When is a heavy vehicle OT (occupational therapy) driving assessment required?
This is required when an individual sustains an injury or is diagnosed with a medical condition that may impact on their driving and have either of the following licence classes;
Light Rigid (LR)
Medium Rigid (MR)
Heavy Rigid (HR)
Heavy Combination (HC)
Multi Combination (MC)
Assessing fitness to drive
In NSW, it is the primary responsibility of a driver to notify to the RMS that they have a medical diagnosis that may affect their driving. As driving is an involved activity that requires the seamless organization of one’s cognitive, physical and visual abilities, it is important that a person has adequate skills in all of these areas. Notification to the RMS from a person’s doctor is the most common ways that the RMS becomes aware of a change in the person’s medical condition. However, all drivers have accountability to report their medical condition or disability to the licencing body. This is also paramount for commercial truck/heavy vehicle drivers.
Conditions that require OT driving assessment
If you have been advised by the RMS that you require an OT driving assessment, it means that you have a disability or a medical condition that may affect your ability to drive safely. As it is difficult for a doctor or other health professional to adequately assess someone’s driving ability without actually observing them driving, an OT driving assessment makes this determination. Some common conditions which may affect a person’s driving aptitude include:
– Brain/head injuries
– Heart disease or stroke
– Sleep disorders
– Neurological conditions
– Cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
– Mental health conditions
– Physical disabilities
Driving a truck with a disability or medical condition
Drivers with truck licences are subject to the same general standards as regular licence holders, however depending on their medical condition, they may be required to meet higher medical standards. This is most notable for commercial drivers. This is because truck driving demands long periods of driving at a time, and there are usually significantly greater ramifications when accidents occur. It is essential that truck drivers speak to their doctor about any changes in their condition, and if a truck driver no longer fits the health requirements for a commercial vehicle, they may still be able to drive private vehicles.
Depending on the severity of your condition, there may be certain medical obligations that you need to fulfil. For instance, truck drivers with epilepsy are required to have a period of at least 10 years without having a seizure, and usually their licence will have certain conditions endorsed. Drivers with hearing loss or deafness also need to have yearly medical reviews by their specialist or audiologist to, while non-commercial drivers with the same condition generally do not undergo the same level of medical monitoring.
OT driving assessment
The OT driving assessment is split into two sections:
– The off-road test involves the OT investigating the driver’s visual, cognitive and physical capacity to determine any considerable deficits.
– The on-road test engages the person to drive the truck with the OT and rehabilitation driving instructor. These instructors vary from regular instructors as they have special training to assess and train drivers with medical diagnoses. The person drives for 1-2 hour and the OT focuses on whether or not their medical condition(s) is impacting on their driving performance.
After the OT driving assessment
You are informed of the outcome after the assessment by the OT and driving instructor. The possible outcomes include:
– A ‘pass’ – Your condition is not assessed to be affecting your driving ability and you can return or continue to drive
– A ‘fail’ – Your condition is assessed to be affecting your driving ability and a cancellation of your commercial vehicle licence is recommended. This occurs if the OT feels that further lessons or vehicle modifications will not help improve your driving skills. However, it may still be possible for you to maintain a class C licence.
– Another possible outcome is that you technically fail the assessment on the day, but the OT determines that you may be able to enhance your skills with a few driving lessons, vehicle modifications or to retake the test (on road section only).