Tockwith Training Blog?
Manual or Automatic Gearbox for HGV and LGV Driver Training?
Train on an Auto or a Manual Truck?
Since the September 2013 it has been possible to take and pass your driving test for Categories C, C+E and D with a vehicle equiped with an automated gearbox and you will still gain a full manual licence for that vehicle type if you also hold a manual car driving licence. Pretty much all well established large vehicle driving schools have mostly 'auto's' on their driver training fleet since the changes 3 years ago. Mainly due to the following reasons:
Trucks with automated gearboxes are cheaper to operate.
Unlike traditional automatic cars the gearboxes found in trucks are actually a manual gearbox with an automated gear change. This means they have the fuel efficiency of a direct drive manual gearbox and the simplicity of an automatic with no possibility of driver abuse or error.
They are easier to drive and the pass-rate is higher.
At Tockwith Training we noticed when replacing our manual trucks with automatics a 10% rise in the average pass-rate with customers taking their driving tests. This was a great win for customers that most importantly want to pass their driving test to begin a driving career as soon as possible. You may think that driving a manual truck would be just as simple as an auto but for those unaware the Driving Test Department (DVSA) has operated different rules on vehicles used for driving tests over the past 10 years, see the chart below:
Truck Gearbox Types for Driving Tests
||Any Manual Gearbox - we all used straight 6 speed, car like gearboxes.
||Manual Gearbox with 8 gears Minimum - we all had to use Range Change and or Splitter Gearboxes - much more complicated to adapt to.
|2013 - Present
||Any permissible - auto or manual.
Its cheaper for the customer to learn to drive in an automatic.
Most driving schools frankly don't really care if you pass your driving test or not, we are quite different thankfully. The cost of a 16 hour driver training course in 2010 for example verus 2014 will be much the same, however its cheaper in three different ways:
1. More likely you will pass on the first attempt because autos give you more time to concentrate on other drving elements.
2. More likely to pass with fewer retests because autos are easier to 'jump back into' and drive reasonably well.
3. If you choose a reputable driving school like ourselves and are assessed to see what length of driving course is most suited to your ability it will be approximately 2 days shorter duration on an automatic versus a manual truck, saving you around £600 - £800!
But, if I pass on an automatic I won't know how to drive a manual?
It's quite simple - we kept one manual 12 speed range change with splitter gearbox equiped truck for customers to 'have a go with' after passing their test on an automatic - so you will know how to handle a gearbox or atleast have an idea of how it feels. However, you don't really need to as in many cases as all the truck manufacurers have supplied new vehicles as standard with automated gearboxes for the last 10 years - its fair to say that most trucks are automatics except for old vehicles and smaller two axle trucks. Another important point is that different makes of trucks - Volvo, Scania, Renault, DAF, Man, Mercedes and so on all have manual gearboxes with different gear positions, switch locations or ratios. Learning one manual gearbox won't instantly mean you can operate any other type without taking time to adapt - it takes most drivers about two days driving to 'get the hang' of a different gearbox if you factor in different ratios and range change and splitter devices, then not forgetting how different it feels when fully loaded - using every one of the 12/16 gears.
Note the two switches on the lever, at the front a switch to change from low
to high range and at the side another switch to change from low split to high
split - giving a total of 12 gears from a 3 speed gearbox plus reverse and crawler.
Whatever manual gearbox you may end up driving it will take you some time to adapt and having operated a manual gearbox with a car you will understand the basic mechanics and be able to adapt to driving a manual truck. However you could say there are two types of drivers - real professionals will want to wish to master a manual gearbox
not just throw gears into position without mechanical sympathy. This can rarely be taught by an instructor - you either develop this skill or are not interested in doing so, so teaching the use of a manual gearbox doesn't serve any purpose - as it is said 'you can't buy experience'.
Aren't automatic gearboxes in truck often poor to respond to driver input?
Early automatic trucks didn't win over many drivers, they were poor compared to a manual truck, poor gear selection, hesitation when setting off, slow to change gears and even missing gears resulting in the engine stalling! Thankfully they have got much better - Volvo were the first to invest in making a good auto, they completely redesigned the gearbox from a blank sheet. What they created was a constant mesh geabox with electronics and air operated shifting comunicating with a variety of sensors in the vehicles drivetrain - it was a revolution and its taken until 2012 for other manufacturers to catch up. So really you should not have any problems learning in automatic truck that is only a few years old or less, older trucks with higher miles are often still poor however, in this case training providers unable to afford to buy new trucks will operate older trucks with simple and reliable 6 speed manual gearboxes like you will be familiar with in a car.
Should I just learn to drive on a truck with a 6 speed manual truck? It should be cheap and easy?
I passed my truck driving test in 2001 on a speed manual, before the rules changed - its was simple and easy! However other regulations for driving tests have changed - I did the test in an empty truck! Now all drivers have to take their test with a laden truck and in modern traffic conditions a 6 speed gearbox doesn't help to get the best from the engine which will only offer 200-250hp, not a lot to drag along 10 times the weight of a normal car, and if you miss a gear you likely grind to a halt quite promptly.
This is our Manual Truck - mostly used for HIAB training but also available to have a go with a real manual gearbox!
Obviously it's up to you which you choose to learn in, manual or auto. It's expected that before long customers will have no choice but the train on an auto as all driving schools prefer them on grounds of lower operating costs and high pass-rates, but hopefully just as we provide you will have the facility to have a go with a manual truck after passing your test if you wish.
Author: Laurie Moore BA Hons,
Director Tockwith Training & Board Member National Register of LGV Instructors.
Laurie is passionate about industrial driver and operator instruction, having a wealth of knowledge gained from a workling lifetime providing training to new drivers and operators of a variety of trucks, buses, forklifts and HIAB's.