HEAVY vehicle driving tests will resume next Monday in time for the sugar cane harvest in North Queensland.
Canegrowers expressed concern there would be a shortage of haul out drivers for the upcoming season after testing was banned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 60 drivers are needed in the Burdekin district alone, with border closures exacerbating the shortage.
But Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said heavy vehicle practical driving tests would resume on Monday, May 25 following updated health advice.
"This means truck drivers and anyone else who needs a heavy vehicle licence will soon be able to book their practical driving test," Me Bailey said.
He said the safety of drivers and staff would be the highest priority when tests restarted.
"We will ask screening questions before the tests to protect our driving examiners and implement a strict, vehicle-cleaning process before each test," he said.
"The number of test spots available will initially be limited to cater for the staged roll-out and new cleaning measures required.
"Priority will be given to those who previously had heavy vehicle driving tests booked that were cancelled due to COVID-19."
Mr Bailey said the latest health advice supported restarting heavy vehicle testing because of the larger spaces inside heavy vehicle cabins and the industry support to step up hygiene practices.
"There's also an economic imperative here when it comes to heavy vehicle testing - our supply chain depends on very highly skilled drivers, and providing a practical driving test is a critical element of getting more drivers qualified for our via our freight sector."
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan welcomed the announcement, saying the issuing of heavy vehicle licences was essential to ensuring the smooth completion of this year's sugarcane harvest.
"Haul out drivers are an integral link in Queensland's annual crush. Without them our cane doesn't get to the mill, so it's essential we have enough qualified and licenced drivers on hand to complete harvesting operations as quickly and efficiently as possible," Mr Galligan said.
"That's why Canegrowers has been working directly with the state government on behalf of growers to ensure the minister and his department fully understood the importance of this issue and the impact a failure to resolve it quickly could have on this year's harvest.
"I'm pleased to see the government has listened to our concern and .. is now taking steps to not only reinstate heavy vehicle driver testing, but also prioritise the HR licencing process for seasonal agricultural workers."