Lorry Lessons for Ladies – Day 5: THE TRUCKIN’ TEST!

Finally, the day I was dreading had arrived.

It was Trucking Test Day.

I had two hours to scale and polish my driving skills before my Class 2* truck test at 09:33. If I failed, Mark and I would not be able to depart on our next trip until I’d successfully secured another test date and passed.

A tall order amid a swathe of Civil Service strikes.

It could delay our departure, and dictate whether we had time to go where we planned to go.

So, the only thing riding on my test success was our entire future happiness…

The only thing riding on my test success was our entire future happiness…

“Where do you want to go this morning?” asked Ray, my instructor.

“I’d like to go through Guildford to revise the lane discipline required through the one-way system.”

I had to remember ‘Middle Lane to Middle Lane’ through the multi-lane chicane in the centre, ‘Hug the White Line’ to avoid striking a low arched bridge, and ‘Use this Bus Lane as it’s Suspended’.

Back at base, we’d had a conversation about a candy floss machine that one of the guys had placed in a sports centre to provide him with a passive income stream. Garrulous at the best of times, as Ray scoffed his sandwiches while we wound through Greater London rush-hour traffic, he seemed very keen to discuss the pros and cons of candy floss.

“The machine cost seven grand. SEVEN GRAND! That’s a lot of candy floss to sell. Even though each stick costs five pounds. FIVE POUNDS! Imagine if you had three kids and you’ve already paid a tenner each for them to go into the sports hall, and they want to go to McDonalds after. That’s a lot of dosh. And we’re in a cost-of-living crisis! I know, the candy floss comes in different flavours and colours and heart shapes and flower shapes…”

Maybe it was the chat, maybe it was just me, but I felt I was missing obvious things such as a box junction, whose markings were so worn they were barely visible, and my forward observation on roundabouts,

“…but I think the novelty will wear off. And then you’ve got to consider how you’ll deal with breakdowns, spares, and consumabl…”

Ray switched seamlessly, “…traffic builds up quickly here, so make sure you look far enough ahead to make sure the truck can clear the roundabout.”

At five pounds a pop you’re eating ALL of this! Photo Pexels Ceejay Talam

Mostly, it was a smooth and error-free pre-test drive. Ray asked if I’d like to continue driving or stop for a cup of tea. It must be the first time I’ve ever turned down a cup of tea, but driving, not a cuppa, would help me pass my test.

“You’ll pass if you drive like that, but it’s not easy, so, don’t be disheartened if you fail,” Ray said.

“There’s Good Fails and Bad Fails,” he continued. “If something just happens, there’s nothing you can do. But if you do something stupid, forget to check your mirrors, or clip a kerb, that’s a BAD fail and you’ll kick yourself.”

I reverse parked my truck, Grumpy, at the test centre, then went to the loo. As I walked over, I overheard a despondent-looking chap tell his instructor, “I failed.”

I joined the group of nervous people waiting for their tests. James’ Class 1 (artic.) student, Niall, asked me about The Beast – he’d seen it parked outside the training centre. It took my mind off Andy, the chap we’d picked up the other day, who was on his fifth test attempt, and the fact that both of the Class 2 students tested before me that morning had failed.

A tall gentleman strode over,

“Jacqueline?” he asked, although as the only female, it was obvious who I was.

“I’m Paul, your examiner. Can I have your driving licence and reversing certificate please?”

I’d been agonising about the five Show Me/Tell Me questions that precede the test, and made sure Ray ran through all Grumpy’s controls that morning. Once he’d checked my documents, Paul asked me:

  1. “Are you confident the cab is locked down and secure?” I did as Ray instructed and Kept It Simple. “Yes!” I answered. (I was confident it was, since Grumpy’s cab is effectively the bonnet, with the engine underneath. If it’s not locked down and secure, nothing will work!)
  2. “Are you confident the load is secure?” Again, “Yes” and no elaborating. (I’d asked Ray to show me the load the previous day: five tonnes of water, all firmly strapped down, and I knew how to open and secure the rear doors in case the examiner asked to look.)
  3. “Show me how you use the horn.” Easy. ‘Parp’.
  4. “Show me how you would wash the windscreen.” I’d practised this since, after a week of blazing sunshine, it was already raining for my test day.
  5. “Tell me how you would check your windscreen wipers?” “I’d make sure the rubber is not cracked or torn, and that they have good purchase on the windscreen.”


Time to get on with the driving.

Paul was lovely, and told me not to be nervous. Easier said than done. A knot of anxiety writhed in my stomach, and I strove to control my breathing using a lesson from my karate days. If you gulp air in through your mouth, then breathe out slowly through your nose, it brings your breathing and heart-rate down very quickly. Paul was also very good at putting me at ease, and made some small talk.

“Why are you doing your test?” he asked.

“I have an overland truck and want to drive to Mongolia.”

“Would you say you’re an adventurous type, Jackie?”

“I suppose so. I’m a bit of a bungee jumping, white water rafting, windsufing kind of girl!”

That got us off on a good footing, since he was a bit of a kayaking, mountaineering, and cycling kind of guy.

“I suppose you could say I was. I’m a bungee jumping, white water rafting, windsufing kind of girl!”
See My Adventure A-Z

We drove from Guildford towards Woking and I felt things were going well. I was driving smoothly, at a good speed, and looking at my mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. I could see Paul wasn’t doing much on his iPad screen.

I didn’t want to get cocky, but the thought crept into my head,

You’ll pass if you carry on like this.

Several times, Paul asked me to pull over to the side of the road ‘when it’s safe to do so’: once behind a car for a diagonal pull away, once on a busy road, and once on an incline to demonstrate a hill start. Ray’s voice rang in my head: “When you pull over, make sure you’re 10 metres away from junctions, and not in, or opposite a bus stop, unless the examiner instructs you to do so.”

For the independent driving section of the test, Paul stopped giving me directions such as ‘turn left at the next roundabout, second exit’ and asked me to follow road signs to various towns. He included the notorious Six-crossroads: the undoing of many a test candidate who got in the wrong lane or was forced down the wrong road when asked to take the fourth exit for Woking.

The Notorious Six Cross-roads. I came into this road from the direction of Chobham.
Image: Beside the A320 looking towards Six Cross-roads by Roger Templeman, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once again, while I was trucking along at 50 mph, a car pulled out in front of me in the exact same place the Mini did yesterday, although not quite as close. Fortunately, I was ready, since in the day’s drizzle, I also had to contend with wet roads.

I told Paul, “I had to do an emergency stop there yesterday!”

“That’s a very dangerous junction,” he agreed. “It’s a real accident black spot.”

All the while, I could hear Ray’s voice in my head. Not talking about candy floss machines, but repeating a mantra,

“Mirror, signal, left,” as I exited roundabouts: “Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors,” on the straight: “Beachy Head!” as I approached obstacles at a speed appropriate for nearing a cliff edge, and “Check your mirrors,” on every left turn. I didn’t clip the kerb once.

“Beachy Head.” All the while, I could hear Ray’s voice in my head. Not talking about candy floss machines, but repeating a mantra, “Mirror, mirror, mirror” and “Beachy Head!” as I approached obsacles at a speed appropriate for nearing a cliff edge

Paul directed me back towards the test centre and Guildford. I had no idea how much time we’d been out, so when we drove past the turning for the test centre, I wondered if we were going to orbit the Guildford one-way system. Instead, he got me to do a U-turn at the next roundabout to keep it unpredictable and return via the rather narrow two-lane exit from a roundabout. There, I had to get my line right, or the rear of the truck would obstruct the inside lane. My ‘Eureka’ moment from Day 2 came into play as I positioned for the right turn. I did as Ray said, went forward a bit more at the roundabout, rather than cutting the corner. I had confidence to get my nose really close to the bollards, as I had when parked virtually on the bumper of the truck in front, which enabled me to tuck in Grumpy’s derriere neatly.

We pulled into the test centre.

The test was finished.

I didn’t dare to hope.

I could feel it had been a good drive, but I knew I’d made a couple of mistakes.

As we pulled up and I switched off Grumpy’s engine, Paul said, “I’m delighted to say you’ve passed.”

All the breath left my body.

“You’ve absolutely made my day!” I gushed, when I recovered. I was so delighted.

He talked me through the four minor faults (twelve minors is a fail).

  1. On one road I didn’t see the speed limit sign. Since exceeding the speed limit is a fail, I stuck to 30 mph to be safe, until I saw a 50 mph sign. Needless to say, I got marked down for ‘Undue Hesitation’ in making progress.
  2. On a fast and busy roundabout, I also lashed up a pull away. I saw a gap, bottled it and stopped, then went again when I saw the oncoming van was indicating left. It was safe, but earned me a fault for observation. The van indicated so late, I’m not sure Paul could see the indicator when I pulled out.
  3. I changed direction once without checking my mirrors properly, I don’t remember doing that.
  4. Then on one of my stops, I was deemed too far from the kerb. Ray told me later this was not a ‘bad’ fault, since the correct distance from a kerb was a matter of opinion. “It should be within a foot,” he said. It was definitely within a foot!

 Paul filled in and signed my certificate, then told me,

“You can celebrate tonight!”

“You’re not kidding. I’ve been ‘on the wagon’ both literally and metaphorically this week. I shall certainly be having a cold one tonight!”

Ray wandered over, flicking his thumb up and down like an indecisive Caesar deciding someone’s fate at a gladiatorial combat. I think my cheesy grin might have given him an inkling of how it had gone.

“I bossed it!” I said.

“You passed?”

“Trucking Belle. I did!”

He shook my hand and took my photo with my certificate in front of the truck.

I qualified as a Grumpy Old Trucker in a truck called Grumpy!

A few months short of entering my seventh decade – thanks for the reminder, Wendy! – I felt I had upheld the pride of seniors and lady drivers everywhere. In a truck called Grumpy, I had qualified as a Grumpy Old Trucker!

Ray dropped me off back home at The Beast. Mark asked me how it had gone, although as I floated up the steps, he said,

“I can tell by your face!”

He gave me a hug and made me a celebratory cup of tea. I ate my Crunchie bar, which I had been saving for a blood sugar boost before my test, but felt too sick to eat.

Now, I could wear my Truckin’ T-shirt with pride!

I could wear my ‘I Like Truckin” T-shirt with pride, (I hadn’t dared wear it for my test. No point in tempting fate…) and learn to drive my Beast. With her eight speed gearbox, only partial power steering, and a turning circle greater than the orbit of the planet Neptune, I felt she might be more of a handful than Grumpy.

Now, I just need to learn to drive my Beast.
With her 8 speed gearbox, partial power steering, and a turning circle wider than the orbit of the planet Neptune, she’s going to be more of a handful than Grumpy!

Then, it was back down to earth, and time to get on with Living the Dream.

We parked outside a launderette in New Haw to cleanse our clothing, still caked with mud from spending the previous weekend digging out bogged down trucks and motorhomes at the Overland Show.

And that, my friends, is the story of how, at the age of 59, I became a Trucking Belle!

My only concern as a lady, though, is – does my bum look big in this?

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

If you missed my previous posts, check them out here:

* I had it pointed out to me that “There is no such thing as ‘Class 2’ and there hasn’t been for over a quarter of a century.” I have chosen to use this terminology, since everyone, including my instructor, examiner, and every LGV driver I’ve ever known refers to rigid trucks as Class 2s. Still, as a woman, I always love to be patronised, and just in case us girlie birds do get above ourselves, this kind of mansplaining is always a useful reminder that we do still live in a patriarchal society.

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Published by Jacqueline Lambert @WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before". Since 2021, we've been at large in a 24.5-tonne self-converted ex-army truck called The Beast. BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

24 thoughts on “Lorry Lessons for Ladies – Day 5: THE TRUCKIN’ TEST!

    1. I’m glad it was helpful. Mark told me off for putting in too much detail about the driving, but I wanted it to be informative. That’s what I would want to read! Not that I think your manoeuvring course set the bar very high 😦
      I’m still glowing about the outcome! 🙂


  1. Thanks so much for this wonderful learning course Jackie. You rock. Just look at you standing in front of that big rig! Congratulations on the pass. I hope you celebrated. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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