Carol Gaiger – HGV Journey
I can only apologise for the length of time that it has taken me to write back to you since you awarded my grant in June. I did not want to write back until I had some good news to tell you, and I have to say that I have been on a bit of a long rollercoaster of a journey since we last corresponded! I am delighted now to be able to announce that I passed my HGV Class 2 Practical Driving Test with flying colours, on Friday 30 September 2016.
I started my HGV training with Instructor Andrew at Melmerby Training Services on Monday 6 June. Andrew was knowledgeable and very patient with me over the four days training, which concluded with the test on Thursday 9 June. I was disappointed but I wasn’t really surprised when I failed my test. I have spoken to a number of HGV drivers and it took most of them at least 3 attempts to pass their test and they all passed years ago, now the tests are much more involved and stringent. Looking back I can see what a huge leap I was taking from driving a little two seater Ford Streetka, to mastering a large 18 Ton HGV lorry in just a few short days!
Undeterred I applied for my next test date; I studied hard and looked around for ways to gain some more hands on driving experience before my next test.
Scouring the internet to glean more knowledge about passing a HGV test, I came across an article about a company called Transline. They had a revolutionary off road HGV simulator which they used to train new HGV recruits at client sites across the country. I asked if it would be possible for me to gain some much needed driving experience on their simulator before my next test and they readily agreed. Steve Buckley very kindly invited me down to use their Simulation System in Rochdale with no costs involved. I drove down from Harrogate and when I arrived, I was introduced to Alan Vickers who was my Instructor for the day. I was blown away by the sheer generously of Transline and for providing me with such an inspirational instructor. I spent the whole day being given professional dedicated one to one tuition, which was fabulous. By the end of the day I was very happy with my progress, I felt shattered and elated all at the same time. Boosted by this extra specialist training my confidence really grew.
I wish I could say that I passed my test on my second attempt but alas it has taken me more attempts than I had originally anticipated but with bags of determination I passed my HGV test in the end. The Test Examiner said that he would be looking forward to seeing me back again soon, when I attempt the big one – HGV Class 1 Articulated test !!!!
When I originally investigated becoming a HGV Driver to see if it was for me, I approached a local Haulage company Alfred Hymas. I spoke to the Managing Director Stewart Hymas who was very supportive in accommodating my request to talk to his drivers about the pro’s and con’s of HGV driving. He also enabled me to accompany Michelle, one of his lady drivers to experience the role of a Tipper Driver first hand. On the day of my test, I was determined to succeed and set off with a prepared application in my bag with my CV and a covering letter to ask for a driving job at Alfred Hymas. On my way home after passing my test in Darlington, I called into the Alfred Hymas yard and spoke to Stewart Hymas. I informed him that I had just passed my test and asked whether there were any job vacancies. He said that they may possibly have a vacancy on a Saturday, which would be ideal to start with. I am fortunate that Stewart has met me and will consider taking me on as a ‘Rookie’ driver. Fingers crossed that I get a call to go in for an assessment drive from Stewart soon.
I am raring to get driving as soon as can, so I have contacted a few other companies to see what jobs are currently available for new drivers. I was disappointed to be told that most insurance companies will not insure drivers unless they have 180 days continuous driving experience and most companies are asking for 2 years HGV experience. So how am I supposed to get that experience I ask myself? Ideally I would like to become a Quarry Tipper Driver (like Michelle my mentor at Alfred Hymas). I have been informed by some agencies that to gain some driving experience I may have to apply for more general haulage jobs that will involve handballing, dragging curtains and moving crates but I am not sure that I would be strong enough. I contacted another local Tipper company who even though they didn’t have any current vacancies, were helpful and informative and said they would contact me when they have a vacancy in the future. They informed me that they require their drivers to hold an EPIC card (renewable every 5 years) which is a site safety awareness card needed to drive in Quarries. I thought that my future employers would provide specific training like this but it appears that I will have to undertake a further days training at a cost of about £150. Oh goodness, I just think that I am getting somewhere and then that goal post keeps on moving!
Now that I am getting a better understanding of how the transport industry works, seeing the ongoing costly training requirements, CPC, EPIC and other cards needed to be renewed every 5 years, medicals, the driver lifestyle, on the road facilities, working hour requirements and conditions. I can see why the investment for some potential new drivers is not worth the return. I now know why there is a reported driver shortage!
With my hearing impairment it has been challenging trying to hear people speak to me when we were out driving in a lorry cab because of the background noise. But now I have new and improved hearing aids which have made the world of difference to me, I am pleased to say.
I would like to say thank you Aspire so very much for supporting my funding application and giving me the hand that I so desperately needed to start a brighter future career at the grand old age of 51, I will always be extremely grateful for your help. I promise to keep you up to date with my ongoing progress to reach my aspired goal.
I know that it won’t be an easy ride entering a male dominated world and that I will face more challenges than most by being a woman, aged 51, with a hearing impairment and short on HGV experience. But what I may lack, I will make up for with true Gaiger family ‘grit and determination’ and I feel sure that someone will give me my starting break soon; I just have to keep positive.
I have been surprised and delighted to have met so many wonderful people, who have been happy to share their skill and knowledge with me. They have been such a great source of inspiration and encouragement for me on my HGV journey so far.
Keep up your good work