What exactly is involved in the LGV test - How to pass 1st time

The LGV Driving test explained


I have been instructing LGV students for 25 years. During that time I have seen many people pass the LGV (formally HGV) driving test and probably just as many fail. Why do some pass 1st time and some take several attempts. There are many reasons and in this article I will attempt to explain exactly what is needed to get through the test successfully.

Most people regard themselves as good drivers. Are you one of these ? You have probably been driving for a few years now and don't have many, if any, accidents in a typical year. Perhaps you drive a van or something larger regularly or perhaps you drive 500 - 1000+ miles each week. Does this however make you a good driver. Have you really got the correct personality to become a professional lorry driver ? Answer these 5 questions truthfully:-

  • Do you ever pull away from the kerb without fully checking the blind spot over your right shoulder
  • Do you ever accelerate towards traffic lights while they are green to get through before they change to red
  • Do you ever slow down for a speed camera then accelerate again after passing it
  • Do you sometimes pull out onto a roundabout into a small gap even if it means the vehicles already on it have to slow down for you
  • Do you sometimes forget to signal left before exiting a roundabout

These are just some of the many bad habits drivers develop over the years. The problem with the LGV test is that if you display even 1 bad habit during the test you will fail. So how can you change years of habit forming driving in just a few days driving a vehicle much larger than you have ever driven before.

Understand how high the DSA required standard is
Many candidates turn up for their LGV course thinking that as long as they show they are fairly safe driving a lorry they will pass the test. Nothing could be further from the truth. The standard required of test candidates is far higher than most people imagine. There are 3 types of driving fault the examiner will mark you down for:

  1. Minor faults - These are mistakes while not being dangerous display a lack of either vehicle control or a bad habit developed over the years. Typical examples of minor faults are: failing to check the mirrors at the correct times, undue hesitation at roundabouts and junctions, not making sufficient progress and many, many others. A candidate is allowed to have 15 minor faults on the DL25 (driving test report sheet) and still pass, but of course it is not that simple. When a candidate makes a minor mistake the examiner will mark it on the relevant section of the sheet. If you make the same minor mistake again the examiner will again make a mark. Usually on the third occasion of making the same fault the examiner will change the fault from being a minor to a serious. This is not good for the candidate. So while in theory you can make 15 minor faults and still pass, unless they are spread about the sheet in different areas one of your regular faults will be classed as serious.
  2. Serious faults - If you have 1 or more serious faults marked on the sheet you will fail the test. A serious fault can be collected by making the same minor mistake repeatedly or by making a mistake that whilst not dangerous has the potential to be so. Examples of where the examiner may give a straight serious fault are: Mounting the kerb with the vehicle, pulling out in front of another vehicle, failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing when someone is waiting to cross, hitting a cone during the reversing exercise. There are of course lots of other examples I could give.
  3. Dangerous faults - As you might expect if you get one or more of these during the test you will fail. It could get even worse as in extreme cases the examiner will ask you to stop the vehicle and then terminate the test in the interests of public safety. Dangerous faults can be given for things such as not stopping at red traffic lights, going through a no entry sign, almost causing an accident etc.

Click on the image above to see a full size DL25 test report form (Download in PDF)

To pass the test you will have to demonstrate a high standard of driving. You will have to show consideration for and courtesy to other road users and you will need to demonstrate mastery over all the vehicle controls. This includes the footbrake, accelerator, steering, clutch and many others.

Top Tip - Do not underestimate the attention to detail required to pass. One momentary lapse of concentration will probably result in you needing a retest.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Like most other things in life preparation is the key to success. Without the correct tuition you will not pass the test. Choose carefully when selecting a company to train with. It is unlikely that the cheapest will be the best. This is because vehicles cost a lot of money to buy and maintain. Older vehicles may be more difficult to control for a learner driver due to key parts being partly worn out. It is never truer than in LGV training, you get what you pay for.

Important questions to ask before booking a course

  • How long has the company been operating
  • How old are the training vehicles. Be careful if they are more than 5 years old
  • How much experience of training has the instructor got
  • Can you speak to some previous students about their experiences
  • Does the training provider have spare vehicles to cover thing like breakdown etc

Things most people DO ask before booking

  • How much will the course cost
  • How near to my home is the course
  • What is your pass rate. This is an overused question because most schools will exaggerate anyway. You can find the pass rate for any test centre on the DSA website.


Attend the course with an open mind - Be prepared to learn
This might sound obvious but you would be amazed how many people take the view "I've been doing things a certain way for years and never had any problems". This may be so but it doesn't mean they have been doing it correctly. To pass the LGV test you will have to do things in a certain way. The DSA has very strict guidelines about what is expected with all their examiners being trained to the same standard. You should arrive for your course with the attitude that you are going to have complete faith in what your instructor tells you. A good instructor will not just tell you how to do something but the reasons why you should do it that way. Typically at the start of the course the trainer will be instructing every little step of every manoeuvre, but as your skills and equally importantly, your confidence grows he will observe more and instruct less. As test time approaches he will be fine tuning your skills with subtle pieces of advice. By the time you arrive at the test centre you should feel ready to take the world on and have nothing to fear about showing the examiner just how good you really are.

Do not expect the instructor to treat you with kid gloves. While he will be courteous and sympathetic to your initial fears and doubts, an LGV training session is often very intense with "Industrial language" being the norm. There will be general banter and humour mixed in with deep and often technical points of instruction throughout the day.

Don't become your own worst enemy - No added pressures please !
You will have invested a fair amount of your own money trying to improve yourself by passing the test. Money that most people have lots of other uses for. Don't let this thought create extra pressure to pass. Some people are worried about facing their friends and family and having to tell them they failed. This only adds to their anxieties on the test. I know from experience that a persons driving skills alone may not be enough to pass the test. A lot depends on your self belief. You must have the belief you can do well to create the adrenaline. This in turn will provide the focus and concentration that will convince the examiner you are quite safe to issue a licence to.

Step by step guide to the test itself

  • Arrive at the test centre about 15 minutes before the arranged start time
  • Meet the examiner and escort him out to your vehicle
  • He will ask you 5 vehicle safety questions. (Download in PDF)
  • Carry out the reversing exercise
  • Demonstrate the controlled stop exercise
  • Go out for road test - approximately 1 hour
  • Arrive back at test centre for examiner debrief and receive test result

The LGV reverse manoeuvre

The vehicle starts from between 2 cones on the ground. The candidate reverses the vehicle passing the middle cone on the right hand side of the vehicle. He continues reversing into a bay marked by more cones and stops with the rearmost part of the vehicle directly over a yellow and black area painted are on the ground.

This exercise is done at the test centre at the start of the test. To pass the candidate must manoeuvre the vehicle as shown in the diagram. To pass it must be performed:

  • With accuracy
  • Under control
  • With proper observation

This article is intended to give you an understanding of what is involved to pass the LGV test. It is not within the scope of a short piece like this to cover every last detail but hopefully you will have the flavour of what is required.

Good luck and hope to see you soon.

John Dawson
Training Manager
Flair Training

For further details about the courses we offer please visit the Flair Training website.