What you need to know about legislated medical assessments for Commercial Drivers

If you’re managing or overseeing the safety of Commercial and Heavy Vehicle Drivers, understanding the medical criteria for licensing and fitness for duty, and how they align with the National Heavy Vehicle Law, is crucial.

In its significant 12-year study into the health and welfare of Australia’s truck drivers, Monash University found that these workers face a 13 times greater risk of work-related death compared to workers in other industries. This places truck driving among the most hazardous occupations in the country, underscoring the critical need to strictly follow regulations to guarantee the safety of both drivers and the public.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the process of assessing driver fitness and the legally required frequency of medical evaluations.

Commercial Driver medical assessment basics

Driving a vehicle requires good perception, judgement, response time, and physical ability. Medical issues, disabilities, and treatments can affect these skills, potentially leading to accidents. This is why Australian law dictates that commercial vehicle driver assessments must take place at regular intervals.

To ensure compliance, Bodycare’s Commercial Driver medical assessments follow the Standard as set out by Austroads and the National Transport Commission and differ between each state and territory (as shown below).

Table showing the frequency of Australian Commercial Driving legislated medical assessments among states and territories.

Table: the frequency of Australian Commercial Driving legislated medical assessments among states and territories.

The role of the employer and identifying which standards apply

Employers whose drivers operate commercial vehicles have an obligation to protect the safety of other road users, including ensuring that drivers are appropriately licensed and that they are fit to drive.

There are two sets of medical standards for driver licensing:

  1. Private vehicle driver standards: typically for drivers of motorcycles, cars, and light rigid vehicles.
  2. Commercial vehicle driver standards: typically applies to drivers of heavy vehicles, public passenger vehicles, and vehicles carrying dangerous goods.

The commercial standards should be applied to:

  • Drivers of “heavy vehicles”: those holding or applying for a licence of class MR (medium rigid), HR (heavy rigid), HC (heavy combination) or MC (multiple combination),
  • Drivers carrying public passengers for hire or reward (g., bus drivers, drivers of taxis or other ridesharing services, chauffeurs, and drivers of hire cars or small buses),
  • Drivers transporting dangerous goods,
  • Drivers subject to requirements for Basic or Advanced Fatigue Management under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Standard, and
  • Other driver categories that may also be subject to the commercial vehicle standards due to certification requirements or as required by specific industry standards (g., driving instructors and TruckSafe members).

Medical and physiological conditions that affect driving

As an employer or manager of commercial drivers, it’s important to be aware of the many conditions that can affect driving, such as:

  • Temporary conditions,
  • Substance misuse and intoxication,
  • Chronic illness and conditions,
  • Disabilities,
  • Age-related changes,
  • Multiple medical conditions, and
  • Medications and other treatments.

Our “Fitness to Drive” assessment component will look at the physiological factors:

  • Blackouts,
  • Cardiovascular conditions,
  • Diabetes mellitus,
  • Hearing loss and deafness,
  • Musculoskeletal conditions,
  • Neurological conditions,
  • Psychiatric conditions,
  • Sleep disorders,
  • Substance misuse, and
  • Vision and eye disorders.

What to do if an employee does not agree with a Commercial Driver medical assessment outcome

Every state and territory follows a different process for appealing decisions regarding “fitness to drive” licensing. Austroads does participate in driver assessments, but they only direct calls back to the relevant licensing authority.

The standards are shaped by research and expert medical panels. If an employee believes that the standards are incorrect, you can direct them to the National Transport Commission.

Where to start?

Bodycare provides both Pre-employment Medical Assessments and Periodic Legislated Medicals for commercial drivers, rail safety workers, and offshore workers. Get in touch with our friendly team today to learn more about our Legislated Medical services.