The use of a Motorised Mobility Device (MMD) can enable people who cannot walk or have difficulties walking to participate in work, social trips, attend medical appointments and generally meet essential daily needs. However, there is mounting evidence that the maximum unladen mass requirement for MMDs in the Australian Road Rules (ARRs; 110kgs) is a barrier preventing people with a clear need from legally using a heavier device on public infrastructure. This may result in people using non-compliant devices or alternatively experiencing hardship because they cannot legally use a suitable device.
To better understand the issues and implications, the National Transport Commission (NTC) has undertaken extensive consultation involving a national workshop for key stakeholders (November 2018) and an issues paper published for public consultation (January 2019). In addition, ongoing policy advice has been received from key stakeholders through a national working group.
The NTC is seeking feedback on an appropriate response to overcome the barriers identified. In particular, whether or not it is appropriate to increase the maximum unladen mass in the ARRs so that it aligns with the weight requirements set out in the Australian Technical Specification (ATS; SA TS3695.3.2018). That is, removing mass limits for motorised wheelchairs and setting a maximum unladen mass for mobility scooters of 170kgs in the ARRs. Feedback is also requested on the feasibility of amending the ARRs to ensure that all operators of MMDs are classified as pedestrians and as such required to comply with pedestrian road rules.
The NTC has analysed the key issues and impacts associated with these amendments. It has been assessed that these changes would remove existing impediments and allow everyone with a clear need to legally use a MMD that suits their individual needs. This will enable people of all ages and abilities with the freedom to remain mobile and retain their independence and connections with the community.
In addition, increasing mass limits may potentially reduce prices of MMDs by increasing the market size and removing restrictions that may require manufacturers and importers to modify their models for the Australian market. However, it is important to note that the changes to the maximum unladen mass in the ARRs may be met with some minor increase in safety risk to MMD users and other path users.