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2014 review of Assessing Fitness to Drive submission

05 December 2014

The medical standards for truck drivers in accreditation schemes should be strengthened to include sleep apnoea and diabetes screening, as well as cardiac screening for some drivers, the ATA submission to the 2014 review of Assessing Fitness to Drive says.

Assessing Fitness to Drive sets out the medical standards used throughout Australia for private and commercial driver licensing.

The medical standards in AFTD focus on a driver’s fitness to hold a licence, rather than fitness for duty.

Nonetheless, the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), Western Australian Heavy Vehicle Accreditation (WAHVA), the ATA’s TruckSafe scheme and the state dangerous goods licensing schemes all use AFTD as a fitness for duty standard.

This should continue: there are great advantages to accreditation schemes using a common medical standard. AFTD is familiar to medical practitioners and readily accessible.

Trucking operators in accreditation schemes – and particularly TruckSafe – are justifiably proud that their commitment to medical testing detects serious medical issues with their drivers. They speak about how their membership of TruckSafe has saved lives because those medicals have picked up type 2 diabetes or incipient cardiovascular disease.

The problem is that AFTD does not screen for those conditions. When they are detected as part of driver medicals, they are detected because doctors look beyond the instructions on the clinical examination form and use their medical judgment.

The submission recommends 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: sleep apnoea screening, diabetes screening and cardiac screening for drivers where it is clinically relevant.