle, meaning the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok, that were both launched in 2011, are likely to be next in line to be subject to the new ADR34, followed by the Holden Colorado that came out in 2013. Perhaps some of these new models will be electric or hybrid!