Tockwith Training Blog?
Drawbar or Articulated LGV C+E / HGV Class 1?
Drawbar or Artic for Class 1 Driver Training?
Since the 1st January 1997 it has been possible to take a driving test in either a drawbar truck and trailer or an articulated truck with trailer. Just for those that don’t know the difference between the two I’ll try and explain.
Drawbar vehicle – visually the length of the trailer and the towing vehicle or as it’s known, the prime mover will be a similar. Making the load carry capacity/volume much the same in both the truck/prime mover and the trailer. The pivot point or in other words the location of the trailer hitch is roughly halfway down the length of the vehicle and trailer combination length.
Articulated vehicle – the most common type of truck you will see on the public roads, it’s very recognisable as a normal big truck and trailer. The trailer will be 10-13.6 metres in length and the truck, known at the tractor unit and only around 6 metres in length. From this description you can tell the trailer is much longer than the truck that pulls it.
Should you learn to drive and pass your driving test in a Drawbar combination or an articulated truck? There are definitely good arguments both ways:
Drawbar, the good points;
While a full length drawbar combination vehicle can be up to 18.75m long the vehicles used by driving schools tend to be much shorter. A full sized drawbar vehicle is perhaps the hardest of all the different types of Class 1 vehicles to drive, however the shorter variants used by driving schools are the opposite. Due to the position of the trailer hitch under the rear of the prime mover, known as close coupled and the trailer being fairly short in length towed close behind the prime mover, also helped by the trailer axles being centrally positioned the vehicle and trailer can easily be steered around moderate corners without the driver needing to position the vehicle across multiple lanes before making a turn.
When reversing the vehicle you will also notice the trailer is quicker to respond to steering inputs from the driver, helped by the trailer axles being mounted in the centre and that the trailer hitch is behind the rear wheels of the prime mover in a overhang position, so any steering action is amplified, the amount depends on how great the distance is from the rear axle to the hitch position.
More often than not, if you are intending passing your rigid Category C test first, then your Class 1, the training will be conducted on the same vehicle towing the trailer, transforming it from a Category C to a C+E vehicle. You will be familiar with the controls/features and this will help you adapt to driving the vehicle with less time as you will already be familiar with how it operates.
Articulated, the good points;
Lets not pretend here, I doubt you are here to get a job driving a drawbar vehicle – you want to drive artics, as there are quite a few differences in the reversing, coupling and general handling of the vehicle. While it can be argued that its best to make it as easy for yourself as possible to pass the test it makes sense to learn to drive in a vehicle realistic of the type you intend to drive as an employed driver. Due to the highly competitive nature of haulage most employers will conduct a driving assessment as part of the job interview and if you don’t have the ability to reverse a full sized artic into a small parking bay you will asked to gain more experience before coming back to try again. Employers in the majority are not interested investing their time and money in improving your skills – you need to come to the job interview capable right from the beginning.
The un-coupling and re-coupling of the trailer is much easier because the trailer hitch is placed above the drive axle of the tractor unit and the action of how the trailer connects to the hitch, known as the fifth wheel has a much larger margin for error, its possible to be out of line with the trailer by as much as 10 inches and it will still find its way to locating the pin and fifth wheel. Connecting of the air and electrical lines is also made easier by their location behind the cab.
While the trailer might be a lot bigger than the towing vehicle, a tractor unit is extremely manoeuvrable, it enables you the driver to very sharply turn the trailer into places both forwards and backwards that a drawbar vehicle would not find posible.
Drawbar, the bad points;
While there are many companies that use drawbar vehicle these are not usually haulage companies but instead specialist companies transporting their own goods or services. It’s likely that you won’t be familiar with articulated class 1 vehicles you will end up driving at work. Potentially this could be hazardous if not dangerous for the general public and the novice driver – the potential is relative to the competence of driver.
Because the coupling procedure and reversing technique are different and similar all at the same time it will mean extra learning is required before you can competently carry out normal work duties. This in turn leads to less attractive employee to many haulage companies as they will need to invest their own time and effort into making you competent before you can start earning them a living.
Artic, the bad points;
Adapting to reversing and positioning an articulated vehicle when making turns is far more difficult to begin with, you will not adapt as quickly to driving this vehicle. The amount the trailer cuts the corner is dramatic and the trailer is much harder at first to get it go where you want it to when reversing. You will be able to reverse competently but the amount of practice required is much greater, especially for those that struggle to reverse any sort of trailer.
The driver also needs a greater level of forward planning to cope with the pronounced positioning before making turns so that the trailer wheels don’t mount a kerb or worse come in contact with other road users, cyclists, pedestrians or street furniture. It’s true to say that not all motorists are capable of competently driving articulated vehicles, almost anyone can drive a rigid vehicle or a drawbar vehicle but articulated vehicles are more challenging especially for a novice.
So, should you learn in a drawbar truck or an articulated vehicle? Our customers told us they preferred articulated vehicles as they left us after passing their test more capable to go into employment. The choice however is yours to make.
Author: Laurie Moore BA Hons,
Director Tockwith Training & Board Member National Register of LGV Instructors.
Laurie is passionate about industrial driver and operator instruction, having a wealth of knowledge gained from a workling lifetime providing training to new drivers and operators of a variety of trucks, buses, forklifts and HIAB's.