Driving tests

Overhauling the driver licensing system

It was announced by the Transport Minister, Craig Foss, that the driver licensing system will be overhauled to try to make it simpler (read: less costly to run). This is partly because the current price of obtaining a driving licence doesn’t cover the costs of administering the system. Governments are reluctant to put up the price of things that affect large swathes of the population as it makes them unpopular, and therefore savings are sought.

In all fairness, the system hasn’t been radically changed since it was introduced in 1999. There is no plan to tinker further with the photographic driver licence (this has just been changed), and making the restricted licence test more difficult and the increasing minimum age requirement (both of which were changed a couple of years ago). There are opportunities to increase efficiency with using online tools for renewal. They will also look at whether the full licence test needs to evolve. The specific inference in what Mr Foss said would indicate the full licence test would become less complicated (perhaps easier), and therefore less expensive to conduct.

“It will consider whether the heavy vehicle driver licensing process could be simplified by reducing the number of heavy vehicle classes and related endorsements,” said Mr Foss.

New Zealand already has fewer heavy vehicle classes than either Australia or the UK. However, we have more endorsements – specialist licences for driving vehicles with tracks or rollers, or unusual vehicles with wheels.

According to the Driver Licensing Review website ,the review will:

  • Update the driver licensing legislative framework in a manner that reflects good practice regulatory principles
  • Address particular regulatory policy settings that are no longer fit for purpose
  • Review the third party fees legislative framework to determine what level of regulation is required and what approach should be taken to cost recovery.

In talking to a few driving instructors, there seems to be the opinion that many either ignore class 3 or class 4. Therefore the progression for a heavy vehicle driver is either 2, 3, 5 or 2, 4, 5, depending on how long the driver has had their previous licence for.

Any change to this system will have effects on training providers. It will:

  • Reduce then number of courses they can offer
  • Potentially make it easier and less expensive (and therefore more attractive) for people to obtain a heavy vehicle licence – i.e. there’s a possibility it could increase overall business, assuming there’s underlying demand for drivers.

There was no consensus as to the change in skills because it’s not yet known what structure the changes will take.

Interestingly, the DVSA in the UK is also considering modifying the driving test. The practical test in the UK is much harder than in New Zealand, but they are about to do away with three-point turns and reversing around a corner in favour of navigating using a sat nav and reversing out of a car park. The rationale is that three-point turns and reversing around a corner are not common manoeuvres and that they want to focus on everyday driving.

Any proposed changes won’t come into effect until late 2016 at the earliest.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

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