B-DOUBLE LICENCE AT 70
I got my usual notice from the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to get a medical for my B-double licence.
On the notice it also said I was to take a driving test as I was 70 yearsold.
So I did some research online, read up on road rules, and found that if I didn’t pass the first time I could have two more attempts.
My boss arranged a truck for me. I was told stories about how picky the test is, so I decided to use an auto as most of my work is with autos anyway.
I fronted up on the day and began the test, nervous as hell and straight away began making mistakes.
The tester was good, giving clear directions on where I was to go and what I had to do. I was told to turn right at the next set of lights, so I sussed out the traffic to make the turn safely when suddenly the tester said, “Stop, you have a red arrow,” so I stopped, but I was over the stop line. Automatic non-pass.
I may make some excuses for things that happened but I accept responsibility for not passing, it was entirely my own fault. So, we continued on and went through the whole test where I made some more errors.
Back at the office, it was explained to me that I had failed the reverse park test (stupidity on my part), did not check my mirrors enough, not having my indicator on for five seconds before I pulled away from the kerb, didn’t put the four ways on when I reversed.
Also, apparently at one roundabout I didn’t indicate as I left the roundabout and then “not satisfactorily operating the vehicle controls”. I found that this means I had taken my hand off the steering wheel.
Another excuse, if you don’t mind, is I had driven a manual truck to the city where I did this test then changed to another truck with three-pedal auto. Every time I used the clutch, I automatically reached down to grab the gear lever.
You can lose up to five points, so I was over that limit.
By now you are probably thinking “this bloke is hopeless,” but don’t worry, I was thinking the same thing. It was demoralising.
At the age of 70 you are deemed by the NSW Government to be unfit to drive a B-double, so if you want to continue to do so you must pass a driving test as if you have never had a B-double licence before, no matter what your driving record says, or your boss or anyone else for that matter.
What happened to me then was devastating.
I was asked to ring my boss and get someone to come and pick up the truck as I had lost my truck licence. Being naïve I had thought I could keep my licence ’till I had three tries at passing.
This was really hard for me now. My working life came to an abrupt stop. Not that I thought I would still be working at my age, but a series of unfortunate events meant that the part-time job I had was a big help financially.
I felt quite helpless and hopeless. Over 50 years of driving trucks, I got my B-double licence in 1990. All gone.
I made another appointment for three weeks’ time, three weeks in which I went through a range of emotions from grief to denial to anger and back again. Sleepless nights over what I’d done wrong and how to rectify it. In a word, trauma.
The second time I lost three points and thought I was home and hosed, except that I was told that at one roundabout I had entered when a vehicle was already on said roundabout and that vehicle had to brake to allow me through. Not giving way means an auto non-pass.
The fact I didn’t think I had done anything wrong made me doubt myself and I wondered if I was capable.
Another bout of anger and depression, but my boss stood by me and so we agreed that I would try again.
Third time lucky, no points lost and my MC licence returned.
I am not happy with the NSW laws that caused me such trauma. I absolutely agree that I needed a refresher course before my test, but if I could afford to go and get an instructor, I wouldn’t need my parttime job.
As the NSW Government pays a tester to go with you three times, how about a refresher course the first time so you know what is required?
As the law stands, I think it is ageist and unnecessarily stressful.
Drivers in my position may be a minority, but I would be interested in any feedback.
Jim Campbell Culcairn, NSW