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Driver Licensing Changes Soon

Modifications to the driver licensing system, including measures to assist commercial drivers, are to come into effect from October 4, Transport Minister Maurice Williamson said today.

The rule giving effect to most of the changes was gazetted yesterday. The changes in the rule and accompanying regulations include:

* Allowing those drivers holding endorsements the option to renew annually rather than once every five years;

* Changing the current annual police vetting for bus drivers to one vetting every five years;

* Changing the charging system for those holding multiple endorsements so that they pay only one endorsement fee; and

* Expanding the list of documents acceptable as identification for obtaining a licence.

Mr Williamson said these changes would ease some of the difficulties that have arisen in the transition to the new scheme.

"The key goal of the new driver licensing scheme is to improve road safety. We believe that we can still achieve that objective and offer commercial drivers in particular a smoother transition to the new regime."

The changes were in response to feedback from drivers and community groups, particularly in the rural areas.

"Many rural bus drivers are on low incomes or work only a few hours a week. The Government has recognised their concerns."

The changes to the identification requirements were partly in response to problems recent immigrants had in obtaining a licence when they did not have a New Zealand passport or birth certificate, Mr Williamson said.

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As a result, the scope of the identification accepted has been broadened to include:

photographic fire-arms licences;

New Zealand citizenship certificates;

certificates of identity issued under the Passport Act;

overseas drivers' licences; and

* a greater range of non-New Zealand passports and birth certificates.

The Driver Licensing Amendment Rule will also ease transitional arrangements for older drivers by:

* Allowing drivers aged 71 and over with expired licences to simply sit a theory test and an older driver test in order to upgrade to the new photo licences, rather than making them go through the theory test, restricted licence practical test and full licence practical test, as is currently the case; and

* Clarifying that an older driver need only sit an older driver test in the transition to the new licences if the driver if 80, 82, 84 etc.

Other changes also included in the new Rule will:

* Allow passenger, vehicle recovery, driving instructor, testing officer and dangerous goods endorsements to lapse for up to five years, rather than one year as at present, before the holder has to requalify. This will significantly reduce the compliance costs of those who may choose not to drive for a couple of years.

* Reduce the compliance costs for heavy vehicle drivers by introducing some minor changes to the graduated heavy vehicle licensing regime.

* Removing the requirement that driving instructors have to repeat a course of instruction every time they wish to be certified to instruct in additional vehicle types.

ENDS

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