More than 300 truck drivers in Western Australia have had their licences suspended after claims they weren’t properly assessed. This cancellation has affected many India-origin families who allege they 'feel like they are treated as criminals'.
The Department of Transport (DoT) has confirmed that more than 300 individuals have had or are in the process of having their licence suspended in Western Australia.
DoT alleges that 326 persons are unlikely to have passed the Practical Driving Assessment (PDA) to the standard required and this action has been taken in the interest of public safety.
“It concerns our organisation and it should concern everybody out there that people could be driving vehicles well over 100 tonnes that have not been assessed properly,” he told 6PR radio on Wednesday.
Amar Singh, President, Turbans 4 Australia is leading representation of more than fifty families impacted by this decision.
“Many young families with infants are affected by this action,” said Mr Singh in an interview with SBS Punjabi.
“People are afraid of job loss; many students can't even drive to their colleges or medical appointments.”
“In some cases, DoT officers visited people at their workplace and the person had to catch public transport back home.”
“People have bills and living expenses to pay, and many breadwinners are sitting at home.”
“They are forced to stay home and are facing lots of depression and anxiety,” says Mr Singh.
“There are many young people who got a heavy vehicle license thinking they will change careers but now they can't even drive a car to keep their old jobs at security, taxi and restaurants.”
“If anything, the government should protect and weed out the RTOs with bad reputations, who have become instant millionaires by robbing people. Why are the people being punished?"
Mr Singh said that he is in touch with some people who had their driving assessment at the Mines West Truck Driving School*.
“These people are given 21 days to appeal or book a driving test with DoT but they have to supply their own class of vehicle," he added.
“Where can an average person source a loaded truck to take for the driving test, no one from the DoT can confirm if any comprehensive insurances will cover the truck and trailers if a person is not licensed.”
When contacted, the Department of Transport (DoT) spokesperson told SBS Punjabi that DoT contracts registered training organisations (RTO) to provide heavy vehicle practical diving assessments (HVPDA).
In January 2017 DoT notified the Corruption and Crime Commission with concerns relating to one of its contracted service providers.
A cooperative investigation conducted by the CCC and DoT has uncovered irregularities in the conduct of an HVPDA provider that may mean some persons have been granted a licence, despite not having met the requirements of accepted driving assessment procedures.
Using information arising out of the investigation and subsequent auditing practice, DoT alleges that 326 persons are unlikely to have passed a PDA to the standard required. These 326 individuals have had or are in the process of having their licence suspended.
This suspensions relate to the Medium Rigid (MR) and Heavy Rigid (HR) licence classes only – Heavy Combination licences (HC) are not involved.
The DoT is still reviewing drivers licence records associated with this matter, and further driver’s licence suspensions may be imposed.
These driver’s licences have been suspended in the interests of public safety, and those who wish to regain their licence have been offered a free Practical Driving Assessment with DoT to demonstrate their knowledge of road traffic laws and safe driving techniques.
"As this investigation is ongoing, no further comment can be made at this time", said a DoT spokesperson to SBS Punjabi.
SBS Punjabi has contacted four Indian-origin families who are affected by this decision.
Lalit and his family are based in Perth, WA. They are struggling to adjust with DoT's decision. Lalit says,"I have been driving for more than three years. I never ever had any issue until this suspension."
"What am I going to do for a job? How can I feed my family? These are the questions that come to mind again and again."
"Mostly, the affected truck drivers are of Indian-origin. To my knowledge the license cancellations relate to one particular service provider. So far, this suspension is for the year 2017 and now they [DoT] are investigating the back dates as well."
"I am happy to sit in any exam again. But who will pay for that assessment? I have already paid what I was supposed to pay as part of the earlier assessment and also the required license fee. Who will compensate the drivers for the days we lost in work?"
"They should have given people enough chance to prove that they are genuine skilled drivers. But it happened overnight without any prior notice."
H Singh moved to Australia 6 months ago. He had a HR License, which is cancelled now. He is too stressed to talk about his job loss and its after-effects.
Singh's sister told SBS Punjabi that department's officials came home to hand them the driver license cancellation notice. "It was shocking, it happened without any notice," said Mrs Kaur.
"If there are any alleged discrepancies with the RTO why we should suffer? Why are they treating us like criminals?"
"There are clear instructions on our assessors' website, mentioning they are DoT approved. There're many good reviews on their website, and that's the reason why we chose them."
M Kaur is also affected by DoT’s recent action. She said, “Last Friday night on 30th June, they [DoT] came to my house to notify that my HR-A license is cancelled.”
“I passed my test through the driving school. All the assessments were ok. Even if the assessor is indulging in some irregularities, they are the ones who should be punished.... And why punish us for someone else’s fault?”
“I am six months pregnant and I have no right to drive now. Who will drop my kids to school and do my groceries? I drive to work. So I am nearly going to lose my job.”
J Kaur acquired HR license to apply for a bus driver job. She is also affected by this DoT decision.
She says, “I feel helpless. I travel 100kms to my workplace using a car. But now I can’t. I am on the verge of losing my job.”
“Everything happened overnight. There is no help. My husband is overseas. I am so depressed to find this happen to my life,” said Mrs Kaur.
*SBS Punjabi has tried to contact Mines West Truck Driving School for their comment. Our calls were not answered.