Old Bike Australasia
A licence to thrill
The story on “Scoring a Nought” in OBA 96 brought back memories of different times and different licensing requirements.
In New Zealand in the ’60s you only needed to be 15 to get a car licence. I had been driving my parents’ car for at least 2 years, so three days after my 15th birthday I got my licence with much the same process as written about in the story. Answer a few questions, drive around the block, sign here! In those days a car licence also entitled the holder to ride a power cycle up to 50cc. The next year the powers that be decided that a motorcycle licence was required to ride all these small machines. At that time licences had to be renewed every year, there were no 5-year licences. To simplify matters, the authorities only required a car licence holder to sign a statement that they had experience on a power cycle and a full motorcycle licence was attached to the car licence. Of course, I signed, despite a pushbike being my only form of two-wheeled travel. There were no restrictions, no categories, just a full licence at 16. I bought a ’56 Gold Flash shortly afterwards. It doesn’t end there. Quite a few years later I wanted to drive a school bus on gravel country back roads in the far north of NZ. The test was in a very small 10-12 seat bus with a non-synchromesh gear box. I passed the very basic test similar to the above and received my bus licence, again with no categories but allowing me to drive any size bus including 60+ seaters, which I did.
Move on a number of years and I’m now in Australia living in a mining town and working in an admin position in a small civil engineering and concrete producing company. Although I wasn’t a regular driver I filled in if necessary driving agitator and semi trucks, front end loaders etc. I knew the local Transport Dept officer and he suggested I should get the correct licences, so it was arranged to do the semi licence on a Saturday morning. The tractor unit had been disconnected from the trailer and I mentioned that I would go and connect prior to the test. However, the examiner had had a very heavy Friday night and didn’t really want to be there and suggested that if I could drive the tractor unit only around the block then all would be good and he could go home. I did, he went home and I got my rigid and semi licences plus the appropriate front end loader approvals in the mail shortly after.
On a few more years and this time I’m working, again in an administrative position, for a shipping company in a remote part of Australia. Again I filled in when necessary and was operating side loaders, forklifts, mobile cranes (small ones) primarily around the yard, as required. The visiting
WPHS officer suggested I should hold licences for these for insurance purposes. I agreed, and a few weeks later the appropriate licences arrived in the mail.
It’s been an extended process, but the only three tests I have actually had to complete were my car licence at 15, a bus licence 10 or so years later and a quick drive around the block for my truck licences after another 10 years or so. I’m now well into my 70s and with the exception of my motorcycle and car licences, I’ve never used the licences for anything but an administrative fill-in. Different times and different places.