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Questions and answers about the Land Transport Rule: Driver Licensing Amendment 2019 consultation.

About the review and consultation

  • Why is the current Rule being reviewed?

    The last Government initiated a review of the New Zealand driver licensing regulatory system in December 2014, to explore opportunities to improve the efficiency of the system and support a more productive commercial driving sector, while maintaining road safety.

    A discussion document, setting out options for change, was issued in 2016. The follow-up to that process is to consult the public on the proposed changes to the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999 (the Rule).

    The NZ Transport Agency is therefore releasing a package of material that includes the proposed changes (the proposed amendment rule – referred to as the ‘yellow draft rule’), along with an Overview that explains why the changes are proposed.

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  • What happens after public consultation finishes?

    Submissions will be analysed. Based on submissions a final proposed amendment rule will be sent to the Associate Minister of Transport for consideration. Should the Minister sign and gazette the proposed amendment rule it will be implemented. Information will be prepared for those who are affected by the changes, to help them understand what this means for them.

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General details of the proposed rule changes

  • What is happening?

    The Government is consulting on changes to improve the driver licensing system. These changes will enable some driver licence transactions to be done online and support a more productive commercial driving sector, while maintaining road safety.

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  • What is changing?

    Amendments to the system are proposed in six key areas set out in the table below.

    The changes proposed will maintain or improve road safety and result in a system that should improve compliance while saving time and money for people, businesses and the Government.

    Proposed change

    Benefit

    Reduce frequency of eyesight testing to enable online licensing

    This provides New Zealanders with more options when renewing their driver licence by enabling online licence renewals.

    Research indicates that the current 10-yearly vision testing requirement does not deliver any additional safety benefits for drivers of cars (Class 1) or motorcycles (Class 6).

    Simplify the progression from Class 2 to Class 5 licences  

    Removing Class 4 and 5 Learner licences enables faster progression for drivers through different stages of the heavy vehicle licensing process. Road safety will be maintained by strengthening testing requirements and requiring drivers to be under supervision if they do not hold the heavier class of licence.

    Removing Class 3 licences, which relate to a vehicle range that is rarely used and can now be covered under Class 5, supports a more productive commercial driving sector.

    The reduced time required to progress through the standard heavy vehicle licensing system will offset the need for the Accelerated Licensing Process.

    Remove unnecessary requirements:

    The Accelerated Licensing Process and Special Type Vehicle endorsements.

    This reduces compliance costs, removes regulatory duplication with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and removes regulations that do not maintain or improve road safety.

    Standardise the speed limit for tractors and other special-type vehicles travelling on roads to 40km per hour

    This standardises requirements for ease of understanding, which in turn makes compliance easier for drivers, and reduces the speed differential between special-type vehicles and other vehicles on the road.

    It also reduces confusion for drivers, employers and enforcement officers.

    Allow automatic renewal of general licences for some endorsement holders

    This reduces compliance costs for some drivers and reduces the risk of a driver inadvertently letting their general licence expire after an endorsement has been renewed.

    Improve oversight of approved course providers

    This helps to ensure the quality and integrity of approved course qualifications and allows NZTA to act to suspend or revoke provider status if necessary

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  • What has happened on the review so far?

    The review began in December 2014. The public were consulted on a discussion paper from April to June 2016 which outlined a range of proposed changes. Some changes have been incorporated into the proposed amendment rule based on the feedback received.

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  • Why was this review necessary?

    The driver licensing system has an important role in supporting road safety – a driver licence shows that a driver has knowledge of the Road Code, has met the required level of driving competence and has achieved the required standard of medical fitness.

    Holding a valid driver licence is vital for most people and businesses. It enables the easy movement of goods and people, aids social connectivity and employability, and assists road safety. The driver licence card is also recognised in a number of situations as an acceptable form of identification.

    The driver licensing system needs to balance these important considerations with being efficient to run, and the review has identified some potential changes that will bring about benefits in this respect.

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  • Will this affect the fees for applying for a driver licence?

    Driver licensing fees cover the costs of processing transactions, issuing licences, maintaining a contact centre and managing information technology and operational systems. Some redundant fees (e.g. those related to a licence class or endorsement that is proposed to be removed) will be deleted from the regulations if those proposals proceed.

    A review of the remaining fees is expected to begin after the regulatory changes are approved. This will be the first-time driver licensing fees have been reviewed since 2009. No change in ‘general’ fees will happen until that review is complete, and public consultation on fees has been undertaken

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Removing the requirement for regular eyesight testing

  • What is being proposed?

    The Government wants to enable online driver licence renewal adding to existing online driver licence-related services. For this to be possible, a change would be necessary to how often drivers are required to have their eyesight tested.

    The proposed amendment Rule requires that drivers have their vision tested when they first apply for a car (Class 1L) or motorcycle (Class 6L) licence, and at the next renewal at or after the age of 45, and then again for each renewal from the age of 75. The eyesight testing requirements for commercial drivers and Class 2, 4, and 5 licence holders will not change.

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  • How often is vision tested at the moment?

    All driver licence applicants (except drivers aged 75 and over, and commercial drivers – meaning those needing a specific form of licence class or endorsement such as a Class 5 driver licence for a truck driver – who have additional requirements) must pass an eyesight test as part of a licence application or renewal (every 10 years).

    This currently means that young and novice drivers may be tested three times in as little as nine months – when they apply for a learner licence, apply to sit their restricted test, and apply to sit their full test. They must then be tested every time they gain a new class of licence or every 10 years at renewal.

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  • How will this change affect road safety?

    Any changes made to the driver licence system will maintain or improve road safety.

    Good vision is important for safe driving. However, research suggests that eyesight testing at every stage of the licensing process does not improve road safety.

    The research conducted during the scoping phase of the review has been peer reviewed and supports the finding that there are no apparent safety benefits to be gained from repeated eyesight testing.

    The proposal in the yellow draft rule includes an eyesight test at first renewal at or after the age of 45, which is an age where research indicates vision begins to deteriorate for a significant part of the population, and then again for each renewal from the age of 75.

    Drivers of Class 2, 4, and 5 vehicles, and those with commercial endorsements (e.g. “P”) will still be required to have regular eyesight tests. This is because these drivers have very high exposure – many drive well over 100,000 km per year.

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  • What are the benefits of making this change?

    The benefits of removing the requirement for regular eyesight testing include:

    1. helping enable the development of an online renewal process, as an alternative service to the standard in-person renewal process
    2. saving drivers the time and costs of visiting a driver licensing agent in person if they prefer to use online tools
    3. making renewing a licence easier, especially for those living in rural or remote areas
    4. reducing the time taken for the in-person process for many applicants.
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  • Why is a vision check required at age 45?

    Middle age is generally recognised as a time where eyesight may start to deteriorate, particularly where people have a family history of eyesight problems. The yellow draft rule proposes that a formal eyesight test be completed at first renewal at or after the age of 45. This means a driver will have an eyesight test sometime between 45 and 55.

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Changes to the heavy vehicle licensing system

  • Why are these changes being proposed?

    Improving access to the heavy vehicle driver licensing system is vital for people and businesses. The transport sector has raised concerns that the current system is not meeting their needs and may be contributing to a shortage of drivers.

    Drivers of heavy vehicles in New Zealand can choose between two different licensing pathways: the practical test pathway and the approved course pathway. The practical test pathway currently involves greater wait-times between classes but is less expensive and does not require completion of additional course-work. The approved course pathway has reduced wait-times but is more expensive and requires completion of a course.

    There are concerns about differences in the testing requirements between the practical test pathway and the approved course pathway. We want to strengthen these requirements to ensure similar competency and to produce safer drivers.

    We also want to accelerate progression between the heavy vehicle licence classes, to increase the size of the pool of qualified drivers.  

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  • What are the benefits of the proposed changes?

    The proposed changes are expected to help drivers progress from Class 2 to Class 5 in a safe and timely manner while maintaining the integrity of the licensing system.

    At present very few people participate in the Accelerated Licensing Process (ALP) because the process is complex, costly, and not well understood. The reduced time required to progress through the standard heavy vehicle licensing system will offset the removal of the ALP.

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  • Does removing the learner licence steps for Classes 4 and 5 impact the safety of heavy vehicle drivers?

    All proposed changes to the Rule will maintain or improve safety, and the removal of these learner steps would be balanced by strengthened assessment requirements for the practical test pathway and the approved course pathway.

    There is still a six-month waiting period for all drivers before moving from a Class 1 Full licence to a Class 2 Learner licence. There also remains a minimum six month waiting period for drivers under the age of 25 to move between each full class of licence.

    In addition, the proposed amendment rule now directly emphasises the requirement for all drivers to be under supervision if they do not hold the heavier class of licence. For example, a Class 2 licence holder driving a larger (Class 4) vehicle must be supervised by someone who has held a Class 4 licence for at least two years.

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  • What licence classes would have the standard 6 month wait time removed before each practical test?

    This proposal relates to the 6 month wait time for those who have successfully passed a practical test and are progressing through the licence system. It does not apply to those who have failed a practical test. 

    There would no longer be a 6 month wait-time between Class 2L and 2F for drivers on the practical test pathway. For drivers aged 25 years or older, there will be no minimum wait times in the progression from Class 2 to Class 5. 

    All drivers would still wait 6 months between obtaining their Class 1F licence and sitting the test for a Class 2L licence, and drivers under 25 would still wait at least 6 months between Classes 2 and 4, and between Classes 4 and 5. Drivers 25 years or older would not have to wait between different licence classes (except Class 1F and 2L, as noted). 

    Drivers who fail their practical tests would still have a stand down period prior to being able to re-sit the relevant practical test.

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  • What happens to current Class 3 licence holders if the proposal to remove Class 3 proceeds?

    The vehicle type driven by Class 3 licence holders is no longer a common type of vehicle, so it makes sense to remove it from the system.

    We recognise that current Class 3 drivers are qualified to manage articulated vehicles (most Class 3 vehicles are semi-trailers with a few truck and trailer combinations) and Class 3 Full licence holders will be deemed to hold Class 5 Full licences (where vehicle combinations are larger but have a similar configuration). If the proposal goes ahead, we will work with this small group of drivers and with employers to manage and communicate this change to ensure they are aware of their road safety responsibilities.

    Any remaining Class 3 Learner licence holders will be deemed to hold a Class 2 Full licence. The number of drivers who hold a Class 3L licence as their highest licence class is very small, and the Transport Agency will look to smooth out the transition process by working with drivers who wish to progress to class 5.

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  • Why is the Accelerated Licencing Process being removed?

    The Accelerated Licensing Process came into force in 2012. As of March 2019, nine drivers are participating in the programme. There have been several recent attempts to promote the ALP scheme but with little improvement in uptake.

    Overall, the ALP does not provide the anticipated benefits for employers. Many potential candidates are excluded (if they have a traffic offence history) and employers find the cost of providing supervisor drivers is substantial. The ALP has therefore been identified for removal.

    Additionally, the yellow draft rule proposes a simpler process for progressing from Class 2, further reducing the need to keep the ALP as an alternative.

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Removal of special-type vehicle endorsements

  • What is being proposed?

    The Government is proposing to remove endorsements for special-type vehicles:

    • forklifts (F)
    • vehicles with rollers (R)
    • vehicles that run on self-laying tracks (T) and
    • (special) vehicles that run on wheels (W)
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Simplifying Schedule 3 of the Rule– what licence must I hold?

  • What is the problem?

    The current Schedule 3, which sets out the class of licence that must be held to drive a particular type of vehicle, has become extremely complex as a result of detailed amendments over the years.

    For example, a Class 1 (car) licence can be used to drive a tractor of more than six tonnes but less than 18 tonnes at slow speed – but the Schedule sets that speed threshold at 40 km/h for some (agricultural) tractors and 30 km/h for other very similar vehicles.

    Additionally, whether the driver holds a special-type vehicle endorsement (such as ‘wheels’) also complicates which vehicles can be driven on which class of licence and at what speed.

    Other changes are necessary to reflect the proposed removal of Class 3 and the Class 4 and 5 learner licences.

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  • What is being proposed?

    Speed thresholds will, where possible, be standardised at 40 km/h.

    The relationship between classes (e.g. between Class 2 and Class 1) will also be clarified.

    If you look at the existing Schedule 3 – and compare it to the proposal – you can see that the new version is much simpler and easier to understand.

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Allowing easier renewal for some endorsement holders

  • What is the problem?

    For some endorsement holders (I: driving instructor, O: testing officer and D: dangerous goods) the Rule does not currently allow an easy method of renewing their (general) driver licence at the time they renew their endorsement. By comparison a P (passenger) endorsement holders already have that option (made simpler because a photo update is required for the P endorsement).

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  • What is proposed?

    The proposed amendment requires a photograph to be taken when renewing these endorsements, so that general licences can be automatically updated at the same time. This reduces the additional costs of applying for a general licence renewal separately and reduces the risk of a driver inadvertently letting their general licence expire after an endorsement has been renewed.

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Improving oversight of course providers

  • What is the problem?

    There have been instances of course providers failing to meet the required standards.

    A review of the frameworks used to manage course providers found there is limited capacity, under the current Rule provisions, to ensure that course provider services are being delivered to the required standards.

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  • What is proposed?

    The proposed amendment closes these gaps by allowing the Transport Agency to:

    • consider whether a person is ‘fit and proper’ to be approved as a course provider
    • impose additional conditions on course providers
    • immediately suspend or revoke approved course provider authorisation where organised criminal activity or the interests of public safety require this.
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  • What constraints will be in place to ensure due process?

    The yellow draft rule proposes using the pattern already established in the Land Transport Act 1998 in terms of considering information about a person prior to appointment. The Transport Agency would be required to advise an applicant of any potentially prejudicial information and provide an opportunity to comment on it.

    The power to revoke an approval for an existing course provider is limited to a few specified circumstances – such as the provider being charged with a relevant criminal offence. This authority is modelled on the process described in section 87D of the Act. Any course provider revoked in this way has a right of appeal under section 106 of the Act.

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Additional issue: medical/health practitioners

  • What is the problem?

    All references to medical/health practitioners in transport regulation are in the process of being standardised: the specific term ‘health practitioners’ is now used in place of the variety of terms that used to exist. However, clause 44 of the Rule still includes a specific reference to a certificate issued by a “medical practitioner”.

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  • What is proposed?

    The proposed amendment Rule offers an opportunity to amend clause 44(2A)(b) to refer to a certificate issued by a ‘health practitioner’. This would remove a possible challenge in a court to a certificate issued in accordance with the other provisions of this clause.

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