WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRAILER TOWING TRAINING
In this interview Doug Campbell, Lead Roadwise trainer for B+E driving licence acquisition shares his experience and insights regarding trailer towing training.
What are the common mistakes people make during trailer towing sessions?
I would say the main areas which need improvement on the lead up to a B+E test are in relation to the use of mirrors, road positioning particularly on approach to and whilst negotiating roundabouts, observations whilst turning right at junctions and looking for and adhering to signs, signals and road markings.
How is a typical session constructed?
At the start of the training it is important to establish each candidate’s driving experience and in particular if they have any prior knowledge of working with trailers. This is followed by taking the candidate(s) through what is required on the driving test. This takes about ten to fifteen minutes or so.
The session continues with a drive of approximately fifteen minutes to establish each candidates’ skill level – I give them directions where to go so I can have a look at their driving. We then stop and discuss their drive: go through the good points, go through anything that needs to be improved. Then we move on to me talking them through their drive, approaching junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights etc. We then work on synchronising what they do to what I am saying, establishing if they, for example, are signalling appropriately and using mirror checks at the right time. I find that if I talk them through it as they are driving, then they start to realise that ‘Yes, I should be doing that at this time on the approach to junctions or roundabouts. I ask them relevant questions when we are on the move to establish their way of thinking. We often pull up and have a chat about what they have done, what they feel needs to be improved and answer any questions that need clarification. I find it is the best way to bring them up to test standard.
If I have two candidates at the same time, one will drive for about an hour and then they swap over. I also familiarise them with the general areas where they will be sitting their driving test, making sure that they have a good knowledge of any particularly unusual junctions or roundabouts in the test route areas which may surprise them.
Why do people come to you to get ready for their Trailer Towing Training?
Our clients come to us for a variety of reasons. The majority come for training as they need B+E licence entitlement for work purposes. Many candidates also require this licence to tow horseboxes. On a normal B category licence, you can tow a trailer weighing up to 750 kg (smallest trailer). It also states that you can tow a trailer heavier than 750 kg as long as the combined laden weight of both the trailer and the towing vehicle together weighs no more than 3.5 tonnes. If you, however, for instance have a large 4 x 4, or a van that weighs say 2.5 tonnes, adding a 750 kg trailer on the back of the vehicle may take you over the legal weight threshold due to the weights carried both in the vehicle and on the trailer. Many people if they are not sure, will come and do the test, because then if they do the test to avoid any issues.
Do you find that a lot of people are towing trailers illegally before they come to you?
Yes, even now we still get the odd one or two who do not realise that they needed to pass an additional test. Occasionally we get one or two who have been stopped by the police and charged with towing a trailer without the appropriate licence. A lot of people do not understand the towing requirements and thus tow trailers illegally leaving them open to driving without the appropriate licence and insurance cover.
What are people unaware of before they start their training?
Many people contact us for training and a high percentage of them fail to appreciate what is required in order to obtain a B+E qualification on their driving licence. Quite a number feel that they have just to turn up, have a short drive in a yard, do a little bit of reversing and then they will get a B+E entitlement on their licence. There's much more to it than that: a test can last up to an hour and a half depending on traffic. Each test includes a reversing manoeuvre which requires a high degree of accuracy, a couple and uncouple exercise, then an on road drive over a pre-set route. You must complete the route from start to finish. It is a fairly lengthy test and consequently a long time to concentrate especially when your driving is being scrutinised by a driving examiner.
Do you think people can prepare for the test without professional guidance, just practising by themselves, and achieve the required standard?
Of course, this is possible. I would, however, recommend that participants take professional tuition prior to undertaking any form of driving test. A qualified DVSA driving instructor is more up to speed with the training required in order to pass the test. At the end of the day by successfully gaining a B+E licence enables you to tow a trailer weighing up to 3.5 tonnes and this is generally adequate for the majority of people.
What are the most difficult aspects of the test?
Many people prior to undertaking training form the opinion that the reverse manoeuvre on the test creates a major difficulty. In practice the main areas of difficulty lie in their general driving. Inappropriate use of bus lanes, cutting corners, lane discipline on approach to and whilst negotiating roundabouts together with observations and compliance with road signs, signals and road markings are the main areas to work on. My initial task in preparing people for a test is to eliminate the bad habits which have crept in since they passed their initial driving test.
It doesn't take a lot to fail the test, you miss a speed limit sign and keep going at 40 when it should be 30 then you are going to fail. On a wet day soaking a pedestrian standing in a bus stop will also constitute a failure. Simply not stopping at a STOP sign will also land in failure.
What examiners are looking for in your driving during the test is a smooth, controlled, confident and competent drive. if you can do that you are virtually assured of achieving your goal – your B+E driving licence entitlement.
Thank you Doug for taking time to answer our questions.