A volunteer with the RFS asks a question with respect to driver training:
… at what point is it legal for a person to get behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle and begin learning to drive? Is it before or after a theory and eye sight test at an RMS/Service NSW office?
The current widely accepted procedure is;
- A member who holds a Class C license to approach his/her district administration office and request a letter stating that this member is granted permission to undertake Driver training in a service vehicle. This letter also exempts the member from certain fees at the RMS office.
- The member then takes this letter to the RMS office and then undertakes a Heavy Vehicle Knowledge Test appropriate to the vehicle class they wish to learn on.
- When they pass the test they undertake an eyesight test, and upon passing that test they receive a log book to record their training hours.
- At this point they begin learning with a qualified driver (from this step onwards, is covered by RFS SOP) until they are ready to undertake a competency based assessment.
This is fairly straightforward, however we have found some people have a different interpretation, and the RMS cannot clarify the position for us.
The Heavy Vehicle handbook states that there are 2 ways to become qualified/licensed to drive a Heavy Vehicle. One is through a recognised driving school, the other way is through a competency based assessment using an RMS assessor in your own vehicle.
The handbook only says that the Heavy vehicle knowledge test and eyesight test need to be done before the candidate undertakes his/her assessment.
The handbook does not really say when someone can actually get behind the wheel to drive a vehicle for the purposes of learning to drive on a public road.
Is there any information you might be able to add to this discussion?
The principle instrument is the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2008 (NSW). This regulation provides for a wide range of licences from class C (car) to class MC (multi-combination vehicle licence) plus motorcycle licences (rr 5-7).
Part 3 of the Regulation deals with ‘Learner Licences, Provisional Licences and Heavy Vehicle Learners’. The provision dealing with a ‘learner licence’ does not say it is limited to a learner licence for a car or a motorcycle. It does say ‘A person is eligible to apply for a learner licence if the person meets the relevant eligibility requirements set out in this clause…’ The only relevant eligibility requirements are that for a car licence the person must be aged over 16 and for a motorcycle licence that they must be aged over 16 years and 9 months and have satisfactorily completed ‘a learner licence rider training course’. Given there is no eligibility requirement for a learner licence or a heavy vehicle, the inference must be either anyone can get one, or such a thing does not exist. It can’t be that anyone can get one (you can’t imagine issuing a heavy vehicle learner licence to a 5-year-old) so it must be that there is no such thing as a ‘heavy vehicle learner licence’. That interpretation is confirmed by the presence of r 36.
Regulation 36 says:
The holder of an Australian driver licence (other than a learner licence) for a motor vehicle (other than a motor bike or motor trike) may drive a motor vehicle for which a higher class of driver licence is required if:
(a) the higher class is one the holder would be eligible to apply for in accordance with this Regulation, and
(b) the holder is receiving tuition from, and is accompanied by, a person who has held that higher class of driver licence (other than a provisional licence of that class) for a period of, or periods totalling, at least 12 months and is providing tuition in accordance with the laws of this State concerning driver instruction.
The eligibility requirements to apply for a heavy vehicle license are set out in r 38. To apply for a light or medium rigid licence, the applicant must have held a C class licence (including a provisional licence) for at least 12 months. For a heavy rigid licence, the applicant must have held a C class licence for at least 24 months. There are further requirements for heavy rigid, heavy combination and multi-combination licences that I won’t go into.
Let me assume that the applicant wants a LR (light rigid licence). They can ‘get behind the wheel’ of a vehicle that requires that class of licence provided they hold a class C licence and have held that licence for at least 12 months and it is not a ‘P1’ licence (r 38(5)). Further they must be ‘receiving tuition from, and is accompanied by, a person who has held that higher class of driver licence (other than a provisional licence of that class) for a period of, or periods totalling, at least 12 months’ – that sounds like normal ‘learner driver’ rules, save that regulation 36 goes on to say that the supervising driver must be ‘providing tuition in accordance with the laws of this State concerning driver instruction.’ The only relevant law on driving instruction appears to be the Driving Instructors Act 1992 (NSW). Section 4 of that Act does say that a driving instructor is:
… a person
(a) who instructs another person for the purpose of teaching that other person to drive a motor vehicle, and
(b) who receives a monetary or other reward for so instructing (whether from the person under instruction or otherwise).
Section 6 says:
A person must not act as a driving instructor unless the person is the holder of a licence.
But if you are not charging money, you are not acting as a ‘driving instructor’. It would appear that anyone who has held the relevant licence for 12 months and is providing instruction and supervision is acting in ‘accordance with the laws of this State concerning driver instruction’ provided they are not charging a fee, or if they are charging a fee, they hold the appropriate driving instructor’s licence.
To actually obtain a licence the applicant must demonstrate that he or she meets the relevant eligibility requirements for that class (r 40). Before granting the licence the RMS may (r 44(3):
… require an applicant for issue or variation of a driver licence to do any one or more of the following:
(a) undergo tests or assessments, or provide other evidence of the applicant’s knowledge of road law, driving ability, training, experience or suitability to hold a driver licence…
All of that is consistent with the Heavy Vehicle Driver Handbook. The Handbook says at p 18
You can learn to drive heavy vehicles on your current licence if you are eligible to apply for the particular vehicle type. … You must be accompanied and supervised by a person who has held the class of licence for the heavy vehicle you want to drive, or a higher class of driver licence, for one year or more. You may also need a National Driver Work Diary, see section 3 Driver management.
That is what Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2008 (NSW) r 36 says. The handbook goes onto say, consistent with r 44(3):
If you want to upgrade your driver licence you need to:
- Pass a knowledge test.
- Pass an eyesight test.
- Either pass a Roads and Maritime driving test or undertake HVCBA training and assessment.
If an applicant goes down that path, they can drive as soon as they want to and only need to pass the knowledge and eyesight test, and driving test, when they apply to vary their licence to add the new class of licence.
The alternative route, the Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA) is set out in r 49. That regulation says ‘The Authority may approve a scheme (to be known as “competency based assessment” ) under which a person’s competency may be assessed for the purposes of a determination in relation to an application for the issue or variation of a driver licence held or to be held by a person.’ It is up to the Authority, ie RMS to define the scheme. The Heavy vehicle driver handbook (p 18) says:
The knowledge test assesses what you know about the general road rules as well as rules which relate only to heavy vehicles. …
You must pass a heavy vehicle road rules knowledge test before you can:
- Apply for a Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment Learner’s Log Book and undertake HVCBA.
- Book a heavy vehicle driving test.
If you are learning, you can start to drive straight away on your current licence, however, you must pass the heavy vehicle road rules knowledge test before booking for a driving test or obtaining a HVCBA Learner’s Log Book.
The RMS has, one can infer, when designing the HVCBA scheme determined that passing the knowledge test is a pre-requisite for entering the scheme but as noted, it is not a pre-requisite for actually learning to drive.
The question was ‘when can someone actually get behind the wheel to drive a vehicle for the purposes of learning to drive on a public road? Is it before or after a theory and eye sight test at an RMS/Service NSW office?’
Answer: Assuming the person wants to obtain a light or medium rigid licence the answer is ‘as soon as they have held a C class licence for more than 12 months, they are off their P1 licence, and they are receiving instruction and supervision from a driver who has held the relevant higher class of licence for at least 12 months.
They only need to pass the knowledge test when they seek to upgrade their licence or enter the HVCBA scheme. They also only need to pass the eyesight test when they apply to upgrade their licence.