It is probably the most demanding jobs on the street, however what’s it actually wish to be a truck driver within the UK? To search out out, and supply some perspective for the common automotive driver’s perspective, Auto Specific joined main truck maker MAN Truck & Bus at Millbrook Proving Floor in Bedfordshire for its annual vary day to get a taster of driving a few of the greatest automobiles on the street.
As a result of Millbrook is a closed take a look at facility, it is potential to drive automobiles that your present driving licence will not usually enable. On this occasion, which means the three.5-tonne most weight restrict that a typical automotive driving licence limits you to is not relevant, giving us the right alternative to attempt one thing greater.
• Greatest giant panel vans
MAN sells a spread of heavy items automobiles to go well with a wide range of wants. The vary kicks off with the VW Crafter-based MAN TGE panel van, then strikes by means of 7.5-tonne to 26-tonne fixed-axle fashions known as the TGL and TGM, then there are the bigger vans, the TGS and TGX, that are on the market as chassis cabs or articulated semi-trailer fashions. These are the machines which can be able to hauling the utmost gross automobile weight allowed on UK roads, which is 44 tonnes.
For its vary day, MAN had its full mannequin line-up out there to check out, together with the most important articulated tractor-trailer HGV models, eight-wheel drive cement mixers and tippers on an off-road course and even its luxurious coaches, that are one other type of driving expertise altogether: there are a transparent 9 metres of car between the motive force – who sits forward of the entrance wheels – and the engine, which makes it in contrast to anything on the street to drive. Fortunately, the wide-open areas of Millbrook’s take a look at facility and the very fact these have been MAN’s demonstrators meant we might attempt these machines in relative security, contemplating the most important automobile we have pushed earlier than was a big van.
What’s it wish to drive an 18-tonne lorry?
For our first expertise of HGV driving, we determined to go (comparatively) small with the 18 tonne MAN TGM, that includes two axles and a curtain facet physique. It is the type of truck you may see delivering in cities and to DIY centres throughout the UK, with sliding facet curtains to entry the load space, making it simple for forklifts to unload pallets.
The primary job earlier than driving is to truly get into the cab. There are two steps as much as the motive force’s seat, which sits round eight ft off the bottom, and as soon as sitting in place, it is clear that the cab is made with consolation in thoughts. MAN provides suspended seats for improved consolation, for starters. These function air suspension that is designed to soak up bumps as you are driving alongside, and work independently from the truck’s suspension. It might ship better consolation, however generally it provides you a bobbing sensation that might make delicate passengers really feel queasy.
When you’re sat down, the view forward does not really feel a lot totally different to a high-riding SUV or van. Sure, you are sat lots larger, however not a lot that it feels alien. However then someone walks in entrance of the truck and also you realise how a lot you possibly can’t see instantly in entrance of you. Sitting 10 ft off the bottom with a dashboard forward of you creates a blind spot that is simply large enough for a automotive to vanish into, which is why most vans right this moment include extra wide-angle mirrors pointing down at that a part of the truck to offer you a greater view.
That is along with a mirror over the nearside door that can assist you place the truck as near the kerb as potential, plus the big wing mirrors. These are in two components with customary and large angles, and are merely huge, which suggests the view out the again is sort of pretty much as good because the view ahead. Because it seems, that is notably necessary.
In entrance of the motive force is a big steering wheel in a conventional flat ‘dinner plate’ format, which sits on high of a chunky steering column that you need to straddle together with your ft. In consequence, there are solely two pedals to barter together with your proper foot, as there is not any foot-operated clutch to deal with – your complete MAN Truck vary is computerized, so there is not any complicated gear choice happening.
Certainly the gear selector is a rotary swap mounted low on the huge centre console. It has two ahead and two reverse settings, with customary ratios or the equal of low-range gears for when the truck is loaded up. All you do is transfer the swap to ‘D’, and the gearbox electronics choose the optimum gear to tug away. After that, launch the hydraulic handbrake and also you’re off.
There is a 6.9-litre six-cylinder diesel beneath you packing 247bhp, 286bhp or 316bhp, in addition to 1,050-1,250Nm of torque, however because of the truck’s weight and a number of gears, progress from standstill is sedate, and also you collect momentum relatively than launch off the road. That is advantageous as a result of it provides us sufficient time to get used to the way in which the TGM drives.
The big steering wheel wants extra turns to go from lock-to-lock than a automotive, whereas your place above and barely forward of the entrance wheels means you might want to recalibrate as to when you must flip – go away it late, in any other case you may find yourself steering off the street or into the opposing lane. There is no such factor as suggestions, both – the steering is not heavy because of loads of energy help, however that additionally means the steering factors the truck the place you wish to go, relatively than providing any communication to let you realize what the wheels are doing. However then a truck is designed for work relatively than play.
One other huge distinction between a automotive and a truck are the brakes. With hydraulic help able to kick in everytime you hit the pedal, there is not any development available with the truck. It means you want affirmative enter on the pedal, and if you wish to sluggish steadily, then there’s heavy reliance on engine braking as a substitute.
On the transfer, you are conscious that you just’re sitting larger than different site visitors round you, however it quickly turns into pure, and also you are inclined to look additional up the street due to the excessive seating place, permitting you to anticipate what is going on to occur. The truth is, you are extra more likely to be wanting behind you, because of these huge mirrors. As they’re mounted away from the truck’s bodywork, they can help you see the entire facet of the truck from the wheels up, supplying you with all the data you want in your place. Throughout our time driving the 18-tonne TGM, we spent round half the time checking the mirrors, with further consideration being paid when turning out of junctions.
Total, driving an 18-tonne truck is fairly simple. The auto field does all of the exhausting work of holding you within the energy band, so all you might want to do is get used to the sheer measurement of the truck when on the open street. Junctions want a bit extra consideration, however with these huge mirrors serving to you to see throughout you, positioning the truck to keep away from kerbs and different objects is comparatively easy.
What’s it wish to drive an articulated truck?
With our first style of trucking below our belt, it is time for the heavy hitter, this time within the form of the MAN TGX. That is MAN’s heavy-haulage truck, and it is available in three cab types (XL, XLX, XXL) and an engine vary from 9.zero to 15.2 litres that provide 325 to 631bhp, and torque figures from 1,600 to three,000Nm.
MAN claims that that is its best truck but. The model we drove had a 460-litre gasoline tank, in order that’s round £600 to fill, most likely extra in the event you’re at motorway companies. There is a 24-litre AdBlue tank to assist scale back emissions, too.
We tried the mid-range 12.Four-litre six-cylinder diesel with 493bhp and ‘solely’ 2,500Nm of torque. It comes with a 12-speed Tipmatic auto gearbox, which takes care of gearchanges so easily that every one you might want to fear about is your environment.
Driving an articulated truck wants much more planning. There is a huge trailer behind you, however once more the mirrors are so good you can see every little thing that is taking place to the rear, and the separate tractor unit and trailer imply it is extra manoeuvrable than you’d think about.
Like all vans, this arctic unit is proscribed to 60mph, and when cruising round Millbrook’s well-known bowl, it was a straightforward experience. Nonetheless, that is with different skilled drivers on target and with out the specter of site visitors and erratic driving to deal with. Fortunately, the big cab and optionally available air-suspension easy issues out properly, whereas travelling at motorway speeds sees the engine cruising barely above idle to assist increase gasoline economic system.
On Millbrook’s twisty Hill Route, the TGX felt secure and highly effective, and it additionally confirmed off one among its celebration tips. EfficientRoll is a system that means that you can save gasoline whereas coasting, particularly downhill. All you need to do is speed up to your required velocity on an uphill part, and upon getting crested the hill, carry off the throttle and the truck will keep the identical velocity whereas rolling in impartial. And it does not use the brakes to keep up velocity, as a substitute utilizing exhaust gases to spice up engine braking, thus lowering put on and tear on the truck’s mechanical components. Additionally out there is EfficientCruise, which is an clever cruise management system that use GPS to plan gear modifications upfront of descents and inclines in an effort to avoid wasting much more gasoline.
The TGX we drove was an XXL cab mannequin, which is designed for residing in, so it is comparatively plush. There are two beds with loads of storage, whereas the spacious cab has plenty of drinks holders, cubbies, trays and drawers for all of your package. The dashboard itself is comparatively utilitarian, however every little thing is logically laid out, and since MAN is a part of the VW Group, it makes use of navigation software program that can look acquainted to anyone who’s pushed a VW, SEAT or Skoda lately.
Our time on the wheel helped us see that these giants of the street do want some co-operation from different street customers. Regardless that there are many mirrors, it is nonetheless exhausting to evaluate the place the rear of the truck is – which is why you see truckers flashing their lights to let one another in or out. And driving lengthy distances is all about sustaining momentum, so in the event you see a truck making an attempt to tug out forward of you, give them house – they’re going to save gasoline by holding going, and you will solely be inconvenienced for the shortest time. And at all times give vans room at junctions. They may see you, however they nonetheless want the house to show, so give them a large berth, particularly after they’re reversing.
What licence do you might want to drive a lorry within the UK?
There are 4 driving licence classes that cowl driving a heavy items automobile (HGV) – C1, C1E, C and CE. Class C1 is for HGVs weighing three.5 to 7.5 tonnes, whereas a Class C licence is for something over three.5 tonnes. C1E and CE licences can help you drive the aforementioned lorries, however with a trailer over 750kg, and it is this final licence you might want to drive an articulated truck.
To qualify for an HGV licence, first you might want to have a full automotive licence and be over 18 years of age. Then you might want to get a Driver Certificates of Skilled Competence (CPC), an expert driving qualification that requires you to cross 4 assessments earlier than you possibly can drive an HGV.
Like a automotive licence, there’s a provisional licence to use for, then you possibly can take the 4 components of the take a look at: concept, case research, driving capability and sensible. As soon as you’ve got handed the CPC, you may get a CPC card which it’s essential to carry with you when you find yourself driving. On high of those assessments, you might want to take one other 35 hours of coaching each 5 years to retain your CPC.
In all, it prices round £275 in licence charges, whilst you ought to funds round £1,000 for coaching with an accredited firm, which can often take the type of a 5-day intensive course. If you wish to drive a bus or coach, then there’s one other take a look at you might want to take, the Class D and DE assessments, that are impartial of the HGV take a look at.