In the previous blog post in this series we looked at my experiences getting a provisional licence and trying to assess the various truck driving schools, as the first stepping stone towards being allowed to drive the motorhome of my dreams. Now we’ll take a look at what I must do before I’m allowed to take my practical test.
The DSA rule is that you must pass both hazard perception and multiple-choice theory tests before taking the practical test and, as the school required that I take my practical test at the end of my practical training, the reality was that I had to take and pass it all before even starting my practical training.
I bought a substantial number of books, and some training CDs, and worked my way through most of the multiple-choice questions and hazard perception videos. Many of the multiple-choice questions required learning something new (do you know the minimum height of an unmarked bridge, what the law requires you do when carrying a 3.6m wide load, the tyre tread requirements for a vehicle over 7.5 tonnes, or the finer points of EU legislation for drivers’ working hours?) but, in theory at least, for somebody with 30+ years of accident free driving, an international rally licence, and an IAM pass on fast motorbikes, the hazard perception should have been easy.
The reality couldn’t have been further removed from this ideal, and while I cheerfully soaked up the facts for the multiple-choice test (typically getting 99% correct in less than 25% of the allowed time when practising at home) the videos bore little resemblance to my experience of driving, what constitutes a real-world hazard, or when that hazard becomes visible. The so-called “hazard perception” part of my “learning” thus became a matter of trying to get inside the head of the programmers of a less-than-inspiring video game, with a view to predicting when precisely they wanted me to click to score 5 points. When I was consistently scoring upwards of 90% in practice (the pass mark is 67% for lorries, and thus what I needed for our new overland campervan to-be) I felt ready for the test, and duly visited one of DSA’s offices to take it.
On the day I passed the multiple-choice with confidence, and tackled the video-game in the same manner. However, while I passed the hazard-perception video game, it was more a case of scraping through rather than blitzing it as I had done at home. As a former computer programmer, I can only attribute this to having learned how to play a computer game where the scoring was based on one algorithm, and then taking a test where the scoring was based on another algorithm. Still, I passed. But that doesn’t change the fact that I consider the so-called “hazard perception” part of the DSA’s driving test to be fundamentally flawed, and utterly irrelevant to normal driving. I would add that the various professional truck driving instructors (many of them DSA accredited for cars too) I spoke to whilst choosing a driving school for my motorhome licence all warned me that they, and most other candidates, share a similar opinion of its relevance to an experienced driver.
On the basis of my experience though I’d recommend the following study materials to anybody planning to take the Category C (from 7.5 tonne up to 32 tonne rigid vehicles – i.e. what you need to drive a big motorhome) DSA multiple-choice theory and hazard perception tests:
- Official DSA LGV CDs (Hazard Perception & Multiple-Choice Theory)
- Official DSA Guide to Driving Goods Vehicles (paperback)
- Highway Code (you should already know this, of course, but at just £2.50 a refresh can’t hurt)
In particular note my recommendation of the official DSA CD for the hazard perception game, because based on my experience you will be learning to play a game rather than learning anything whatsoever about driving safety, so you may as well learn the exact-same game rather than somebody else’s interpretation of it. Tedious though the computer game is, it’s a necessary evil if you want to drive a really big motorhome.
In my next post we’ll look at my Cat C Practical Training and DSA Driving Test, but in the meantime if you have any questions please ask them in a comment and if you’ve found this post useful please use the various icons below to share it with others.