MORE OPTIONS: John Readford, now 68, would like the restrictions eased for older MC drivers in NSW.
MORE OPTIONS: John Readford, now 68, would like the restrictions eased for older MC drivers in NSW.

John takes up fight for older drivers

VETERAN Dubbo driver John Readford is lobbying for less stringent licence renewal laws for 70-something multi-combination holders in NSW.

The Lindsay Transport long-hauler, now 68, is adamant that the state needs to cut those 70 and older some slack when it comes to driving big rigs, particularly when we’re all being asked to work for longer.

In NSW, MC licence holders must undergo a medical assessment each year from the age of 65 and are required to pass an annual driving test from age 70, a full 10 years earlier than those with light-rigid to heavy combination tickets in the state.

By comparison, in Western Australia and South Australia, MC holders have until 85 before being required to pass an assessment, although they do need an annual medical check-up from the age of 80 in WA.

In Queensland, older drivers don’t need to undergo any assessment over 70, other than annual medical check-up from the age of 75.

Victoria, discovered John, has no mandatory medical or driver assessment required at any age, unless advised by a doctor.

John also points out that the holder of a heavy combination licence in NSW, which is a lower category than a MC, can drive a prime mover with a low-loader grossing up to 250 tonne, which he said required a lot more skills than most MC holders might normally possess. Yet a HC holder does not have to undertake assessment until the age of 80.

John said he’d like to see more parity between jurisdictions and has now enlisted the help of his local Member for Dubbo, Dugald Saunders, to fight for a change.

“My recommendation, as a compromise, is that if you have a licence to drive a heavy vehicle you will need to undertake an assessment at age 70, again at 75 and then annually from age 80 onwards,” said John.

“I also suggest that renewal licence testing for heavy vehicles be transferred from the RMS to accredited driver trainers and assessors.”

John said that to undertake a practical driving assessment with the RMS, a driver must undergo revision training and possibly hire a prime-mover and trailer.

“This can cost from $1200, to as much as $1800 each year. A MC driver in all other states does not have this cost.”

John stressed that he’s a stickler for road safety, and if he did have a medical condition that might compromise his ability, he’d be quite happy to retire. But until that day, he believes NSW seniors should be given the same opportunities as their counterparts in other states to secure their financial future.

“What is happening, is that some MC drivers, as they approach age 70, move their address and licence to another state to avoid undertaking ongoing driver assessment,” he said.

A spokesperson for Transport for NSW told Big Rigs that it has an obligation to ensure all licence holders are medically fit and competent to drive safely.

“Given the increased risk associated with driving these vehicles, a driving test is required every year from the age of 70. The free driving test is carried out by a Service NSW heavy vehicle driver tester,” they said.

“The recently completed Staysafe Inquiry on Driver Education, Training and Road Safety found the existing older driver assessment regime in NSW is a reasonable balance between the rights of individual drivers and the community.”

At September 30, 2019, there were about 200 multi combination (MC) licence holders in NSW aged 70-plus, representing only 0.7 per cent of all MC licence holders.