As the photo of my beardy grin quite clearly shows in my previous blog post, I was absolutely chuffed to pass my mini bus driving test first time round on Tuesday afternoon.
The test was challenging, it lasted about an hour and a quarter and it snowed heavily for pretty much the entire duration. But I passed*.
Looking back it now seems a relatively simple process to have obtained; apply for provisional entitlements to your license, pass the theory & hazard warning tests, get training and then take your test.
However, despite the DVLA website explaining the majority of this process clearly there’s no information on the training part.
What I wanted to know before getting training was: how much training do I need? How much training do the DVLA recommend? How much should I be prepared to spend? How long is a day’s training? Unfortunately, none of these questions are answered on the DVLA site.
So, I reverted to Google and I soon found that it was all rather ambiguous. I actually laughed out loud at some of the yarns being spun by some companies I spoke to and the prices they were trying to charge (I might even do a rundown of my experiences and the prices was quoted on a separate blog).
It actually gave me a bad outlook of the industry as a whole and made me very cautious about parting with my money. I was also none the wiser after a few days of digging.
Fortunately I finally discovered that Birmingham City Council has a training division and they soon set the record straight. They explained that for experienced driver’s the DVLA recommend three days training with the test on the fourth. They also said that a typical day’s training consists of 4 hours.
Good old public sector. A straight answer. And as they could get me in for a test on Tuesday the 11th of February they had my custom. I passed first time, it was the most reasonably priced (£150 per day + the test so £565 all in) and my instructor – Dave Young – was excellent.
Sadly – as their website is tucked away – I had to wade through loads of nonsense online before I got there. So I hope this blog post can assist people in the future with a few tips:
- The DVLA recommend three four hour sessions for a competent driver to pass their D1 driving test. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different.
- A lot of the flashy websites online claiming to be large nationwide operators are actually brokers using a network of smaller independent companies across the UK. They’re run by sales people, they take a cut and will do their utmost to talk you into using them.**
- Phone your local district council. Even if they don’t have their own training division they will have contacts as they have to get teachers & school employees through the MIDAS test***.
- Find your nearest test centre and work back from there. You will have to take your test there so use a company that operates nearby. They’ll know the area you’ll be doing the test in well and chances are – if you go with a firm from further afield – they’ll simply drive you to the area of the test centre to practice anyway.
- Four hours training in a day is plenty. It might not seem a lot and it might seem expensive for a day’s training (depending on what you paid) but any more and you’ll just feel exhausted. In fact, it could actually be counterproductive.
- Haggle. It’s a competitive industry and they’ll want your business.
* With just 4 minors I must add..! (the same, incidentally, as my car test back in 1998)
** I’m pretty confident there’s only one company that operates nationwide and that’s J Coates. Until I found Birmingham Council this was the company I was going to use. Friendly, reasonably priced and clear with their information.
*** The Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme – http://www.ctauk.org/training/introduction-to-midas.aspx – which, put simply, is a test allowing people to drive community minibuses.