So, you want to become an LGV or PCV driver? Good choice, I'm sure you will enjoy it; it can be rewarding, enjoyable and there is a large employment market. I'm going to guide you into how to ensure you choose a driving school that will enable you to pass your driving test.Let's start at the beginning. The driving test has been around since the late 1960s to try and improve the standard and safety of large vehicle drivers.
The practical driving test hasn't changed a great deal in the past 40 years, you still do a basic reversing exercise, controlled stop of sorts and a few simple moving away manoeuvres on the public roads over a period of up to 90 minutes. The driving test works in the same way as the car driving test, you are trained by a driving instructor and delivered to the test centre where the examiner takes over from the instructor and over the next 90 minutes you will have your ability assessed. The examiner works for a government department called the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and are not connected in any way with individual driving schools. There is no possible way to guarantee passing the test, the only way to pass is to demonstrate you can meet the required minimum standard of driving.
There are three types of truck driving schools:
Family run, long established schools - these will have been set up in the 1970's and 80's and now progressed to their 3rd generation of the family running the business (like me!). They will be trusted by local businesses to provide quality training and offer a good service for the amount of money being paid, quality varies with the price you pay at different companies and they have a vast wealth of knowledge gained over years of experience to help you pass your tests.
Single instructor schools - these consist of one individual who will also be the owner of the company and sole trainer, they will normally have worked for someone like ourselves but have decided to set up their own business. They will maintain a small operation with just a single truck to keep their costs low and keep a very close eye on their operating costs. Training hours will be reduced slightly and as much time as possible is spent parked up for frequent rest breaks and discussion to reduce fuel comsumed. Normally they use an old truck which won't be a full sized articulated truck but instead a drawbar combination so that one vehicle can provide both C and C+E driver training. Facilities can be limited for reversing practice, access to an area to practice will be available but it will often be a transport yard without the correct road markings. Booking administration will depend on how capable/able/busy the instructor is, there might be a wait for your booking to progress to the training stage.
Training brokers - these companies are normally based from offices in London or Essex and don't operate any trucks, they are simply a middleman, about 40% of the fee you will pay them they will keep and the rest will be paid to the driving school they book you with for training - normally a single instructor school like above or a company with a poor local image or website and are struggling to find enough bookings independently. As the rates paid to driving schools are poor well established companies like ourselves won't deal with them because due to our large investment in our facilities we can't provide the quality of training needed for the low rates they provid. I would like to name the companies that we know to be brokers but when we previously did this the owners of the Brokers would contact us daily to remove their name from this page - due to the damaging affect it has on their business.
If you would like to avoid using a broker - Just simply avoid any LGV Training Company that says they have national coverage as these are the brokers, they will often have generic company names such as involving key words like LGV and be based in London offices.
So, who can legally carry out driver training with individuals who will be driving large vehicles that weigh up to 44,000kgs or carry up to 70 people on a passenger carrying vehicle?
You would expect that only trained, professional, government approved instructors with years of driving experience would be able to become LGV and PCV driving instructors (car instructors have to ADI qualified). You would be wrong, any person that has held a truck or bus driving licence for three years or more can teach new LGV or PCV drivers. Indeed, you may pass your driving test on a lorry, wait three years, never drive a truck and then set up your very own truck driver training school. So, don't expect every driving school to provide an experienced competent instructor.
Now, onto the facilities that all truck and coach driving schools must have, this is exactly none!
Why pay thousands of pounds for a tarmac/concrete yard with the reversing area set out using yellow lines, traffic cones and a parking bay with a barrier the same as the driving test centre, when a driving school doesn't need one and can just use a car park or a spare area of surfaced yard.
Don't they need to have an operators licence to run a driving school truck or coach?
You must have an operators licence to run a transport business but driving schools don't need one! This means they are exempt from having a qualification in operating large vehicles called a Certificate of Professional Competence. Companies inscope of needing 'O' licence will need to have systems in place such as 6 weekly mechanical vehicle inspections, drivers hours records and many policies on transport related safety issues. Because driving schools are exempt, all that is required that the vehicle passes an MOT once every twelve months.
What about the quality of driving school vehicles, surely wherever I go for training I will have a decent truck to use.
You might hope you get a good vehicle but a new truck will cost around £75,000 and an old truck with 600,000kms on the clock can be bought for a lot less and still have some life left in it. All the driving test requires is that the vehicle must have a box body, at least 8 metres long for Category C, ABS brakes and an MOT with motor insurance. Not too hard to find a vehicle that meets those rules for around £10,000 or even less. So don't automatically expect to be driving a good vehicle that is well maintained, if it will manage the driving test and pass an MOT once a year it will do fine.
So far it's looking like it would be very easy to set up a 'shady' truck driving school, and you would be right!
So, enough of the negatives, how do I choose a good driving school to spend my money with?
The only way to find out if the company is any good will be by going to see them for one short driving lesson, known as an assessment drive. This will give you the chance to see their premises and ensure they have a reversing area for practice. Ensure that the owner of the company is easily accessible should you need to talk to them - some companies have unadvertised head offices in another part of the country and the instructor will not help you contact them. By driving the vehicle you will be able to tell if it drives well or feels old and worn out and finally if the instructor seems skilled, knowledgeable and approachable.
But what if you've seen this great deal for training and they promise to put you in touch with a jobs/employers but can't visit the company because they seem to be a broker (many brokers will say they are not a broker on the phone)? Just think of it like this, would you pay £1,000s for a sofa without first at least sitting on it? I doubt you would, and you should apply the same practice to buying driver training. Also, be wary of fast track courses that advertise you will be able you to get your C+E artic licence quicker, because frankly this system doesn't exist. It would be fair to say it's a fast track system to enable the driver training provider access to more of your money more quickly!
It's possible that brokers will tell you all sorts to get your money such as how you can earn lots of money being a driver and that there are vast numbers of jobs available, this is not always the case - ask your local employers.
Tockwith Training have had customers who have been told by a broker that they would send them to a particular training school that they asked for (us) but we don't work for a broker. All along they have intended to send them somewhere else that will be cheaper and less inclusive than our training. Driver training brokers do not own any trucks, the only vehicle they have is the bosses leased car, they are normally based in an office block somewhere in London and if you want to complain they will be hard to visit in person.
So, to sum up, don't use a middle man, go direct to your local good quality driving school.
Don't be tricked by fancy looking websites from training brokers that promise everything because they offer less value for money than going direct to a local driving school. You want facilities that you're happy with, old trucks aren't a problem if they are well maintained but new ones are best and an instructor that you have confidence in their ability to get you through the driving test.