The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has announced plans to allow trainee LGV drivers to take their practical tests on automatic trucks.
At the moment all vehicles presented for test must have at least eight forward gears, which is achieved using a variety of manual transmissions, including splitters, range-changes and slap-overs.
New legislation, set to be implemented later this year, will do away with the minimum number of gears required and allow the use of two-pedal transmissions. The only stipulation is that the truck must have a manual selector facility (such as a paddle), to allow the driver to change gear manually if required.
Whereas car drivers who learn to drive in an automatic are not allowed to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, LGV drivers who pass on a two-pedal transmission will be permitted to drive a truck with a manual gearbox.
But new drivers who pass on an automatic are going to be at a disadvantage when they try to get a job, warned Sean Pargeter of Surrey-based EP Training. “There are still a lot of manual trucks out there in the real world and an employer is more likely to offer the job to a candidate who has had experience with a manual gearbox.”
Another significant change expected later this year, will require all trucks presented for test to be laden. Category C (rigid) vehicles must carry five tonnes, artics must have eight tonnes on the trailer, and drawbars must carry a five-tonne load on the unit and three tonnes on the trailer. Loads will consist of water-filled intermediate bulk containers (IBC), each weighing one-tonne.
Pargeter says the increased costs associated with running laden vehicles, and buying IBCs, will have to be passed on to trainees drivers.