Professional drivers urged to be tolerant as learner drivers take to UK motorways for the first time

Commercial Motor
June 7, 2018


Lorry drivers have been urged to be patient as L-plated drivers take to motorways for the first time.

The DVSA, which has introduced the freedom for learners to use motorways, asked this week that professional drivers be tolerant.

It said in a statement: “We need you to treat learners how you’d like to be treated. Be patient and considerate of them, and remember what the Highway Code says.”

The DVSA then goes on to quote rule 217 of the code, which says that “learners and inexperienced drivers may not be so skilful at anticipating and responding to events” so professional drivers should be “particularly patient”.

Allowing learners on the motorway should not result in a free-for-all on the UK’s fastest roads because they will only be allowed on when they are ready.

Only a qualified driving instructor with dual controls is permitted to take them on the motorway so, as the DVSA says “there’ll be no learners driving up the M1 with Mum or Dad in the passenger seat”.

The new rule allowing learners on motorways came into force this week (4 June) and the DVSA is keen for truck drivers to see the motorway training as something that will ultimately benefit all road users.

It added: “Driving instructors will only take learner drivers on the motorway when they have the right skills and experience to drive in a high speed environment. They already practise driving on dual carriageways, so this will be a natural progression.”

Motorway lessons will include:

  • how to join and leave the motorway, overtake and use lanes correctly
  • using smart motorways correctly
  • driving at high speed in motorway conditions
  • motorway-specific traffic signs
  • what to do if a vehicle breaks down on a motorway

The DVSA said: “We think it’s much safer for learners to be accompanied by a professional driving instructor the first time they go on a motorway, rather than just to drive onto the motorway for the first time after they pass their test without any prior experience.”

Importantly the DVSA believes that lessons on the motorway will improve the confidence of newly qualified drivers to drive on the motorway  unsupervised after passing their driving test.

Research with new drivers has shown that some avoid using motorways because they lack confidence to use them. This means they spend more time driving on rural roads.

In fact, 80% of all young driver deaths happen on rural roads (just 4% are on motorways). These can be more challenging because of sharp bends, hidden dips, blind summits and concealed entrances.

The DVSA said: “We hope that by teaching the next generation of drivers good lane discipline and how to interact with all vehicles – including lorries and coaches - we can make the motorways safer and more efficient for everyone.

“We also hope it will contribute to a reduction in the number of young drivers being killed on rural roads.”

It is also hoped that fewer collisions will help to keep the road network moving, and save hauliers time and money as they transport goods across the UK.

The RHA welcomed the new rule but stressed that new learners should only be on motorways when ready.

Its chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “It can be a daunting experience for new drivers using motorways so going out with an instructor in a dual controlled car should give them confidence and invaluable experience whilst they’re learning.

“Any measure which makes Britain’s safest roads even safer has to be a good thing.”

The RHA adds that newly qualified drivers should consider taking the Pass Plus training course which offers practical experience behind the wheel in different driving conditions including dual carriageways and motorways.

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Commercial Motor is the online presence for Commercial Motor magazine, the world’s oldest magazine dedicated to the commercial vehicle industry.

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