Effective and fair medical standards on order

In response, the ATA wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister highlighting our concerns with Assessing Fitness to Drive, the medical standards used throughout Australia for private and commercial driver licensing. We’re delighted that these standards are now being reviewed by the NTC.

The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), Western Australian Heavy Vehicle Accreditation, state dangerous goods licensing schemes and our own TruckSafe accreditation all use Assessing Fitness to Drive as a fitness for duty standard.

This is a good thing. There are great advantages to these accreditation schemes using a common medical standard. In addition, Assessing Fitness to Drive is readily accessible and very familiar to medical practitioners across Australia.

Trucking operators in accreditation schemes – and particularly TruckSafe – are justifiably proud that their commitment to medical testing has detected serious medical issues with their drivers in time to provide effective treatment and support.

They speak about how their membership of TruckSafe has saved lives, because those medicals have picked up cases of Type 2 diabetes and incipient cardiovascular disease.

The problem is that Assessing Fitness to Drive does not screen for those conditions. When they are detected as part of driver medicals, it is because the doctors looked beyond the instructions on the clinical examination form and used their medical judgment.
We want to make sure that life improving and life saving finds like these aren’t left to chance.

In our submission to the review, the ATA has called for strengthened medical standards for these drivers, which should include sleep apnoea and diabetes screening, as well as cardiac screening for those at risk.
We’ve suggested that this could be achieved by dividing the commercial standards into two categories.

A new category 1 commercial standard would apply to drivers in accreditation schemes, as well as DG licensing. Medicals in this category would include fitness for duty elements applicable to all road transport businesses, such as the sleep apnoea screening, diabetes screening and cardiac screening for drivers where it is clinically relevant.

The existing commercial standard would continue to apply to driver licensing and would be renamed the category 2 commercial standard.

At the same time, a driver shouldn’t fear for their livelihood if they need to undertake further medical testing. A driver referred for further tests should be able to continue driving without restriction until a diagnosis is made.

Ensuring our drivers are healthy and well is a top priority for industry.

Heavy vehicle drivers have a demanding job, and ensuring their medical needs are met is essential for both safety and staff wellbeing.

The ATA will work closely with the NTC as the review progresses, and we will continue to press for medical standards that are both effective and fair. The full ATA submission on the Assessing Fitness to Drive Standards can be downloaded from www.truck.net.au.

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