As the Government prepares for the changes to the HGV driving tests this month, to free up an additional 50,000 tests a year, Driver Hire Training have commented on the effects of the changes, and what it means for the future of testing.
With the current strain on the number of HGV driving tests available, the Government are making plans and changes to free an additional 50,000 tests a year, which mainly comes from removing stages from driving tests.
Firstly, they’re removing the B+E testing stage, which currently means you have a licence to tow a trailer (or to the like) in a car or van, which will free up 30,000 tests. This means that anyone that passes their standard driving test will now be able to tow a trailer without having to undergo additional testing. [Note – the Government has now announced that this change will not take place on 15th November, but soon after].
Secondly, they’re also removing stage testing from the HGV driver test.
Right now you must pass one test to drive a rigid truck (Category C licence) and then another test to drive articulated lorries (Category C+E licence), whereas the government are proposing that students can now take their test in an articulated lorry, removing the requirement for the Category C test to be done first. With this stage testing, the average pass rate across these two tests is 54% which means, on average, every driver does roughly 3 tests each to get their full HGV driver’s licence. Removing this stage testing and just having prospective drivers learn in both vehicles will again free up even more tests.
Although the change is partially designed to pass HGV drivers quicker, some instructors are warning that it may take longer to get a student to where they need to be, as the jump from driving a car to a C+E vehicle is more than that of a Cat C truck. What some training schools are planning on doing is starting students in a Cat C vehicle for the first three lessons (first nine hours) to get the student used to driving a larger vehicle before they finish the rest of their teaching in an articulated truck. Another consideration is that the majority of driving schools will likely have more rigid (Cat C) lorries than articulated lorries (Cat C+E) as stage testing has been in place for 24 years, therefore some may need to look at upgrading their fleet of vehicles.
Furthermore, the government are also looking to remove the reversing and coupling elements from the official test which in turn will make tests shorter, meaning DVSA examiners can do more tests during a single day. This part of the test is the first skill drivers are asked to demonstrate and involves blind reversing around corners, as well as proving that they can uncouple and recouple the trailer to the truck. This skill will still be examined, but it will be done so under the supervision of the driving schools’ students are learning through. The school’s examiner will have to be approved by the DVSA and will also have to be different to the actual person training individuals.
This change to testing has significant pros and cons.
A positive to this, is that at the beginning of a driving test you are typically the most nervous as you’re settling into the test and getting used to the examiner. With this skill being the first thing students must demonstrate in their test, it can be extremely daunting which often results in some failing disproportionately on nerves over their actual skill level. Therefore, it could be a good thing that in future this will be done under different circumstances.
A negative to the removal of the reversing element from the driving test, is the risk that some less compliant companies, although DVSA approved, may be tempted to exploit this new way of working. There is a theoretical risk that some schools could be tempted to boost their own pass rates by being less rigorous in this aspect of their testing. So, it is important to make sure that the government do properly monitor third party examiners to ensure this risk, although hypothetical, does not happen.
Driver Hire Training specialise in training and recruiting HGV drivers. A full podcast from experts at Driver Hire on the topic can be found here.