Assessing Fitness to Drive

Table of Contents

4.3 Medical standards for licensing

Requirements for unconditional and conditional licences for commercial vehicle drivers are outlined in the table below.

It is important that health professionals familiarise themselves with both the general information above and the tabulated standards before making an assessment of a person’s fitness to drive.

Medical standards for licensing – Hearing
Condition

Private standards

(Drivers of cars, light rigid vehicles or motorcycles unless carrying public passengers or requiring a dangerous goods driver licence – refer to definition)

Commercial standards

(Drivers of heavy vehicles, public passenger vehicles or requiring a dangerous goods driver licence – refer to definition)

Hearing loss

There is no hearing standard for private vehicle drivers.

Refer to General assessment and management guidelines (section 4.2).

Compliance with the standard should be clinically assessed initially. If the initial clinical assessment indicates possible hearing loss, the person should be referred for audiometry.

A person is not fit to hold an unconditional licence:

  • if the person has unaided hearing loss greater than or equal to 40 dB in the better ear (averaged over the frequencies 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 KHz).

A conditional licence may be considered by the driver licensing authority subject to periodic review,* taking into account the nature of the driving task and information provided by an ear, nose and throat specialist or audiologist** as to whether:

  • the standard is able to be met with a hearing aid.***

If the standard is not able to be met with a hearing aid, further individualised assessment should be offered.

A conditional licence may be considered by the driver licensing authority subject to periodic review,* taking into account:

  • the nature of the driving task;
  • information provided by an ear nose and throat specialist or audiologist;** and
  • the results of a practical driver assessment if required.

* Stable conditions may not require periodic review.

** For the purposes of this document an audiologist is a person registered with Audiology Australia (see <www.audiology.asn.au>).

*** In some cases, noise amplification as a result of wearing hearing aids may lead to driver distraction and may warrant individualised assessment to determine fitness to drive without the hearing aid (refer to section 4.2).

IMPORTANT: The medical standards and management guidelines contained in this chapter should be read in conjunction with the general information contained in Part A of this publication. Practitioners should give consideration to the following:

Licensing responsibility

The responsibility for issuing, renewing, suspending or cancelling, or reinstating a person’s driver licence (including a conditional licence) lies ultimately with the driver licensing authority.

Licensing decisions are based on a full consideration of relevant factors relating to health and driving performance.

Conditional licences

For a conditional licence to be issued, the health professional must provide to the driver licensing authority details of the medical criteria not met, evidence of the medical criteria met, as well as the proposed conditions and monitoring requirements.

The nature of the driving task

The driver licensing authority will take into consideration the nature of the driving task as well as the medical condition, particularly when granting a conditional licence. For example, the licence status of a farmer requiring a commercial vehicle licence for the occasional use of a heavy vehicle may be quite different from that of an interstate multiple combination vehicle driver. The examining health professional should bear this in mind when examining a person and when providing advice to the driver licensing authority.

The presence of other medical conditions

While a person may meet individual disease criteria, concurrent medical conditions may combine to affect fitness to drive, for example, hearing, visual or cognitive impairment (refer to Part A section 2.2.7 Multiple medical conditions and age-related change).

Reporting responsibilities

Patients should be made aware of the effects of their condition on driving and should be advised of their legal obligation to notify the driver licensing authority where driving is likely to be affected. The health professional may themselves advise the driver licensing authority as the situation requires (refer to section 3.3.1 and step 6 of the assessment and reporting process).

References and further reading

  1. Dineen R. The role of hearing in commercial motor vehicle driver safety – a literature review (unpublished). 2013 (Available on request from the National Transport Commission).
  2. Level Crossing Collision between The Ghan Passenger Train (1AD8) and a Road-Train Truck, in ATSB Transport Safety Investigation Report. 2006.
  3. Songer TJ, LaPorte RE, Palmer CV, Lave LB, Talbott E, Gibson JS, Austin LA. Hearing disorders and commercial motor vehicle operators (Final Report FHWA-MC-93-004). Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. October 1992.