New licensing reforms for commercial drivers

SA introduces licensing reforms for commercial drivers, imposing new fitness guidelines

By Rob McKay | October 12, 2010

The South Australian Government has moved to clarify the intended effects of a commercial drivers’ licence tightening flagged in State Parliament last month.

The recent change to assessing fitness to drive for commercial vehicle drivers does not affect holders of class MR licences and above (medium to large truck), a spokeswoman for the Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure has told ATN.

Transport Minister Pat Conlon introduced the change following a van accident involving a driver with sight problems.

The change applies to holders of class C (car) and LR (light rigid or small truck) who drive for commercial purposes, for example a delivery driver, and who suffer a medical condition.

"The Registrar of Motor Vehicles has a responsibility to ensure that anyone who is issued with, or who holds an authority to drive a motor vehicle has the ability, knowledge and fitness to drive," the spokeswoman says.

"The Registrar receives numerous notifications about licence holders who may not be fit to drive from health professionals, South Australia Police and members of the public.

"In determining a person’s fitness to drive, the Registrar relies in the first instance on reports from the driver’s treating health professional."

The medical standards used to determine a person’s fitness to drive are contained in the national guideline Assessing Fitness to Drive Commercial and Private Vehicle Standards 2003.

As the national guidelines specify that holders of class C and LR driver’s licence’s are assessed under the private standards it had not been possible for occupational drivers of light vehicles to be assessed using the commercial standards.

However, it is considered that more attention should be directed to light vehicle drivers who:

· suffer an impairment or medical condition

· whose occupation requires that they spend considerable time driving a motor a vehicle

· suffer the pressures of a commercial driver as recognised by other legislation.

"While any one of these factors pose a road safety risk, the combination of these factors provides a greater road safety risk," the spokeswoman says.

"The greater the time a person with certain medical conditions spends driving, the greater the risk of being involved in a casualty crash."

Since September 30, when a commercial driver of a light vehicle comes to the attention of the Registrar and the Registrar decides to review that person’s fitness to drive, the Registrar may require that the driver be assessed under the commercial standards of the national guidelines.

"The new option to review an occupational driver of a light vehicle under the commercial standards will only come into effect when the Registrar receives additional information that leads him to consider that a review is required," the spokeswoman says.

"Under the Motor Vehicles Act, the Registrar may refuse to issue a driver’s licence or suspend the driver’s licence until he is satisfied that the person is fit to drive, and the Registrar may place conditions on a licence that restricts the circumstances under which the holder may drive.

"Any decision made by the Registrar in relation to the person’s fitness to drive is open to review under the Motor Vehicles Act, and subsequently further appeal to the District Court."

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