Li­cence to be tor­mented

Car drivers are among the chal­lenges for the heavy ve­hi­cle pi­lots

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - BIG WHEELS - JAMES STAN­FORD

A LIT­TLE hand pops out of the rear win­dow of the Holden Com­modore that has just sped past af­ter be­ing held up by my truck.

Then I no­tice the hand forms so the mid­dle fin­ger is ex­tended. I spot the booster seat of the ges­tic­u­la­tor and re­alise a child no older than seven has just flipped me the bird.

I laugh, then won­der what the driver, pre­sum­ably the par­ent, said to prompt a lit­tle kid to give me the fin­ger.

The fact is that I did noth­ing wrong. I sim­ply took up two lanes ap­proach­ing a round­about so I could make it around with­out rid­ing over a kerb. They call this lane split­ting and it is to­tally le­gal, even if it de­lays and frus­trates some other mo­torists.

This in­ci­dent hap­pens dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion I’m tak­ing be­fore I go for my heavy-com­bi­na­tion li­cence.

I al­ready have my heavy­rigid li­cence, which al­lows me to drive pretty much any­thing with­out a swiv­el­ling trailer, and now it is time for the HC li­cence that will al­low me to drive semi-trail­ers.

I’ve al­ready done plenty of kilo­me­tres with sin­gle and B-dou­ble com­bi­na­tions, but only with a qual­i­fied in­struc­tor on board. Still, I’m a lit­tle ner­vous in the lead-up to the test.

This is partly be­cause it costs $1450 for a sin­gle-day course and a test the next day. If I so much as kiss a kerb or glance a round­about I’ll fail in­stantly.

I think it would be great if all mo­torists went for their HC li­cence.

Not so they can drive trucks, but just be­cause it would give them an idea what it’s like to drive a truck along tight sub­ur­ban streets in traf­fic and what it’s like to put up with some car drivers.

I’m driv­ing a big Ken­worth 608 with a trailer on a tight street and as we ap­proach a round­about, my in­struc­tor sug­gests I take up two lanes just be­fore a left hand turn in or­der to keep the truck off the kerbs.

It makes sense when you think about it but the mo­torists around me don’t ap­pear to be think­ing. They cer­tainly don’t seem to con­sider the ge­om­e­try in­volved in get­ting the big truck around a sharp bend.

The rather large ‘‘ Do Not Over­take Turn­ing Ve­hi­cle’’ sign on the back of the truck ap­pears to have had no im­pact ei­ther as cars start to stream up to the left of me.

I had taken up a de­cent chunk of the lane to try to pre­vent this but the cars seem des­per­ate, driv­ing half on the road and half on a raised gut­ter.

It is in­cred­i­ble. Part of me wants to con­tinue around the cor­ner and crunch them off the road. But I’d never do it. I just have to wait for them to go.

The test is quite straight­for­ward.

It in­cludes back­ing into a load­ing bay, which is lo­cated on the other cor­ner of the park­ing lot. This puts your re­vers­ing skills to the test.

Then you must cou­ple a trailer, which in­cludes re­vers­ing to con­nect the trailer to the truck and go­ing through the process of en­sur­ing it is safely se­cured and the air lines are con­nected, along with the wiring lines.

It’s a chal­lenge but the daunt­ing part is the road test. Even with the im­pa­tient car drivers nip­ping around my truck and trailer, I keep my cool and keep the truck off all the kerbs and round­abouts, which are re­mark­ably tight in this Mel­bourne sub­urb.

I do most things right, but do wan­der out of my lane a few times and lose a few points. The pass mark is 80 per cent and I man­age 93. A lot of drivers have done bet­ter but it doesn’t mat­ter to me, I have a new li­cence in my hot lit­tle hands.

Get off my tail: Newly minted heavy com­bi­na­tion li­cence holder Stan­ford wants all mo­torists to take the test

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