There are a few reasons why I needed a change of career but without any qualifications, and no work history due to a being self employed since leaving school, I was short on options.
My Dad had been a lorry driver and I still remember travelling with him . I would lay on the floor of the cab looking through the round windows in the foot wells of his truck and watch the road flashing past.
I looked on the Internet and soon found out that the roads were paved with gold and that lorry drivers were harder to find than hens teeth. There were hundreds of companies willing to train me to become a 'steering wheel technician' and a millionaire in no time. All nonsense of course and I found this out when I discovered the TrucknetUK forums.
I got brilliant advice and lots and lots of encouragement as well. I looked around for a decent training centre and didn't base my search just on cost, you get what you pay for in my opinion, or you should do anyway.
I went to J Coates of Leicester and liked what I saw straight away.They looked very professional and I was happy. I had an assessment drive which is designed to see how many days training they think you will need, They said the maximum. Seven. I thought I was a good driver, I thought driving a lorry would be easy, just a bit bigger and the gears would be harder, I was in for a shock, the gears were OK at first, it was a switcher box 4/4 in a Mercedes Artego. It felt massive I thought I was taking up the whole road, I was nervous and scared and I thought I was never going to be able to do it. I forgot every thing I ever knew about the highway code. I was a mess and afterwards I never wanted to go near a Lorry again.
Those thoughts soon passed though and before long I was wishing away the days until my training started. We started at 7 am on a cold February morning and we were in pairs. I watched the instructor as he pulled out of the yard and tried to take everything in. He drove around the test routes and up to the test centre.We parked up and I took over. He went through everything with us, mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Hill starts.Gear changes ,up and down. Most of all he wanted us to take our time. Remember its not a car he kept saying over and over. Nothing clicked and nothing went right at all, I hit kerbs, went round the roundabouts all wrong, I nearly side swiped a few innocent car drivers as well.
I went home after that day and thought It wasn't for me, I thought I would never get it. I didn't want to go back again and dreaded the next morning. It went like that for most of the training. Things did gradually sink in. I was lucky the other trainee was hopeless, he even made me look good.
We got to know the transport cafes in Leicestershire pretty well those 7 days and we went up to Crick to learn the reverse and the braking test. The reverse took ages to sink in and I still sometimes lose my bearings when backing up. I was told to just think, take your time and you will get it. On the night before my test I went up to the test centre in my car and practised driving properly. I was shuffling the wheel, using the mirrors every 2-4 seconds and I left from every route possible so I wouldn't be surprised by any roundabouts or difficult junctions.The test centre has a few weight limits around it and sometimes the examiners try to trick you into taking some of them so I wanted to be prepared.
My training partners test was before mine but ended when he went into reverse on the first roundabout outside the test centre.
I went through the test in a state of mild terror. My legs were shaking and I was struggling to swallow, my gear changing was terrible , I was messing it all up spectacularly. The examiner was brilliant though and kept talking to me about anything other than driving, we chatted about my business (a pub at the time) and how the beer in his local was kept. I relaxed and got round the town in around 40 minutes. It was over and he said "I am pleased to tell you, you have passed," I was shocked and the others who had failed were not best pleased and said it was all down to quotas ,they have to fail so many and pass the rest but I didn't care. I had passed my class C. When I got back to the training centre I signed up with the agency they run and I was driving a truck the next morning. It was a truck collection for the training company.I was on my own in a lorry for the first time. I will tell you about that first journey another day because it also features in one of my sat nav horror stories.
I have no secrets or tricks to tell you or brilliant advice to offer, other than you can do it, take your time and remember, you are passing a test, they want you to obey the laws of the road as much as drive and control the lorry.
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