Applying for a Special Hardship Order (SHO)

What is a special hardship order (SHO)?

A special hardship order is a court order that allows a driver with a suspended provisional or open licence to continue driving under specific and restricted conditions. This order is sought by people who have had their licence suspended through the loss of demerit points but need to keep driving for work or other circumstances.

If you have been charged with Drink or Drug Driving and wish to apply for a restricted work licence for the period of the disqualification period, there is a different application process that is not addressed in this post.

Am I eligible for a special hardship order?

You may be eligible to apply for this order if the suspension of your licence would cause either:

  • Extreme hardship to you or your family, by depriving you of your means of earning a living; or
  • Severe and unusual hardship to you or your family, other than by depriving you of your means of earning a living.

To be eligible for this order, you must be a holder of a Queensland provisional or open driver licence that has been suspended because you either:

  • Gained 2 or more demerit points while driving under a period of good driving behaviour for 1 year
  • Committed a high-speed driving offence (more than 40km/h over speed limit)

You cannot apply for this order if you only held a learner licence.


You will not be eligible to apply for this order if, within the 5 years before your driver licence was suspended:

  • Your Queensland driver licence was cancelled or suspended, including if you were granted a special hardship order during the period of that suspension
  • You were disqualified from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver licence
  • Your authority to drive in Queensland on a non-Queensland driver licence was suspended
  • You were made ineligible to apply for a Queensland driver licence because you either:
    • incurred excessive demerit points
    • were convicted of driving more than 40km/h over the speed limit while unlicensed
  • You were convicted of operating a vehicle dangerously

However, you may still be eligible to apply for a special hardship order if you have received:

  • A suspension for failing to appear in court to answer a drink or drug driving charge
  • An immediate licence suspension because of an alleged drink or drug driving offence
  • A 24-hour suspension because of a matter relating to drink or drug driving
  • A suspension or cancellation set aside on review by the Department of Transport and Main Roads
  • A suspension or cancellation because of mental or physical incapacity
  • A suspension imposed by the State Penalty Enforcement Registry
  • A suspension or cancellation set aside on review by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

How to apply

To apply for this order, you must do the following:

  1. Complete a special hardship order application, available from a Magistrates Court or transport and motoring customer service centre
  2. Lodge the application and supporting evidence (e.g. an affidavit from you, your employer or your doctor) and your ‘Notice of driver licence suspension’ with the Magistrates Court in the district where you live after your suspension has started.
  3. Once accepted and stamped by the court, give a copy of the application and affidavit to the Department of Transport and Main Roads at least 7 days before the court hearing date.

Your licence suspension will be lifted until the day before the court hearing once you have served the filed material on the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

To lodge your application at the Magistrates Court, you will need to pay a fee. There will be no additional fee when you lodge the form with the transport service centre.

Important Information

Some important information to keep in mind when lodging this application is:

  • Ensure you lodge your application and affidavit with the Magistrates Court before providing a copy to the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
  • Do not drive until after you have given a copy of your stamped application to the Department of Transport and Main Roads – only then will your suspension be lifted.
  • If you have the application but not your affidavit, you must then provide your court-stamped copy of the application to Department of Transport, and provide the affidavit at least 7 days before the court hearing.

Creating an Affidavit

An affidavit is a legal document that is used to provide your evidence about a matter. For a special hardship order application be sure to include information that you will rely on for the application, such as:

  • Hours you require to drive for work purposes
  • Reasons as to why there is no other transport method reasonably available for you to get to or from work
  • Reasons as to why you’re the only person available to drive a family member with a medical condition or physical incapacity to receive regular and necessary medical treatment.

You will be required to sign and witness the affidavit in the presence of a Justice of the Peace (JP) or Commissioner of Declarations (Cdec). You can find affidavit forms from Australia Post, Magistrates Court Registry or online at the Queensland Courts website.

If the Magistrate grants the application

If your special hardship order application has been granted by the Magistrate, you will then need to get a replacement licence by completing a replacement driver licence application and paying the associated fee. Your replacement licence will have an ‘X3’ condition code which means you may only drive while carrying the special hardship order.

The special hardship order applies for the suspension period stated on your suspension notice from the date of the court order. Any part of your licence suspension that you serve before the special hardship order is granted will not reduce the special hardship order period.

If you do not comply with the conditions of your special hardship order, you will be charged with an offence and required to attend court.  The court may then impose a fine of more than $2,700 and disqualify you from holding or obtaining a driver licence for a set period. You will not be able to drive for any reason if your licence is disqualified by the court.

If during any stage your circumstances change, you may wish to vary the restrictions of your order. You can do this by completing and lodging a ‘Variation of special hardship order or section 79E order’ to the Magistrates Court.

If the Magistrate refuses your application

If the special hardship application was refused by the Magistrate, then your licence suspension will be reapplied for the remaining period, deducting any time served before you lodged the application.

This post contains general advice only and is not intended as legal advice. 

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