Train of thought: truck driver training

26 February 2013

Trucks offer supreme cargo-carrying capabilities and are crucial in enabling an operator to generate profit. These cash-generating vehicles weigh some 25 times that of a family saloon and, for operators in the heavier plant and low-loader business, a truck, trailer and loader combination on the road could easily be 40 times the weight of each car on the road around it.

With the increased weight and size come extra layers of laws and regulations: getting the right driver training, and the right driving licence, is vital.

EP Training Services is a UK-based truck driver training company. Sean Pargeter, sales director, takes us through the European truck driver classifications. Say, for example, you run a transport firm in the EU. You have a staff member, with a car licence, who wants to drive a truck. “Under the old rules, anyone who passed their car test before 1 January, 1997, also acquired the C1 – the category classed as up to 7.5 tonnes,” says Pargeter. “They got that under grandfather rights. Anybody who passed their driving test after 1 January 1997 is limited to 3.5 tonnes. So, if you are now moving from a car to the LGV (large goods vehicle) sector, the logical step is to take the C1, the 7.5 tonne category.

“But, in the UK, you can leapfrog the C1, and go straight on to the Category C, which is for the rigid-type vehicle where the cab and the load bed are permanently fixed.”

Here, the category includes trucks over 7.5 tonnes GVW (gross vehicle weight), but not more than 32 tonnes. After that, we enter the domain of the true “heavies”, the Category C+E, in the EU. This is the world of articulated trucks, with their enormous carrying capability. Paper, automotive components, heavy plant, and tanks – all can be transported by Category C+E licence holders.

More steps

Pargeter points out that “stage testing” applies here. Before candidates can take the C+E practical test, they must have already passed the Category C practical test. As years have gone by, there is a lot more to gaining the C+E, than simply passing the practical stage. “There is a bit of a process involved now,” explains Pargeter. “It’s not just a case of getting your provisional licence, and doing a driving test. You have to do a medical first, to confirm that you are physically fit. Then, you apply for the appropriate provisional entitlement. When your licence comes back, you have a number of theory tests that you have to get through, and the practical test.

“If someone (looking to secure the C+E licence) came to us today, it would probably take between six and eight weeks to complete everything. That would be from scratch, from a car licence.”

At EP, says Pargeter, 80% of candidates pass the C+E test first time. The cost, for each, is in the region of UK£2,500 (US$ 4,000). “It is a fair old investment,” he remarks. Crucially, though, he points out, after gaining the coveted C+E licence, there are no restrictions on truck GVW, in the UK and the rest of the EU. With the licence in their possession, drivers can operate in the STGO (Special Types General Order) specialized truck sector. Truck drivers in the EU must also take the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

Pargeter says: “This came into force on 10 September 2009. Drivers who (before that date) already had a licence to drive goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes are subject to periodic driver CPC training, which equates to 35 hours every five years.

“New entrants (after 10 September 2009) who do not have the C1 (7.5 tonnes) must do the initial Driver CPC which, in essence, is one extra theory test and one extra practical test. Once they have acquired the initial qualification, then they will be subject to periodic driver CPC training – 35 hours every five years.”

Solid implementation of training procedures is necessary, too. Pargeter warns that, if it is found that a driver does not have the correct “licence entitlement”, in the event of an accident, an insurer could render a policy useless.

EP employs 11 full-time trainers. Pargeter explains that, in the UK, there is no compulsory training for the instructors themselves. Existing C+E licence holders are free to teach customers to drive a truck, after some time spent behind the wheel. But there is a voluntary qualification, which proves trainers have the credentials. EP also runs a course for this, in addition to its normal driver training programmes.

“The most common one (in the UK) is the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) LGV Instructors Register, and that is a certificate which lasts for four years. It confirms that you have both passed a practical truck driving test and, also, that you have passed the test in instructor ability.

“The knowledge imparted is only as good as the instructor providing the course. Training with a reputable, established training provider will pay dividends, and help ensure the driver acquires the right skills and knowledge.”

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