NSW moves to accredit community transport drivers

Only Queensland has a community transport driver’s authorisation system in place, but NSW could soon follow

January 20, 2012

The NSW Government has released a discussion paper on the establishment of an authorisation system for community transport drivers.

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has urged stakeholders to provide feedback on options to improve the safety of community transport services which provide around two million trips each year to the frail aged, the disabled and the isolated.

"For a number of years, community transport experts have expressed the view that community transport drivers should be authorised," Berejiklian says.

She says the NSW Government is committed to introducing an appropriate driver authorisation scheme for community transport.

"Community transport plays an important role in providing much-needed services for the frail aged, people with disabilities and their carers and for those who do not have access to transport.

"It is estimated that each year, two million community transport trips are made for eligible customers, providing them access to recreation, shopping, medical care, social services and social activities."

Berejiklian says the forecast increase in the proportion of older people in NSW means there will be a greater demand for community transport in the future.

"The NSW Government recognises the need to support the development of community transport so it can respond to these changes and has committed to introduce an appropriate driver authorisation framework to enhance the safety of services provided to community transport customers."

Berejiklian says the discussion paper provides a series of questions, with feedback being sought to help Transport for NSW better understand the potential impacts of driver authorisation on community transport operators, drivers and customers.

"The NSW Government wants industry stakeholders to help us strengthen the safety framework for delivery of community transport services by providing us with their ideas on what is best suited to their sector," she says.

The Queensland community transport accreditation model

Queensland is the only state where legislation requires community transport driver authorisation.

Operators of community transport in Queensland may choose to use drivers who hold any category of Department of Transport and Main Roads issued driver authorisation or may issue a Restricted Driver Authorisation (RDA) themselves.

Other than RDAs, the categories of driver authorisation acceptable for community transport operators are those for taxi services, limousine services, general services such as charter, tourist and accommodation transfer, scheduled route and school services and motorcycle tour services.

If the potential community transport driver does not hold one of the above authorisations, the community transport organisation may choose to issue an RDA instead. In this circumstance, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

• Be legally entitled to work in Australia;

• Hold a current open driver licence;

• Have held a driver licence (open or provisional) continuously for at least three years;

• Not knowingly suffer from any medical condition that may affect their driving; and

• Be of a suitable character with regard to criminal convictions and driving offences.

Under the Queensland system, an applicant completes an RDA Notification form which is also signed by the issuing operator. In the form the applicant makes declarations regarding the above requirements. The Department of Transport and Main Roads then conducts criminal and driving record checks to confirm the applicant’s eligibility to hold an RDA.

Successful RDA applicants are subject to the following conditions:

• RDA holders are restricted to driving for the issuing operator. (However, an applicant may hold RDA’s issued by different operators)

• A driver must carry evidence of the RDA (issued by the operator) on them at all times while providing the community transport service.

• If checks by the Department of Transport and Main Roads indicate the applicant has an unsuitable criminal, driving or medical history, before the RDA is issued, the operator is advised not to issue the RDA.

• If these checks indicate the applicant has an unsuitable criminal, driving or medical history after RDA has been issued by the operator, the Department of Transport and Main Roads will take action to amend, suspend or cancel the RDA.

• The Department of Transport and Main Roads may request the holder of an RDA to undertake a medical examination, if the department reasonably considers the medical fitness of the holder no longer meets the approved standard.

The Queensland Transport Operations (Passenger Transport) Act 1994 provides exemptions from the requirement to hold driver authorisation if the service is not available to the general community or if two or less vehicles are used to provide the service and these vehicles can be operated by drivers with a regular class C driver’s licence.

The NSW community transport discussion paper is at www.transport.nsw.gov.au.

Submissions close on February 3, 2012.

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