Fleet insurance and international driver licences

Covid 19 restrictions have been challenging for everyone, but sooner or later, things will return to normal – and that means the return of increased frequency of drivers holding international licences.

While it is unlikely that a client will breach their policy by employing drivers with international licences, this practice does pose a risk to the financial costs of insured or uninsured losses and OH&S.

For a start, some foreign licences do not have the relatively robust structure, processes and protection of Australian licensing regimes. Disclosure of underlying medical conditions, eye tests, understanding of local road rules, even basic handling of a vehicle are fundamental to obtaining an Australian licence.

It’s not a criminal offence for a prospective employee to embellish a job application – but it is to give false information on driver licence applications. The fact that a driver holds an Australian licence doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good candidate for a job – but it does mean they are capable and entitled to operate a vehicle.

A quirk in the demerit points system used in most Australian licensing systems means that international licence holders can incur numerous demerit points yet continue driving. This quirk not only discourages responsible driving but exposes employers to high risk.

Employers may have a higher duty of care for the conduct of international drivers, who may have not been through a more stringent Australian licensing system.

Another major problem is that drivers with international licences are often only temporary visitors. Problems can arise when the fleet owner has incomplete (or no) contact details and the driver has already left the country.

Obtaining the employee’s home or next of kin contact details may go some way to help in collecting crucial details to defend a third-party allegation of an accident but contacting them often remains a near-impossible task.

Australian commercial and heavy motor vehicle fleet insurance policies are generally tolerant towards clients making claims involving drivers with international licences. However, we believe the job of a full-time driver should be held by an Australian licence holder!

The willingness of a new employee to obtain an Australian licence is a good indicator of their intention to remain in the job and in the country – a crucial factor when considering the cost of induction and training.

An employee who holds a foreign licence may be entirely appropriate to occasionally drive a company vehicle as part of their job as a plumber or baker. However, it’s a different matter entirely if the job entails a lot of driving.

If you hold an overseas licence, you are allowed to drive the vehicles covered by your overseas licence in NSW indefinitely, as long as:

  • Your overseas licence remains current
  • You remain a temporary overseas visitor
  • You have not been disqualified from driving in NSW or anywhere else
  • You have not had your licence suspended or cancelled, or your visiting driving privileges withdrawn
  • You carry your overseas driver or rider licence. If your licence is not written in English, you must also carry an English translation, or an International Driving Permit.

You don't have to get a NSW licence if you comply with these conditions and can prove your genuine visitor status to NSW Police, if required.

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Suite 1, Level 18, 
201 Kent Street, 
Sydney NSW 2000