The answer to today’s question demonstrates that the law may prescribe important details, but more often the law empowers. Legislation empowers the public service to set out the details and exercise discretion, and how they do that becomes the law in practice. This question is about driving emergency vehicles in WA. My correspondent employs
… a Volunteer Ambulance Officer (St John Ambulance WA) and he is required to drive an ambulance in an emergency situation on public roads both in his employment with SJAWA and myself (we attend high risk sporting events). I assumed that as a volunteer with SJAWA he was qualified to drive under emergency conditions, but he does not possess “Driving vehicles under operational conditions (PUAVEH001B)”.
Could you please clarify whether all drivers of Emergency vehicles must possess Nationally Accredited qualifications or just those organisations not contracted to provide 000 services?
I have included a link to the Department of Transport Application for Emergency Vehicle Status or Authorisation to Fit and Display Flashing Warning Lights (Last updated: 13/08/2020) which says:
“EVS [Emergency Vehicle Status] may be approved where a vehicle is not specifically authorised to operate as an emergency vehicle under WA roads laws. Drivers of an EVS approved vehicle are exempt from complying with specified road rules and must be trained in driving vehicles under operational conditions (PUAVEH001B)”.
An emergency vehicle is defined in the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 (WA) r 226 as
(a) a police vehicle ordinarily used by police officers in the course of carrying out their duties;
(b) a vehicle operated by —
(i) a fire brigade under the Fire Brigades Act 1942; or
(ii) a bush fire brigade under the Bush Fires Act 1954; or
(iii) the department of the Public Service principally assisting in the administration of the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1998,
and ordinarily used by members of the brigade or members of staff of that department in the course of carrying out their duties;
(c) an ambulance;
(d) an emergency vehicle within the meaning of a corresponding law [ie an interstate emergency vehicle];
(e) a vehicle in respect of which a declaration under regulation 227(a) is in force.
Regulation 227 says ‘The CEO may, for the purposes of this Part, declare a vehicle, or each vehicle in a class of vehicles, to be — (a) an emergency vehicle…’
An emergency vehicle may be fitted with flashing warning lights (r 327) and a siren (r 251).
The critical thing is that if a vehicle is an emergency vehicle as defined in paragraphs (a) to (d) then it is an emergency vehicle and can be fitted with flashing lights (of a colour approved by the CEO) and a siren. In the Transport Application for Emergency Vehicle Status or Authorisation to Fit and Display Flashing Warning Lights the Department sets out what it considers are emergency vehicles as defined by r 226 (a) to (c).
I note that what is an ‘ambulance’ is not defined. If my correspondent has an ambulance (see What’s an ambulance? (May 28, 2017) they could argue that their vehicle is an emergency vehicle by virtue of r 226(c) and therefore no authorisation is required. Just because this document from DoT says the ambulance exemption only applies to St John Ambulance that is not what the regulation says. It just refers to an ‘ambulance’, not the agency that operates the ambulance. No doubt that is something that could entertain the Supreme Court in due course.
There is nothing in the Road Traffic Code 2000 nor the Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Regulations 2014 (WA) that imposes any particular condition on a licence to allow a person to drive under emergency conditions or to require them to complete any particular course. For the drivers of a vehicle that is an emergency vehicle by virtue of sub-paragraphs (a) to (c) of the definition of emergency vehicle, it will be up to the agency that operates the emergency vehicle to determine what training they have.
What we do know, from the document supplied, is that the CEO has determined that as a condition of making a declaration under the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 he or she must be satisfied that any driver does hold the PUAVEH001B qualification. That is a condition that applies to the driver of a vehicle that is an emergency vehicle by virtue of rr 226(e) and 227. It does not apply to the driver of a vehicle that is an emergency vehicle because of r 226(a) to (d).
Putting aside the lack of definition of what is an ambulance, the answer to the question is reasonably clear. It is not the case in WA that all drivers of emergency vehicles must possess the PUAVEH001B qualification. That requirement only applies to organisations that operate a vehicle that is an emergency vehicle by operation of rr 226(e) and 227; that is a vehicle that is an emergency vehicle because the CEO has declared that it is an emergency vehicle. Where the vehicle is an emergency vehicle without the CEO’s approval, then this requirement does not apply. That is what the DoT document says too. It says:
Drivers of an EVS approved vehicle … must be trained in driving vehicles under operational conditions (PUAVEH001B).
An EVS approved vehicle is a vehicle ‘not specifically authorised to operate as an emergency vehicle under WA roads laws’. Vehicles that are emergency vehicles by virtue of r 226(a) to (d) are not ‘an EVS approved vehicle’ because they are ‘specifically authorised to operate as an emergency vehicle under WA roads laws’.