Gav’s Licence Journey – Class 4

In Features, September 20215 MinutesBy Gavin MyersOctober 18, 2021

It took a bit longer than expected, but it’s finally time to move onto the bigger gear!

Time. I’ve come to realise it’s one of truck driving’s most valuable concepts. Time in the seat behind the wheel, taking your time on the road – and timing your actions correctly. With time, I’ve fathomed, the intricacies of driving heavy machinery come together.

Getting behind the wheel and mashing the accelerator is one thing. Doing it right takes time.

However, much as it is for truck drivers, time is a scarce commodity and one that disappears quickly for those putting together the pages of a monthly magazine. And so it was that moving from class 2 to class 4 took me a few months longer than planned.

Once again, the crew from TR Driver Training came on board, offering tutoring and training services. I was booked in for 17 August at the Tauranga depot, and TR Driver Training forwarded me the training material about a month before D-day. That would be more than enough time for me to refresh myself on the study guides provided for the class 2 (classes 2 and 4 build from the same base) while concentrating on the most important points of class 4 as summarised in TR’s new training material. I would need these for the theory portion of the course on the 17th.

Happily, the fatigue management, work-time and logbook requirements coursework is a one-time deal for all licence classes, so there was no need to be tested on that again. Still, considering I don’t actually drive trucks for a living every day, I took the time to page through that and refresh my memory on it.

Not having the experience of driving trucks every day was something that bothered me when it came to moving from smaller, lighter trucks to the larger, heavier class. What I needed was to clock up some time behind the wheel to familiarise myself with the dimensions of a three- or fouraxle truck on New Zealand’s roads. The favour came in from New Zealand Trucking magazine friend Carl Davies (cheers Carl!), who lent one of his Volvo FM 8×4 tippers to Dave and I. A few laps of the general Waihi area and it was time to jump into Carl’s prized Mack for a Roadranger baptism-by-fire – just in case TR would require me to do my test in a truck that had 13 or 18 speeds…

As it turned out, the truck I would be driving did have 18 gears and a clutch. Thankfully it was a series 1 Freightliner Argosy 8×4 SmartShift. For those who haven’t encountered it before, SmartShift is a semi-automatic interface on the familiar Eaton UltraShift transmission that takes care of gear selection (or you can flick the paddle and control the progress yourself) but requires the use of the clutch pedal for starting and stopping.

With a bit of time behind the wheel, my comfort with the big ol’ Argy grew. TR driver training specialist John Paku was the man guiding me in the classroom and from the passenger seat. With a career in transport, John was more than willing to impart some words of wisdom and ensure I paid attention to the finer points of driving larger trucks.

By the end of the day, John was satisfied with my driving abilities and promptly presented me with a class-4 driver licence and endorsement certificate to present to a driver licencing agent (AA or VTNZ) so I could be issued with the actual licence.

All that’s left now is to schedule in some more time on the road before adding a trailer to the mix.