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Jurisdictions discuss changes to licensing system for foreign truck drivers

Austroads has said it is considering changes to the licensing system for truck drivers who come to Australia from overseas.  

These changes could include limiting what kind of heavy vehicles can be driven on an overseas licence and introducing a “recognised country” scheme for truck licences. 

As it stands, drivers who come to Australia from overseas can drive the same class of heavy vehicle that they can drive in their home country, for a certain period of time. 

This timeframe varies across the different states and territories, with some requiring you to get an Australian licence once you are living in that jurisdiction for three months, and others allowing you to drive on an overseas licence for six months or longer. 

However, all states and territories have agreed to move to a maximum six-month allowance for driving a truck on an overseas license. 

Judy Oswin, a consultant who has been working with Austroads regarding heavy vehicle reform, told Big Rigs: “The states and territories have agreed to a six-month limit in principle, so the next stage is talking about when everyone will have to have it in place. 

“It will require a legislative change for some jurisdictions, so that adds to the implementation timeframe.”

If you’re transferring from an overseas heavy vehicle licence to an Australian heavy vehicle licence, there are some differences between the states and territories in terms of what licence class you are eligible to transfer to. 

Oswin explained: “Say, for example, you’ve got a HR licence from overseas. 

“Some states and territories will allow you to enroll in training and assessment to get an Australian HR licence straight away. 

“Others will want to know more about you and your experience, and you might have to put in an application to avoid having to start on your car licence and work your way up.”

Oswin said that if you want to apply for an Australian HC or MC licence on an overseas licence, it gets more complicated. 

“There are variations in eligibility, as to what class of heavy vehicle licence you can get in Australia,” she said. 

“When you think about the wide variety of MC combinations in Australia – almost no other countries have an equivalent to what would be an Australian MC licence. 

“Some jurisdictions will only allow you to go up to a rigid licence without putting in an application.”

Oswin acknowledged that the licensing inconsistencies between the states and territories are an issue. 

“The jurisdictional differences are not ideal, but that’s what happens in a federated state. 

“We are now in the process of working with all of the jurisdictions to see if we can get a consistent, harmonised approach to that eligibility part of licensing.” 

Above all, she wanted to clarify that you cannot simply walk into a transport department office with an overseas truck licence and transfer it to an Australian licence. 

“You can get caught up in the administrative side of things, but the most important point is that if I want to transfer from an overseas licence to an Australian licence, I go through the same process as I would go through if I was applying for that licence class as an Australian,” she said.

At the ATA’s annual conference in Canberra last month, Oswin discussed the possibility of introducing a “recognised country” scheme for heavy vehicle drivers. 

Currently, Australia has a recognised country system for light vehicles only. These countries (for example the UK, Canada) are considered to have similar licence training and assessment standards to Australia. 

Licence holders from those countries are allowed to transfer their licence to an equivalent class (car or motorbike only) of Australian licence without further testing.  

To become a recognised country for heavy vehicle licensing purposes, the country in question would have to make an official application to Australia and have their licensing requirements assessed.  

“Under those circumstances, we could potentially look at a less rigorous process for the transfer of overseas licenses from recognised countries, compared to non-recognised countries,” Oswin said. 

“Some very stringent requirements about what you can drive on an overseas license may also be put in place.

“Jurisdictions are currently discussing these potential changes, and once there are outputs from these discussions, there will be an industry survey and targeted industry consultation, before finalisation and implementation.”

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