So you have your MR li­cence, but what is it like to get be­hind the wheel of some­thing big­ger and climb up to the next level? Paul Aldridge writes

Owner Driver - - OWNER // DRIVER -

FOR THE past 17 years I have been a bus driver. With my MR driver’s li­cence, I can still re­mem­ber do­ing the two-day course and am look­ing for­ward to see­ing how hard the tran­si­tion to the next level to get my HR un­re­stricted li­cence is.

It’s funny – once you are an ex­pe­ri­enced driver you don’t even think about driv­ing a large ve­hi­cle. I of­ten think it is eas­ier to park my bus than it is to park a car. I can re­verse the bus any­where with ease and know ex­actly where I can and can’t take the bus, so I would con­sider my­self a con­fi­dent bus driver. I am off to Ac­cred­ited Heavy Ve­hi­cle Train­ing (AHVT) at Moore­bank in Syd­ney to hope­fully get my new li­cence and see how good my driv­ing skills re­ally are!

Be­fore I com­menced my train­ing I spoke with the AHVT man­ager Steve Grima, driver trainer Jon At­tard, and driver trainer and as­ses­sor Tony Stephens, to ask about the com­pany’s process with get­ting stu­dents on the road driv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles.

“One of the first things we need to cor­rectly es­tab­lish is what type of li­cence is needed for the driver,” Steve says.

“Most peo­ple call up and say they want to get their truck li­cence but they don’t have the un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ent li­cence lev­els avail­able and the process.

“We find a lot of peo­ple just want to go straight to the top to the HR road ranger li­cence – a lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise what’s in­volved with driv­ing an 18-speed road ranger ve­hi­cle, so we make sure this is the right li­cence for the stu­dent.

“I al­ways es­tab­lish what li­cence they need to work in their cho­sen in­dus­try. Do you want to drive a garbage truck, a courier truck, or work in de­mo­li­tion and ex­ca­va­tion?

“This ini­tial in­ter­view ground­work is very im­por­tant to en­sure the right li­cence is given to specif­i­cally suit the stu­dents’ needs”.


Steve says what sets AHVT apart from oth­ers is the qual­ity and care of its driver train­ers.

“Our RMS-ap­proved train­ers have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try, and although Ac­cred­ited Heavy Ve­hi­cle Train­ing has only been op­er­at­ing for sev­eral years, it is the years of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge in the in­dus­try of our train­ers and staff that make our com­pany suc­cess­ful and give our stu­dents a very high suc­cess rate,” he says.

“We place our­selves in the in­dus­try where we are to­day for both the high qual­ity of our train­ers and the qual­ity our ve­hi­cles.

“I had a cus­tomer the other day give me feed­back he had done sev­eral driv­ing cour­ses over his ca­reer but was most im­pressed with the pa­tience and calm­ness of our in­struc­tors.

“He said he had never ex­pe­ri­enced such a high qual­ity of in­struc­tions and what im­pressed him most was the time and care taken to ex­plain things to stu­dents – he said we are by far the best driver in­struc­tion course he had ever ex­pe­ri­enced and that he learnt more from his course with us in a short pe­riod of time than com­bin­ing all he has been taught pre­vi­ously!”


All stu­dents are re­quired to com­plete their RMS knowl­edge test and know the road rules for their cho­sen li­cence be­fore com­menc­ing train­ing.

“It’s our job to as­sess their vary­ing lev­els of skills and ex­pe­ri­ence to elim­i­nate any bad habits a stu­dent may have and to make sure that they ap­ply the cor­rect pro­ce­dures at all times to their driv­ing,” Tony says.

“We of­ten find new driv­ers just fol­low what other driv­ers are do­ing – mon­key see mon­key do – but it is my job to ad­just their mind­set, it’s like break­ing a horse in to ap­ply safe driv­ing pro­ce­dures and fol­low all of the ba­sic road rules at all times.

“The hard­est part is get­ting a stu­dent’s head out of the car and into the truck to con­stantly re­mem­ber they are driv­ing a ve­hi­cle that can be up to 20 tonne – gear changes and break­ing has to be thought of much ear­lier. It’s the think­ing be­hind the pro­cesses that we teach our stu­dents”.


The com­pany also has a me­chan­i­cal work­shop at­tached to en­sure ve­hi­cles are in top con­di­tion for driv­ers.

“Our trucks have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to what they need on the spot,” Steve says. “We also have back-up ve­hi­cles avail­able, so a stu­dent is never in­con­ve­nienced by un­fore­see­able me­chan­i­cal prob­lems.We have our own mo­bile elec­tri­cian and tyre per­son too.

“This back-up sys­tem sets keeps the wheels turn­ing, so to speak, and avoids any cus­tomer in­con­ve­nience or dis­ap­point­ment. Stu­dents have taken time off work or driven fair dis­tances to do the train­ing, so it’s im­por­tant we de­liver what we say we will.”

The staff con­tinue to retell cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences and I could see that the AHVT flex­i­ble ap­proach and pa­tience with the stu­dents cer­tainly makes a dif­fer­ence. They both con­tin­u­ally men­tion the word ‘pa­tience’, and both agree it is that el­e­ment that makes their com­pany a suc­cess.


Day one of my two-day course started early at Moore­bank at 6.30am. I felt ner­vous – like a teenager go­ing for their first driv­ers li­cence. It’s been a long time since be­ing be­hind the wheel made me feel this way.

My trainer, Jon At­tard, has been in the in­dus­try all his work­ing life. Ex­pe­ri­ence shows in his ap­proach to the stu­dents as he was very busi­ness-like and pro­fes­sional, very knowl­edge­able, and was happy to ex­plain over and over un­til he could see that I was con­fi­dent to pro­ceed.

We started with pre-de­par­ture safety checks and in­struc­tions on the safety as­pects of the truck. Jon drove to Smeaton Grange while he ex­plained and demon­strated the process of dou­ble shuf­fling and ap­ply­ing the cor­rect revs to match the en­gine and gearbox.

Ini­tially, this process looked a lot more com­pli­cated than I had an­tic­i­pated. My first drive started in sec­ond gear, third gear, then fourth gear, and this is where the fun be­gins.

There is a split­ter but­ton on the gear­stick which takes you into fifth gear. To slow the truck, you need to flick the split­ter but­ton again to go back down the gears, and when you get up to the eighth gear there is another split­ter but­ton!

If it sounds com­pli­cated to ma­noeu­vre through 18 gears, it is. Ini­tially you think you will never com­pre­hend some­thing this com­pli­cated but Jon worked with me through it un­til it all clicked.

Com­ing into this, I felt I was a pretty ex­pe­ri­enced and con­fi­dent driver but I was very grate­ful for Jon’s pa­tience and ex­per­tise. I think his ap­proach would be in­valu­able for an in­ex­pe­ri­enced heavy ve­hi­cle driver.

Jon re­ally stressed the im­por­tance of driver pa­tience when gear­ing down to slow the ve­hi­cle or to ma­noeu­vre a cor­ner and how to cor­rectly time­m­an­age the gears to pre­pare for what’s ahead on the road.

A lot of what he taught was the men­tal ap­proach to op­er­at­ing the ve­hi­cle and how to con­stantly mon­i­tor your driv­ing to en­sure safety.

End of day one at 2pm Jon ex­plained the up­com­ing process that would hap­pen in day two, go­ing through the points he thought I needed to mas­ter in our last ses­sion the next day. He pointed out that I had the abil­ity to get things right but he gave me ad­vice on what to think about and pre­pare for the as­sess­ment.


I will ad­mit I didn’t sleep too well that night but felt pre­pared that I had done ev­ery­thing to suc­ceed.

The next morn­ing I spent a few hours with Jon prac­tic­ing and go­ing over the key points of gear­ing. We drove in an area that is com­monly used for test­ing and he gave me

“Stu­dents have taken time off work or driven fair dis­tances to do the train­ing, so it’s im­por­tant we de­liver what we say we will”

“I was more than gratefu l that pa­tience was a key virtue at Ac­cred­ited Heavy Ve­hi­cle Train­ing”

sce­nar­ios that I might ex­pect to face in the as­sess­ment. He also went over all the driver test­ing cri­te­ria that I would have to pass, and by the end of our ses­sion I felt a lot more con­fi­dent to face the hour of driv­ing.

Dur­ing your fi­nal driv­ing as­sess­ment, an in-cabin cam­era and GPS tech­nol­ogy records both your driv­ing and the road and traf­fic out­side. This pro­ce­dure was brought into ef­fect in 2014 by the RMS. Although this could seem in­tim­i­dat­ing, by the time I came to this part of the process I felt that Jon had me to the point that I was con­fi­dent I could pass if all went well. Jon as­sured me that there is up to a 98 per cent pass rate – so even with eyes watch­ing and know­ing I had to write this ar­ti­cle, I was de­ter­mined not to be the mi­nor­ity.

The test process started off with in-depth ve­hi­cle checks, and then you are asked to pro­ceed and fol­low the as­ses­sor’s in­struc­tions. A few times I re-checked his in­struc­tions as nerves were mak­ing me sec­ondguess my­self but the hour thank­fully flew by with noth­ing re­mark­able hap­pen­ing. I had Jon’s voice in the back of my head telling me to con­stantly tell my­self what gear I’m in, and this helped me not let the nerves get in the way of my driv­ing.

I wasn’t overly con­fi­dent I had passed, as the test is un­der­stand­ably for­mal, but I did feel like I hadn’t made any ma­jor mis­takes in the driv­ing as­sess­ment.


Pre­vi­ously, if I were to ask a man­ager of a thriv­ing busi­ness what con­trib­uted to their suc­cess, and the re­sponse was pa­tience, I might not re­ally have un­der­stood. But be­ing in the driver’s seat and lack­ing con­fi­dence and knowl­edge in an in­dus­try that I have been in for 17 years, I was more than grate­ful that pa­tience was a key virtue at Ac­cred­ited Heavy Ve­hi­cle Train­ing.

Thanks to Jon’s train­ing and guid­ance I passed my HR Li­cence with a re­sult of 98 per cent and look for­ward to my first drive in a 3-axle coach soon.

The AHVT truck for HR Un­re­stricted Train­ing

Se­cur­ing the load

Day 1: ready for train­ing

Re­ceiv­ing my pass for HR un­re­stricted li­cence from as­ses­sor Tony Stephens

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