PCV bus driving practical test passed

Finally. After many delays, false starts and one failure, I am the proud owner of a PCV Practical Driving Test Pass Certificate.

If you’re on the top of your game in the world of Showjumping, you can do a ‘clear round’ if you and your horse go round the course without picking up any faults. Well, I’m not that good. I passed my practical test but picked up a handful of driving faults on the way round. None of them merited any comment from the examiner afterwards so they were all minor.

The test route included town driving (through Exeter city centre), country lanes and motorway. There was also a 10 minute period of independent driving, when I was told to follow signs for a certain destination and then left to my own devices. It was such a huge relief to arrive back at the Test Centre and be told that I’d passed. It’s been such a long time since I passed my theory modules that my Theory Pass Certificate was due to expire at the end of the week! So here’s a blow by blow account of my training and test, including the one I failed last week:

Training Day 1. My second attempt at gaining my PCV driver’s licence began with a 2-hour session in Exeter on a cold, bright day 2 weeks ago. This time I did a 3-day course with Carmel Coaches, whose Exeter depot just happens to be right across the road from the Test Centre. Very handy!

I was the only one doing the course (last time there were two of us) but I think on balance that I was happier with a smaller audience! The vehicle we used is much easier to handle than the coach I had last May. They hired a 12-metre coach from Tally Ho! Coaches near Plymouth then, which seemed absolutely huge! I did master it eventually, of course, but the Carmel training bus is only 10 metres long and feels much less bulky.

The Dennis Javelin bus (N205OAE) was originally supplied to the Royal Navy in 1994 and for some reason is very low geared. There are 6 forward gears but I’ve never used 1st. Even starting away in 2nd feels like 1st did on the other coach! In 6th gear with my foot to the floor we just about managed to get 62mph out of it.

To begin with Tony (my instructor) drove out to the A30 towards Okehampton and parked in a layby, where I took over. He was understandably wary of me driving out of the depot and all through the Marsh Barton industrial estate without some idea of my driving skills but I was glad to be able to get acquainted with the old Dennis Javelin on a relatively straight and quiet piece of road. I was pleased to go up through the box to 6th gear without any glitches although I was to miss a few downchanges later on!

Bizarrely, this bus seemed to like being driven as if it had a crash box. In other words, the gears went in nice and smoothly when a suitable pause had been taken to allow the engine revs to drop when changing up. After I’d been advised to slow right down on the brakes before changing down I decided to vary that technique by doing a proper double de-clutch change (revving the engine between gears) and found it even easier.

We trundled out as far as Tedburn St Mary on the west side of Exeter and out the other side as far as Rockbeare to the east, before returning to Marsh Barton via the bypass. This session served the dual purpose of allowing me to become familiar with driving the vehicle and also allowed Tony to assess my skills so that he could focus on certain areas which needed improvement in the following sessions. I was reasonably happy with my progress but I think I realised that the pace would quicken the next day!

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PCV practical test next week!

Drivers’ hours, how to drive in snow, braking systems, passenger comfort, low bridges…

Yes, I’m revising for my PCV (bus driver) Practical Test, which I’m due to take next Friday. It’s nearly a year since I took my Theory Test so I need to recall all the stuff I learned last year. Not that I’ll be tested on my knowledge of theory, but it informs my judgement and decision-making out on the road.

Am I nervous? You bet I am! Although it’s not rocket science, I will still be apprehensive as I undergo 5 days of intensive training next week in Plymouth with my test on Friday. I suppose I’m fortunate in that I’ve driven buses a few times already and I’ve had 2 assessment sessions in a coach which will set me up nicely for the final lap. Wish me luck!

2010 in review

Best wishes to all my readers for 2011!

I hope you all had a marvellous Christmas and New Year holiday. Mine was busy, with a fair amount of travelling, lots of good food, many family members to catch up with, lots of gifts to share and all this with Jesus Christ at the centre.

Mercifully, we were relatively unaffected by the snow and ice that caused chaos in other parts of the country. In fact, Torbay only had about 2 inches of snow and we only suffered travelling difficulties on one day.

So, what will 2011 hold? Will the higher VAT rate and rising fuel costs affect heritage bus operations? They will certainly affect private bus-owning individuals who may cut back on the number of events they attend. Numbers of people attending events around the country may also be adversely affected. As I write, the well-known Friends of King Alfred Buses (FoKAB) running day in Winchester should be in full swing but will it be the last in the current format? There are plans to develop the centre of Winchester which include pedestrian areas and the demolition of the bus station, both of which will affect the future operation of the running day.

My plans for 2011 include passing my PCV Practical Test before May, so that I can begin driving heritage buses during the summer season. Regular readers will remember that I have already passed my PCV Theory Test and CPC Case Studies modules, with only the practical test and practical demonstration left to do. I will of course post news of my progress.

I look forward to meeting some of you again at various events during the year, or on the Service 400 “Exmoor Explorer”. Keep checking back for updates or sign up for email notifications or RSS feeds.

Here’s a summary of my blog’s performance during last year. All the activity shown below helps with my online visibility and ratings in Google searches. I’m happy to say that it’s done pretty well for a blog with fairly sporadic posts!

Many thanks to you all.

John.

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meterâ„¢ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 58 posts. There were 54 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 27th with 61 views. The most popular post that day was Drive It Day in Exeter.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were quantockmotorservices.co.uk, bobbrimley.fotopic.net, skylineaviation.co.uk, mail.live.com, and wsr.org.uk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for psv badges, cpc case study questions, cpc case study test, hold tight please, and cpc case study.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Drive It Day in Exeter April 2010

2

Driver CPC Case Study Test passed March 2010
2 comments

3

Obsolete badges November 2009
2 comments

4

A Day in the Life of a Bus Conductor November 2009
7 comments

5

Bus Conductor’s Winter Uniform March 2010
4 comments

Another PCV driving assessment day booked

So, after many months waiting for the call to go and have my PCV practical training and test in Somerset, I’ve decided to go it alone. Having found a suitable driving school closer to home, I’ve booked an assessment drive for 2 weeks time, which is exciting but potentially costly. I’m waiting to see how long the instructor thinks it will take me to get to test standard before I take the plunge and book the lessons. I might have to save a few more pennies!

Another trainee bus conductor

I’ve started training yet another young bus conductor to join the roster at Quantock. We were out on the Service 400 “Exmoor Explorer” on Saturday and, after shadowing me on the morning trip, he donned my Setright machine and cash bag and conducted on the afternoon trip.

He did quite well for his first outing so it won’t be long before he can go solo. In fact I was quite proud of him. And so I should be, he’s my youngest son!

Eventually, once I’ve passed my PCV practical test, we’ll make a good driver/conductor team.

I was out both days this weekend and the rostered drivers were both new to me as they’re both relative newcomers to the company and have only done the 400 route a few times. One of them really struggled with the crash gearbox, mostly due to the fact that he was still unfamiliar with the route and couldn’t judge the best places to change gear. Several times he tried to change up but the bus almost rolled to a standstill on the uphill gradient while the engine revs died away. The other driver seemed to have less trouble and we had a smoother ride.

We met and passed some unusual traffic this weekend. A 1950s motorbike (one lung, put-put-put), Quantock’s brand new Dart bus on the Service 39, two enormous green tractors hauling balers, an old Alvis car on it’s way back from the WSR Steam Fayre, several cyclists and two horses.

I’ve got an interesting trip coming up in a few weeks time. It involves a 1957 Bristol Lodekka, a seaside town and an old photograph. See my next post for more details!

Big Shout-out for Rob Sly

Congratulations to Rob Sly, who has passed his PCV practical test in the last few days.

Rob is one of my blog readers but is far bigger in the bus world than I will ever be. He has a passion for all things Bristol, particularly of the LH, RE and VR varieties. In fact, he’s so enthusiastic about Bristol VRs that he owns one (JOU161P)! Now that he’s passed his test he can drive it with a full load if he wants to and I’m sure that he will as soon as possible!

I can highly recommend his long-established and highly regarded website, Bristol Commercial Vehicles Enthusiasts. There you’ll find details of every surviving Bristol Lodekka, RE, LH and VR, along with links to sites which specialise in other Bristol bus marques.

Have you ever driven up a gradient on a dual carriageway or motorway with your foot to the floor? And have you felt rather envious of other drivers whose cars sail past you as if they were going downhill? Well that’s how I feel now! Rob has overtaken me on the road to PCV status while I’m marking time, waiting for some colleagues to play catch-up.

I’m not bitter of course and I wish Rob all the best in his further adventures out on the road with historic, cherished vehicles.