Wednesday 23 December 2015

Age limit for driving heavy vehicles raised to 75 from 1 January 2016

Change next year requires drivers aged 70-74 to pass enhanced tests
By Joanna Seow and Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 22 Dec 2015

From next year, motorists who drive heavy vehicles such as cranes, buses and container trucks can continue until they turn 75, as long as the Traffic Police (TP) deem them fit to do so.

This could help ease the difficulty that companies have in recruiting and retaining local workers to fill such positions.

Announcing yesterday that the age limit for Class 4, 4A and 5 driving licences would be raised from 70 from Jan 1, the TP said drivers can renew their licences as long as they pass annual medical and proficiency tests.

"The policy change will enable our senior drivers to continue contributing to the workforce," said the TP on its website, adding that the new regulation is consistent with the practices in many developed countries.

To get their licences, older drivers aged 70 to 74 will have to pass enhanced medical and driving tests.

The medical screening includes an additional question and "abbreviated mental test" to check that they have the required cognitive ability.

They must also pass an enhanced driving test with more components in the circuit, and an on-road driving assessment to ensure they can respond safely to other road users.

These enhanced tests are because of the high level of danger posed by large heavy vehicles to other road users, said the TP.

The test costs $26, and drivers can register to take it only after they have been certified fit to drive by a Singapore-registered medical practitioner.

Heavy-vehicle drivers aged 65 to 69 already have to pass annual medical examinations by registered medical practitioners here, and annual proficiency driving tests conducted by the TP. This will not change.

The TP said in a statement that it was found after a review that "fit and able" senior heavy-vehicle drivers can handle their vehicles.

The review included benchmarking against overseas practices, consulting medical practitioners and assessing the driving competency of senior drivers.

The TP will continue to monitor the accident rate among senior heavy-vehicle drivers, obtain industry feedback and review the upper age limit as necessary.

The police did not say how many additional drivers the policy change could add, but industry associations said it would help ease - if only slightly - the manpower crunch in industries with recruitment difficulties, such as transport and construction.

Singapore Transport Association chairman Dave Ng said: "It's good to be able to retain the number of people we have for a longer time... while we try to attract fresh blood."

At this point, "any help will go a long way", he added.

His association has about 120 members, including corporate ones. The change will affect less than 10 per cent of them.

Singapore Contractors Association president Kenneth Loo said that as long as safety requirements are met, he is all for raising the age limit. "Safety remains the most important concern," he said.

"As long as (the drivers) are fit, I don't see why we should not keep them for a longer time."

Mr Jimmy Chua, chief executive of construction firm Huationg, said the change would not make "much of a difference", but anything that could ease the labour crunch was welcome.

His company has about 250 drivers and only "a handful" will be turning 70 in the next couple of years. They are typically crane operators who have "to climb up and down", which can be difficult because of old age.

Mr Ng said: "The change buys us more time to try to recruit more people, while we keep people for as long as we can."

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