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Driver medical standard changes

September 8, 2016

All TWU members need to be aware that new medical standards come into effect for drivers of private, heavy vehicle, light vehicles, motorbikes and commercial vehicles on October 1.

Members are reminded that they should not be pressured by management trying to force medicals. It is a TWU members’ right to choose not to have a medical. IF YOU ARE UNSURE – CONTACT THE TWU ON 1300 727 614 OR SPEAK WITH YOUR WORKPLACE DELEGATE OR ORGANISER.

Notwithstanding, the new standardsapproved by the Commonwealth and all state and territory transport ministers – are designed to provide doctors and other health professionals greater guidance on whether patients are fit to drive.

They are contained in Assessing Fitness to Drive – an Austroads and National Transport Commission (NTC) joint publication – which details the medical standards for driver licensing for use by health professionals and driver licensing authorities.

NTC CEO Paul Retter said they allowed for greater consistency in decision-making for medical professionals and assists them in having conversations with drivers about driving specifics.

“This includes new features such as flow charts to guide assessment of conditions such as epilepsy and dementia, a questionnaire to assist assessment of drivers with diabetes and more detailed information about determining and supporting functional driver capacity,” he said.

Driver licensing authorities consider this advice when making decisions about an individual’s licence status.

Of particular note for professional drivers are changes to the way sleep apnoea is diagnosed and determined. Currently, drivers are asked to self-report their level of sleepiness using a questionnaire, which is then used to calculate risk of having the condition and how adversely it may affect their driving.

However, it is believed this method may have historically underestimated the number of drivers with sleep apnoea after a recent study of 325 long-distance Australian truck drivers found over 40-per-cent were likely to have undiagnosed sleep apnoea. Just 12-per-cent would have tested positive using the questionnaire. As a result, the new guidelines demand doctors make a clinical judgement and not rely on subjective questionnaires to rule out sleep apnoea.

The new standards also include important changes to hearing guidelines that help determine when a driver must be referred for an audiometry test. In the past, truck drivers have been forced to stop work, even when wearing hearing aids because of failing to meet hearing requirements. However, they may now be saved from the sack as the new standards make it clear that expert drivers can be individually assessed for their ability to keep driving safely.

This assessment could include a specialist considering the driver’s medical and driving history, the driving task and any assistive devices like extra mirrors that could be used. It could also involve a practical driver assessment. For a full summary of all changes, visit http://www.austroads.com.au/images/assessing-fitness/AFTD-Summary-Final-Report-Aug2016.pdf

ALWAYS REMEMBER:

  • You do not have to be treated by a company doctor and have the right to attend a medical practitioner of your choice for medical treatment, be it work-related or not
  • An employer can request an employee provide medical evidence about their fitness to work (but only when that employer has a genuine need for the information to consider a workers ability to perform a task).
  • If an employer requests an employee visit a company-approved doctor the employee should insist on being provided a list of questions the employer wishes the doctor to answer and then ascertain whether the employer is asking irrelevant questions of the doctor.
  • Importantly, an employer can only come to an examination and communicate with the company doctor about relevant issues with an employee’s consent. If the employer is pressuring you about a company representative attending a medical, CALL THE UNION immediately.

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