Obtaining your HGV driving licence is your passport to a fulfilling career as a professional lorry driver. After investing time and money into your Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) training, you’ll want to get qualified and move into employment as quickly as possible. The Driver CPC involves both theory and practical driving tests, but the one that most drivers find the most daunting is undoubtedly the practical driving test.
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What is the practical driving test?
The practical driving test is part 3 of the Driver CPC. It lasts 1 hour 30 minutes and includes the following three elements: vehicle safety questions, practical road driving and off-road exercises. The following driving skills will be assessed:
- Using the vehicle controls.
- Moving away at an angle (uphill and downhill).
- Doing a controlled stop.
- Using your mirrors.
- Giving appropriate signalling.
- Awareness and anticipation.
- Managing your progress and controlling your speed.
- Dealing with hazards.
- Identifying a safe place to stop
- Coupling and uncoupling a trailer (if you’re taking your test with a trailer)
- An S-shaped reverse into a parking bay.
Top tips for passing your test first time
It can feel daunting taking any practical test. But when it comes to driving, many of us are taken back to the time we took our first car driving test. That feeling that it isn’t completely under your control. That whether or not you pass may have nothing to do with your driving ability and all to do with how the examiner feels on the day, or how the traffic behaves around us.
However, it’s important to remember that you’re now older, and wiser, with driving experience under your belt. By the time you do your practical test, you’ll have learnt and passed the theory elements and have a good number of HGV driver training logged. It won’t take much – just the right preparation and attitude – to pass first time.
Here are our top tips for passing your HGV driver training practical test:
Before the test
Practice, practice, practice
According to Benjamin Franklin ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ and we couldn’t agree more. The best way to prepare for your test and gain confidence in your abilities is to make sure you get in plenty of practice. Especially with the more tricky reversing and parking manoeuvres. Also, familiarise yourself with local routes, so you’re aware of where issues could arise and problematic junctions. Finally, go back to basics and brush up on your overall knowledge of HGV driving – the theory, as well as the practical. You don’t want to fail for mis-reading a sign.
Get a good night’s sleep
The night before your test is not the night to hit the town. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, and on the day make sure you’re well nourished and hydrated. Try not to have too much caffeine; one cup can improve alertness, but more than four cups a day can increase anxiety and make you jittery, impairing your driving ability.
Dress comfortably and appropriately
Make sure you’re dressed comfortably for your test, but also appropriately. Wear proper footwear – flip flops may be comfortable in the summer heat, but they’re not suitable for a driving test!
Try to arrive for your test at least 15 minutes before your allotted test time. Also, make sure you have your driving licence and all relevant documentation with you. Get this together the night before, so it’s one less thing to think about on the day. Finally, to minimise distractions, switch off your phone. Text alerts and notifications are annoying at the best of times. But they’re the last thing you need when you’re taking your driving test.
Be positive and confident
It’s natural to be a bit nervous before your test. After all, this is your body’s way of raising adrenaline when you’re anxious and it can be good for your performance. But too much anxiety can be catching, so go into your test feeling positive and confident. A short final warm-up lesson before your test can help you prepare mentally, calming your nerves and putting you into the right mindset.
During the test
Check your mirrors
Just like in your car driving test, the examiner will want to see you checking your mirrors frequently. Ideally, you should do this every 5-10 seconds. In particular, make sure the examiner sees you checking whenever you pull away, turn left or right, change gears or slow down.
Remember your blind spots
Always check your blind spots before moving off from the side of the road. Make sure to check over your shoulder for cyclists.
Stay calm and collected, always anticipating road conditions. As well as smooth gear changes, you should avoid unnecessary braking. So when you need to slow down or stop, do it early. Remember, safety first.
Tips for manoeuvres
You’re allowed to take your seatbelt off for reversing manoeuvres, which can be of help to some drivers. Just remember to put it on immediately afterwards. Also, you can exit the vehicle once to check your position, and perform two forward shunts with a trailer. So use this allowance if necessary, to perform the manoeuvre cleanly.
Don’t panic if you make a mistake
Remember, you can make up to 15 minor mistakes (but only one major one). So don’t panic if you make a small error, and give up on your test. Let it go, and keep driving as if it didn’t happen. You may not have failed on that error, but then do so afterwards because you’ve let your standards dip.
So there you have it. Our top tips for passing your practical driving test. If you pass, then that’s great! You can move on to obtain your full Driver CPC and starting your career as a professional HGV driver. If you’ve failed, make sure to go through what you failed on with the examiner. Talk to your instructor to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Stay positive, you will get there. In fact, you can rebook your test immediately, and only have to wait 3 clear days before retaking the test.