From: Vehicle Standards Section, Road Safety Authority, via Email on 1 August 2017
Thank you for your query regarding frontal protection systems, more commonly known as bull bars, which has been passed to me for our direct response. The legal position on these is as follows;
EC Regulation 78/2009 lays down the requirements for the type-approval of motor vehicles relating to the protection of pedestrians and vulnerable road users. This Regulation contains specific requirements for frontal protection systems that can be approved for use on a vehicle and has replaced Directives 2005/66/EC and 2003/102/EC since 24th November 2009. EC Regulation 78/2009 has been transposed into Irish law in the Road Vehicles Entry into Service Regulations (S.I No. 157 of 2009) and the Mechanically Propelled Vehicle Entry into Service (S.I. No. 448 of 2007). he technical requirements of Regulation 78/2009 in relation to frontal protection systems do not differ from the requirements of Directive 2005/66/EC which was in place since 21st May 2007.
Currently frontal protection systems, either fitted by a vehicle manufacturer or supplied as separate technical units and intended for fitting to new passenger cars (category M1 vehicles) and light goods vehicles (category N1 vehicles) must meet the requirements of EC Regulation 78/2009. Systems for fitment to these vehicles must satisfy a number of tests, including energy absorption, before they can be type-approved for use on new vehicles. Also, Type Approved frontal protection systems must not be distributed, offered for sale or sold unless accompanied by a list of vehicle types for which the frontal protection system is type approved, as well as clear assembly instructions. The proof that a frontal protection system meets with the requirements of Directive 2005/66/EC or Regulation 78/2009 is the presence of an e-mark.
Once vehicles are in service they must adhere to the requirements set out in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment & Use of Vehicles) Regulations (S.I. No. 190 of 1963). Article 32 states that vehicles “shall not have any inessential object in a position where it is likely to strike any person involved in a collision with the vehicle, unless injury is not likely to be caused by reason of the projection of the object”. Furthermore Article 96 states that “every vehicle while used in a public place shall be such, and so maintained and used, that no danger is likely to be caused to any person”. Owners or drivers of vehicles breaching these regulations may be found guilty of an offence under Section 11 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended.
It is important to note that all frontal protection systems fitted or made available for fitting to new vehicles at registration or before entry in to service since 21 May 2007 must bear an e-mark. If it does not, then the vehicle should not be registered or allowed entry into service. It should also be noted that there are currently systems fitted and in widespread use that bear manufacturers’ logos but do not conform to the relevant type approval requirements. Such systems, which are most often fitted to a vehicle post registration, are not made by the vehicle manufacturer and would not be shown to have the necessary levels of pedestrian and vulnerable road user’s protection as required by EC Regulation 78/2009. If such devices were fitted to vehicles in use on a public road, such use may be in contravention of Articles 32 and 96 of S.I. No. 190 of 1963 as highlighted above and the driver/owner of that vehicle may be guilty of an offence.
Enforcement of the Road Traffic Regulations is a matter for An Garda Síochána and interpretation is a matter for the courts.
 ‘separate technical unit’ means a device subject to the requirements of a regulatory act and intended to be part of a vehicle, which may be type- approved separately, but only in relation to one or more specified types of vehicle where the regulatory act makes express provisions for so doing;
Trusting this clarifies the situation for you.
Kind regards Brian Forde Vehicle Standards