Monday, 4 April 2011

Vehicle Categories explained - C1

Once upon a time, back in the mists of time (well, 14 years ago) when you passed your driving test, not only were you then legally entitled to borrow your Mum's car and do handbrake turns in Asda's car park, but you were also legally entitled to drive anything up to 7.5 tonnes. The powers that be (the DSA) took a look at this situation and decided that it might not be very safe to allow people who had only ever driven Nissan Micras to drive a vehicle which, to all intents and purposes, is a lorry.

So on 1st January, 1997 all this changed and category C1 was born. No longer were new drivers allowed to drive trucks (or tow trailers or drive minibuses, but I shall write about those some other time). Those halcyon days were over, much to the annoyance of many a young lady who wanted to get a job working as a delivery driver, or a young lad who wanted to transport his horse.

And much to the delight of any driving instructor who had access to such vehicles to teach in.

Which is where I come in.

Category C1 covers any laden goods vehicle (LGV - van or truck) which is between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes MAM (maximum authorised mass = the weight of the vehicle + the weight of everything in it). The above picture is of a 7.5 tonne truck, known in the trade as a seven-and-a-half-tonner, but a surprising number of vans come into this category too, which many people are driving without realising that they are breaking the law.

This has been my home for the day. It is a long wheel based Ford Transit van with an MAM of 4.5 tonnes. It looks like the normal van that you might hire to move house but if you got your licence after '97 you wouldn't be able to without taking a test. Or breaking the law, one of the two. This one is owned by the ambulance service because ambulances are category C1 and I have spent a very pleasant day teaching a trainee paramedic how to drive it. Or more specifically getting her out of over 10 years worth of bad habits (she was a quick learner, it was a nice day).

Most people who want to drive lorries and who are paying for the training themselves go straight for category C (big trucks) but companies or organisations who don't run large vehicles but need their staff to drive C1 will only pay for C1, not because it's any cheaper, but because they aren't going to pay to overqualify their staff for the job they want them to do. And quite a lot of my work comes from this category of training.

Here endeth today's lesson.