All drivers, including drivers of private and commercial vehicles, have certain legal responsibilities with respect to their health and driving. States and Territories in Australia have laws about reporting health conditions that might affect your ability to drive safely. These laws have been created to protect public safety.
The laws require drivers to report any permanent or long-term illness that is likely to affect their ability to drive safely to the Driver Licensing Authority.
As a professional driver you also have a responsibility to be thoughtful about the way your health may affect you being 'fit to drive'. This applies to general health as well as the use of drugs and alcohol.
Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task requiring perception, good judgement, responsiveness and reasonable physical capability. Professional driving, whether it be a heavy vehicle, public passenger vehicle or dangerous goods vehicle, brings with it additional demands associated with the vehicle itself, the responsibility to passengers, the demands of work schedules and so on. A range of medical conditions, as well as treatments, may therefore impair your ability to undertake your work safely. Common examples include:
- Sleep disorders
- Vision problems
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Psychiatric disorders
- Heart disease
If you develop an illness which could affect your alibility to drive you should:
- tell your treating doctor and heed your doctor's advice,
- tell your employer, and/or
- notify the state or territory driver licensing authority.
Professional drivers have a responsibility to:
- respond honestly to questions asked of them by the examining health professional
- comply with treatments and review periods as advised by the examining health professional
When you report your illness it doesn't necessarily mean that your licence will be taken away but it does mean that the Driver Licensing Authority can work with you and your doctor to manage your condition with respect to your driving.
In most cases, having a medical condition will not restrict your driving as the licensing authority is able to issue a conditional licence.
This means that you may continue to drive as long as certain conditions or restrictions are met. Conditions may include the wearing of corrective lenses when driving or attending your doctor for a periodic review and providing a report to the Driver Licensing Authority. Your doctor may make recommendations to the Driver Licensing Authority about a conditional licence but the authority will make the final decision.
If you are issued with a conditional licence it is your responsibility to comply with any driving restrictions or other conditions and to be reviewed by your doctor as required.
In the case of commercial vehicle drivers, the opinion of a medical specialist is generally required for initial recommendation and periodic review of a conditional licence. This requirement reflects the higher safety risk for commercial vehicle drivers and the consequent importance of expert opinion.
In circumstances where access to specialists is limited, once the initial recommendation is made by a specialist, alternative arrangements for subsequent reviews by the general practitioner may be made with the approval of the driver licensing authority and with agreement of the specialist and treating general practitioner.