I had always thought there might be a few people on our roads who would have more than just a passing interest in the new licensing laws and who might have found my first article of interest. Judging by the response we have had so far, it seems this is a topic of great concern to many people, both personally and professionally and one that needs looking into a little further.
It had originally been my intention for this article to be a rough outline of the basic structure of the car and trailer test (ie B+E test), for you to read as a matter of interest, thinking, of course, that you would never actually have to do it yourself. Well, for many of you, it would appear this may have changed from:
“Oh, that’s interesting”, to:
“Oh no, have I really got to do that?”
So, if you find yourself in the position of having to take this test, this is what is in store: sit back and enjoy (or, as somebody famous probably once said: “Read it and weep!”).
You will be asked questions regarding basic vehicle maintenance, safety and trailer loading. You will not be tested on your knowledge of vehicle and trailer weights, but it is useful information to know. Neither will you have to take another theory test, not yet anyway. There are three manoeuvres you will have to do. These are done at the test centre, away from other people. You will be pleased to know that, for obvious reasons, you will not have to do a turn in the road, reverse round a corner or parallel park! However, you will have to un-hitch and hitch the trailer; reverse into a parking bay; and do a brake test (similar to emergency stop), all of which I have outlined below:
Disconnect and re-connect trailer
You may think that this is so easy, that it hardly needs mentioning. After all, you do this every time you go out with the trailer. Maybe, but on the test, accuracy is important and not, as most of us do, that we just get reasonably close and then manhandle the trailer into place. This is not really the right way to do things anyway – those trailers can get heavy and we risk doing ourselves permanent injury. A slight manual adjustment side to side is acceptable and much easier than forward and backward.
There will be a series of cones laid out at the test centre with the distances depending on the size of the vehicle and trailer you are using. You will drive forward from cones ‘A’ to cones ‘C’; reverse passing cone ‘B’ on your right-hand side; into parking area as indicated with cones ‘D’ and ‘D1’. The rear of the trailer must stop within a marked area which is 3 feet from the end of the bay. The examiner will not be in the car with you (unless it’s raining, then he may change his mind) but will be watching from various points outside. He will be making sure you do not turn the steering wheel the wrong way at any point and that your general control and observations all round the vehicle are good. He will also be checking that you do not dry-steer.
The manoeuvre is actually easier to do than it looks but does need plenty of practice. You need to be sufficiently familiar with it so that you do not have to think about which way to turn the wheel. If you have your own car/trailer you can spend many happy hours practicing this by yourself – providing you can find a space big enough. A word of warning – Tescos will not be too impressed if you try practicing it in their car park on a Saturday afternoon!
Similar to the emergency stop as performed during the car test. There will be a pair of cones positioned about 60 feet from a marked starting point and you will accelerate up to 20 mph (no more) until you get to the cones. You then perform a controlled emergency stop keeping the vehicle in control. Easy.
First things first. We have to get rid of any bad habits that you may have picked up since passing you car test. Like sticking to speed limits. Yes, that’s right, 30mph means 30, not 32 or 33. Or 40! Or 20, for that matter. To help, you can at least take solace in the fact that you will have ‘L’ plates on so other drivers will expect you to be driving within the limits. They may not like it but will at least expect it.
In addition to driving to existing car test standards, you will be expected to display a high level of vehicle control and observations, as well as tolerance of other people’s stupidity. This, you will soon come to realise, takes on even greater significance than normal. Other drivers dislike being stuck behind learners, or caravans or horseboxes, so putting the two together does not a marriage in heaven make! They can tend to get very impatient and try overtaking in some of the most breathtakingly stupid places, including, as happened to me recently, trying to overtake on the inside when you are turning left! Use of mirrors; forward observations; planning and early reactions to developing hazards are essential. This will give you a smooth and fluent drive and, strangely, by slowing a little sooner and giving yourself a bit more time to assess the situation, you will find you actual make quicker progress: and be less stressed too.
The old routine of MSM should already be very familiar to you. Yes? Now it becomes more like Mirror, Signal, Mirror, Mirror, Mirror, Mirror, almost Manoeuvre, Mirror, Mirror, Manoeuvre! (pray). Actually, and officially, this routine is expanded out to Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed, Look and you will find that you will need to adopt this technique so that it becomes second nature.
Whilst out on test, you will be asked to:
Move away in a busy road; uphill; downhill; from behind a parked car
Drive in busy town roads, including roundabouts (essential to keep the wheels of both the vehicle and trailer within the white lines)
Use country roads
Turn from main roads into side roads (watch those trailer wheels, you must not touch the kerb – you must not swing out into the road any more than is necessary either)
Emerge from side roads into main roads – you must not make other drivers take avoiding action, so take your time (but not too long, or you may loose marks for hesitation)
Drive along dual carriageways, if any are available within a reasonable distance of the test centre. You will also be asked to pull off into a parking area and re-enter the flow of traffic.