Aspiring truck drivers will no longer need to wait two or three years after passing their basic car driving test to get behind the wheel of a truck, with the government slashing the experience required to zero for those surviving their private car probationary period, or just a year for those from abroad not passing a probationary period.
The government says the move is in response to demands from the commercial vehicle sector, who say they face worker shortages and need “new blood” in an ageing workforce. The law was passed without debate in January and came into effect on 1 October.
According to the government, the relaxation of the truck driving licence rules is “unlikely [to] increase road safety risk”, with the Transport Department (TD) claiming new drivers are no less safe than those with more experience.
“According to the accident statistics captured by the Transport Department (TD) from 2014 to 2018, the traffic accident involvement rates are comparable between drivers holding a full driving licence for a PC or LGV for three or more years and those with a shorter licence-holding period,” says the government.
But accident statistics expose a different narrative, questioning the industry’s call for “young blood: in fact, it is younger drivers who cause more accidents, with only 15% of person-injured truck accidents involving drivers over 60 in 2019.
1,070 people were killed or injured by trucks in Hong Kong last year, with an average truck driver age of just 48. The 56-58 age bracket was the most dangerous in 2019, involved in 82 accidents that caused injury.
According to police, more experienced truck and bus drivers account for the slight majority of pedestrian deaths. Figures released by police in June show 53% of deadly pedestrian crashes involving trucks or buses were caused by drivers with over 10 years’ experience, and 35% by drivers with over 20 years’ experience.
Hong Kong’s Road Safety Council would not comment on the change in law.