Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Nigel Donnelly
PASSING YOUR DRIVING test is one of life’s milestone moments and definitely a day to be remembered.
Hearing those two amazing words “you’ve passed” had me jumping for joy, hugging stony faced examiners and practically crying. It was a fantastic feeling but also a huge relief to think that I’d never have to experience this daunting task again. That was 2004. So why, just four years later, did I find myself facing this challenge all over again?
The answer - category B + E.
If, like me, you passed your test after 1 January 1997 you won’t have this category on your licence. Therefore you cannot tow a car and caravan outfit heavier than 3.5 tonnes.
This sounds like a lot of kilos, but when totting up the weights of various car and caravan combinations on the Practical Caravan quickly revealed I was out of luck.
Don’t get me wrong. It's not impossible to caravan without B+E, but it is very difficult. There are plenty of fantastic lightweight family vans on the market and I have used some perfect versions on my travels.
But one of the joys of working at PC is the chance to grab keys to the latest, greatest tourers and tugs. Finding so many out of bounds is very frustrating. Unlike more qualified colleagues, each of my trips away involves loads of number crunching and matching before I can unpack the deck chairs.
There is only one way to sort it. I had to take on the B + E driving test.
Helping me in my quest was Bernie Jones at L-Busters trailer training school in Sussex. A very patient and practical instructor who makes everything towing- related look a doddle.
With a decent amount of towing experience under my belt and as a rather confident driver I thought the whole process would be easy. But during my first training session it soon became apparent that this was much more involved than anticipated.
As Bernie explained, the expected standard for B+E tests is much higher than the normal car test.
For those who have not taken on the joyful task, it is based on an HGV driving test and involves a good hour of towing on a variety of A and M roads.
This is followed by an off-road section where you need to demonstrate your reversing skills, hitch and unhitch the ‘van in a certain order and perform a controlled stop.
It is the second, off-road part, that has been my downfall on three (or is it four?) occasions.
The controlled stop, fine. The hitching and unhitching, fine. Checking over the vehicle, fine. Reversing, not always fine. However, in my defence there are very stringent rules that they will not budge on no matter how well you have done elsewhere on the test.
Failing the B+E test
Reasons for failing have included, straddling one wheel on a white line, not positioned fully in a designated box and on the last attempt it was for getting out and checking the position of the ‘van more than once!
Yes there needs to be rules but surely common sense needs to come into play? If I was on a site would it really matter how many times I got out to check the van when reversing onto a pitch?
What I have also failed to mention about this failing lark is the fact I’ve had the same delightful soul each and every time I’ve taken the test!
Bob, my favourite examiner, has pulled my name out of the hat every time I’ve been sat waiting in the room of doom.
Was this just a coincidence? Who knows, but it hasn’t stopped me trying various tactics to try and avoid or at least get round him.
These have included booking a day we thought he wouldn’t be there. Fail.
Wearing a lower than normal neckline and some lippy. Fail.
Taking a more casual, stable-girl approach to my outfit. Fail.
Aiming for the sympathy vote due to a prominent baby bump. Fail.
Disheartened from these several failed attempts I have taken a couple of years off from my B + E horror, sorry challenge.
But now I think it is time to get back to that test centre, or perhaps another, and face my fear.
Fingers crossed 2013 is the year that I put a P after that B+E.