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Make it easier for older truckies to retain their licence, says advocate

Venerable NSW truckie Rod Hannifey has called for an overhaul of state laws for truck drivers wanting to retain their MC licence once they turn 70.

In his submission to a state parliamentary inquiry into the pressures on truckies and the impact on NSW, Hannifey told the committee that there are simply too many hoops to jump through, particularly when you consider how difficult it is for many fleets to find drivers today.

Currently once a truck driver turns 70, they can either downgrade their MC licence to a semi-only licence HC, or must do both a yearly medical and then provide a B-double for a test each and every year, at their own cost, after this, to retain their MC licence.

“I have no problem with the medical as we do one every year now, even though it can cost more than $400, but if you want to do part-time work, help a mate or simply keep driving, if you do not own a truck, you will have to hire one for the day at a substantial cost, as well as all the other costs,” Hannifey, 66, writes in his submission.

“We are losing older drivers now due to the fines and penalties, but hope this will be improved and made much fairer with the upcoming review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) which looks to remove, or at least reduce, many of the clerical and or minor but costly fines truckies get for minor errors which have nothing at all to do with road safety.”

“These fines also prevent some younger people from entering the industry as you must be aware of a critical driver shortage and whilst I recognise this is currently an issue with many industries, we have many drivers with millions of kilometres of experience again being forced out by this provision, again only in NSW to my knowledge.”

“Can this please be addressed and reviewed, and the road transport industry involved?”

One accredited NSW heavy vehicle driver assessor, who did not want to be named, pointed out to Big Rigs that 15 years ago the NSW government recognised that the driving population was ageing and changed the older driver testing regime for car drivers from 80 to 85.

It also lowered the annual medical to 75 and allowed accredited driver-trainers to conduct assessments as well.

No such adjustments were made for the heavy vehicle industry.

“Back then, there were only 620 road train/B-double drivers in the 65-69 age group of which only 18 chose to renew their licence when they turned 70,” our source said.

“Ten years later in 2020, there were 1797 MC drivers in the 65-69 age group of which 226 chose to do the NSW Older Driver Test to retain their licence.”

Representations through driver-trainer associations, registered training organisations and state members requesting raising the age that truck drivers in NSW have to do this test fell on deaf ears, he said.

“Service NSW cannot conduct MC tests, so drivers have to present a loaded semi (HC) configuration on a time and date usually weeks in advance if indeed they can get a booking.

“There is no abridged older driver test like the car test so drivers have to do a full HC drivers test which, with admin, takes around 1.5 hours. You can fail an older driver car test three times before cancellation but only one attempt is allowed for truck drivers. So while current drivers in the industry should not have much trouble, it pays to research or get advice of what is required and ensure your medical is in the system prior to attempting.

“In the interests of workplace productivity, current increasing federal pension allowances allowance for older workers, acknowledging the tripling every 10 years of this age cohort, it is obvious this ‘problem’ is not going away so it is time to reassess this age barrier and perhaps allow accredited heavy vehicle competency-based assessors to participate.”

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