Straight to Class 1 but is it a good idea to skip Class 2
HGV learners are being urged to follow the tried and tested training path - despite a law change removing the need to pass a test for small rigid lorries before learning to drive and passing a test for the biggest lorries on the road.
For over 3 decades, drivers have had to pass a test to obtain a Category C licence, otherwise known as Class 2, before being allowed to train and test for a Category C+E licence, or Class 1. But drivers may shortly be able to bypass the smaller category. The law change is currently being discussed by the government.
It’s a move brought in by the Government to address the national shortage of HGV drivers but one which has met with fierce criticism from within the industry because it will mean that a driver who has passed a normal car test will be able to move straight to Class 1 vehicle training and testing without the benefit of smaller lorry experience.
Steve Dulson, of Dulson Training, which has bases in Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrexham, said it effectively means that a driver with limited or no HGV experience could in theory be trained, tested and on the road driving an articulated lorry within what amounts to a matter of days.
“The Government is taking out the staging process which has been in operation for 30 years - something they introduced because they felt taking the smaller category test improved road safety. Now they are removing that requirement,” he said. “Some people are saying it is going back to how things used to be but it is not. The lorries are much bigger now, roads are busier and the minimum age to drive a Class 1 vehicle used to be 21, now it’s 18.
“It means you could turn up in a small car with very limited experience and go out on the road at 18 in a 44-tonne artic. There are a lot of very sensible and very capable 18-year-old drivers but the fact that you can go from a car to Class 1 in a matter of days is deeply concerning for many people.
“It’s all about having to take fewer tests, clearing the backlog and freeing up time for examiners so we can get more drivers on the road to address the current driver crisis. But it’s important to remind people that the law hasn’t changed yet, we don’t know exactly when it will come in, and even when it does people can still follow the traditional path of passing the Class 2 test before moving on to Class 1 - something we believe is still the best way to proceed.
“There are some advantages to skipping a test and moving straight to Class 1, you will remove the waiting time between the 2 tests but there are important skills to learn by driving smaller lorries which will stand you in good stead when you move on to the big ones.
“The Class 2 course is cheaper and provides a good basic grounding. It means you can pass your test, get a job, earn a living while gaining valuable experience and then, if you wish, come back and do your Class 1 - that could be after a few months or after a few years. Even if you go straight to Class 1 under the new changes, it’s important to still have some lessons on smaller lorries - even if you don’t intend taking that test.”
Mr Dulson said the changes could also lead to more people applying for the relevant licence, sparking even longer delays to the DVLA’s current four-month processing backlog, and that some insurers had already voiced concerns about drivers with very little experience bypassing the Class 2 test. Some hauliers have even stated that they would not recruit anyone who skips the Cat C test, feeling that it provides a better and safer driver.
“A number of employers have told us they don’t want to take on people that have gone straight to Class 1,” he added. “They have more confidence in the staging process of doing Class 2 first.
“The other thing that’s changing is off-road reverse and coupling exercise are being moved from the DVSA driving test, meaning you no longer need to reverse and uncouple on the test. But it’s still a requirement in that it will become the responsibility of the trainer, namely us, to assess and test people on that.
“As a leading training provider, we are not losing our focus and are looking to assist the national driver shortage by getting more drivers onto the road by providing them with the appropriate skills-set. We still provide and will continue to provide the training for both classes of vehicle. We have already had a large number of people stating that they would not want to go straight to the Class 1. They feel from a confidence stand point and cost that the staging process of Class 2 and then Class 1 is still the best way forward.
If the Cat C is skipped, additional training will be required to pass the Class 1. Currently the Cat C course is around 1 week and then the up-skill to Cat C+E is another week. If you decide to go straight to Cat C+E it will likely be a 2 week course. You will still need the skills and training time like when the process was staged.
Dulson Training provides all types of training, including HGV, PCV, Safe Towing, Driver CPC, forklift, First Aid, and ADR courses. For more information call Wrexham 01978 805868, Telford 01952 770659, Shrewsbury 01743 709611 or visit the website at https://www.dulsontraining.co.uk/