07 April 2015

Theory test work station

 

There is little difference between the process for sitting the theory test for your class 1 and that of 2, 3, or 5 except remembering to take your completed medical examination form with you.

I went in today so let me walk you through exactly what happened.

Initially I only intended to apply to sit my test at a later date but found that no appointment is required so there was no time like the present to sit the 2L and get it over with.  I had already told myself that it was more than likely I would have to come back and re-sit (as I'd heard modern day driver licensing was hard) so this would save me an extra trip!

 

You hand over your filled-in DL1 - driving license application form; your medical examination certificate; and two forms of id - one of which must include a photo; and your driver's license if you haven't already used that as your photo id.  [If you have a photo driver's license you only need that as the sole id - not two forms.  More information on the new requirements for identity documents is here]  The clerk will hold onto your license.  You pay your application fee and your theory test fee; sign a digital slate for the signature that will appear on your new license; and sit down to have your photo taken.  There are no mirrors and you do not get to see your photo on screen - they simply take one photo and if they are happy it meets the criteria for the license that's it.

If you have a mobile phone it is taken from you at this point, usually with your handbag and put behind the counter; and you are escorted to the testing work station.

All the stations I have seen are simply in the main foyer / room of the testing agent.  Music is going in the background; vehicles are being brake-tested outside; children are crying; and staff are talking to members of the public behind you.  It doesn't make for a quiet conducive space to concentrate in especially when it's school holidays [what was I thinking?].

The clerk instructs you to enter a 4-digit pin code from a piece of paper, and you read the opening page of the test instructions.  If you have understood that, you click to start the test and question number 1 appears.

This is when the 30-minute timer starts and the clerk walks you through answering the first question.  You are informed that if necessary the test time may be extended; and to let them know at the 5-minute-to-go warning that you will need more time.  Being told this made me quite concerned that I too would need this time.

You are advised that if you know the answer to the question you select the (large) button and click on 'next question' where it will be revealed if you got it correct or not.  If you get it correct it automatically proceeds to the next question albeit rather slowly.  If you get it wrong it will show you the right answer and you will need to click 'next question'.  If you are not 100% sure of the answer you can click on the 'next question' button and this activates the question coming up again at the end of the test for you to have another go at.

I thought this functionality of the test was considerate.

 

So there I was in a noisy environment (noisier than having 5 children at home looking over my shoulder, whining, asking questions etc!) staring at an antiquated-looking computer programme (think very early huge rounded-corner box buttons) in a non-ergonomic set-up, navigating with only a corded mouse, and taking one question at a time.

To be honest, the questions were a lot easier than I expected, especially after so thoroughly studying via drivingtests.co.nz .  There was only ever 1 correct answer required out of either 2 or 4 possible answers, and no 'check all that apply' ones,  There weren't even, in my mind 2 very close answers that would have you oscillating twixt the two if you weren't quite sure.

The outcome:  I passed.  100%.  Wahoo!

 

With the theory completed you return to the clerk (or due to the influx of secondary school-aged children I had to wait for a bit) to receive your temporary paper license which you also sign.  [As an aside ... these DLE-sized license books are bound on the left hand edge like most cheque books and consequently are not easy for left-handers to sign.  Perhaps clerk's can rip it from the book before asking you to sign to mitigate this for everyone?]

You are told that your new license ought to be sent out within 21 days but that if it isn't please call the 0800 number on the front of the temporary license before it expires.

 

Then you go out and celebrate!  Vega was with me so we shared a passionfruit - mochaccino ice cream sundae.

 

One thing that concerned me was that the test was too easy; and that cramming had been used by others (just that same morning) to pass their class 1 theory that afternoon. I seriously doubt those high-schoolers will retain anything in even 2-4 weeks let alone for the duration of their practical driving requirements or beyond. How can answering only 35 questions really show a thorough understanding of the road rules? Even the student's accompanying teacher was bragging about their sure-fire system that they used to get their students to pass; as if passing was the ultimate result and real in-depth understanding didn't even factor into the equation. It makes me feel more unsafe on the road.

31 March 2015

Commercial public weigh station, Napier

 

On a class 2 license you are allowed to drive 5 different types of vehicles:

  • A rigid vehicle (including any tractor) with a GLW of more than 6000kg but less than 18,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (that is not a tractor/trailer combination) with a GCW of not more than 12,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (that is not a tractor) consisting of a rigid vehicle with a GLW of 18,000kg or less towing a light trailer (GLW of 3500kg or less)
  • A rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg that has no more than two axles
  • A tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed over 30km/h
 
 
Ever wondered how a vehicle is weighed though?
 
That's the function of a weigh station or weigh bridge - an expanse of metal plating or concrete slabs that serve as a long narrow 'basket' for scales that measure in the tonnes instead of grams or kilogrammes.  Some are above ground and have a ramp to drive up, others are set into a pit so you drive straight onto them.
 
Weighing a vehicle becomes important after custom manufacturing & modifications to check it's within it's class weight allowance; or for companies whose primary function is to carry loads that may vary in weight and who want to prevent getting a fine for bearing too much.   It could also be very useful if you are towing a fully laden caravan with your passengers in a car / van / motorhome and want to satisfy yourself that you can still do this on a class 1 license.
 
Most weigh stations are commercial and privately-owned meaning that if you are interested in using them there will be a fee.  They are directed at the multiple-use traffic moreso than the curious, and will have an account payment system with key or card access to the facilities 24/7.  [You'd be forgiven in thinking that just because some are designated as 'public weighbridges' they are free to the public.]
 
Unfortunately a Yellow pages search also brings up all the retailers of weighbridges not just the publicly accessible places.  If you are looking for a one-off weigh you may also be able to ask at local firms with their own installed on-site scales if they'd be willing to do you a favour - think metal or aggregate yards, agricultural grain stores, forestry or logging firms, rubbish disposal plants,  fruit packaging warehouses etc.
 
 
The NZTA is responsible for the weighbridges used by the NZ Police Commercial Vehicles Investigation Unit (CVIU) around the country to perform their road safety and Operator Safety Rating (ORS) checks.  These are in all the major districts: Auckland (Drury), Waikato (Paengaroa), Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu/Wanganui, Wellington (Plimmerton), Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, West Coat, Otago, & Canterbury.
 
Naturally it's better to be safe than sorry, and know (your weight) before you go.
17 March 2015

 

A driving course or not - that is the question.

The answer will depend on whether you have access to a vehicle and how fast you want to be able to drive solo.

 

You are perfectly allowed once you pass your theory license to drive / practise / call-it-what-you-will as long as you have a supervisor in the front seat with you.  This person has to have had their full license of the same class for a minimum of 2 years and is responsible for you and the vehicle at all times that you are in the driver's seat.

 

You then spend a minimum period of time practising (6 months) before you can sit the next stage of your license.  For class 1 (vehicles under 3500kg) the next stage is a restricted period, for all others this is the full license.

 

The class 1 (light vehicle) system has just changed so you have 18 months in the second period shortened to 12 if you pass an advanced driving course.  Both the learner and restricted licenses are only valid for 5 years.  There are exceptions for age and carriage of passengers throughout the process, so check the NZTA car license webpage.

With most households having a car it is common to see parents or caregivers teaching their teens to drive.  For some the stress is too much or their time too little that they rather sub-contract out to a driving instructor.

In many ways as driving a car is the foundation of all licenses (except if you go straight to a motorcycle one) it does seem prudent to have a 'professional' set the standard, but I baulk against this purely because I challenge this notion in other areas of my life.

Yes, I had a professional lesson right before I sat my full license, and I will never forget how the instructor demonstrated the visibility blind spots; but in order to drive my biggest determinate of my success was my will and understanding how a manual car actually worked.  I expect my class 2 will be the same.

 

When you get to sit the various heavy transport licenses it is no longer a question of knowing how to drive exactly, it's more how do I drive this vehicle & safely, along with what are the extra rules I need to know.  Often an HT license will be part of a vocational choice and therefore there may be some expediency demanded to fully qualify.  In some cases your place of employment will be registered to provide advanced driving instruction; or others will sponsor the cost of you sitting an outside course - lucky folks!

The main benefit of successfully completing a class 2, 3, 4 or 5 advanced driving course is that you can obtain your full license immediately instead of biding the 6 months prior to sitting a practical test.  

The courses must contain one or two unit standards.  One relates to the class of vehicle (2, 3, 4, or 5) you are learning to drive; and the other is #24089 Fatigue management, work time and logbooks.   These are usually taught on the first day.  If you have already completed #24089 within 12 months or can show your continued understanding of this unit standard you are not required to fulfill this requirement again.  
 

Here is what the unit standard covers for #24089 (pdf);and the interpretation by way of the NZTA Health and Fatigue guide book(pdf).

The following NZQA booklets relate to the unit standard for the class of vehicle you are learning to drive as mentioned above:

Class 2 #17574 (pdf)

Class 3 #17575 (pdf)

Class 4 #17576 (pdf)

Class 5 #17577 (pdf)

 

These are the NZTA's guide books to support the above standards:

Heavy rigid vehicles (pdf)

Heavy combination vehicles (pdf)

 

The feedback we've received indicates some advanced driving courses do not include much if any practical learning.  There is a final 45 - 120 minute (minimum of 40 minutes) practical assessment taken on the last day.
 

You still need to wait a minimum 3 months (if you're over 25 years) prior to sitting the next higher class rather than 6 months.  The exception to this is if you are able to find and complete a 2F to 4L or similar 'extra' practical course that concentrates on clocking up 1000km over a minimum of 7 days.  Technically someone over 25 years may be able to complete their 2, 4, & 5 classes in one year and some driving schools promote this pathway.

 

So you're ready to find a driving course?  Where do you look?

The NZTA website lists approved heavy transport & endorsement course providers in each of the regions. 

 

Courses in the major centres appear to be more competitively priced, with one contacted charging $715 for a 2-day class 2 course (having gained your theory licence prior, & including HT hire).  In the Hawkes Bay region the 3 that replied to our enquiry started at $855 (2-day not including theory license or vehicle hire) up to $1200 (3-day including theory tuition, theory application and test, & truck fee).

Check whether your course includes the tuition for your theory licence, the costs of sitting the theory, and the cost of 'hiring' the vehicle to sit your practical test in if you don't have one yourself.

If you need to hire a vehicle yourself you will need a licenced driver to pick it up and drop it off again.  

Some courses include a fee to record your completion of the 2 unit standards on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority's register.   NZQA charge $1.58 (incl) per credit, so your class 2 unit standard will cost $11.06 to register as it's 7 credits; and your Logbook and fatigue standard $7.90 (5 credits).  Registration is optional and mostly just serves as a record of completion if you need it in the future.

Also be aware that some may list course prices exclusive GST and 15% will need to be added to the total price you pay. 

Course providers do not include the full licence application fee.  They give you a competency certificate that you take to the NZTA; where you pay the NZTA the fee for your full licence.  The licence will take a week or so to process and is a re-issue of your current driver's licence with the extra class noted.

 

For the record the theory license is around $100 - $48.20 to register, and $45.70 to sit the theory test.  You can end up sitting the theory test more than once.  You only pay the extra $45.70 each time thereafter.

In order to sit the full license practical you spend around $110 - a combination of the full license application fee $46.90 and the practical test fee $59.90.

 

So where am I at? I have been studying for the theory test and need to sit that in the next 4 weeks. I just don't want to fail and have it cost more to sit the test again! Afterward I need to take an advanced driving course as I have no access to a vehicle otherwise and need to progress to a class 4 a.s.a.p. I would like to become familiar with the insides of a truck cab first, so if you know of anyone in the Hawkes Bay who will show me the ropes or let me ride-along please let me know. Or if you have had an experience (positive or negative) with the driving schools here tip us off. Thanks.

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