A truly terrifying test

A truly terrifying test

Employing a new truck or bus driver, without first testing that he or she is capable of driving your vehicle, can place them, your company and the lives of others in peril.

I recently had a very unpleasant and frightening experience when testing an incompetent applicant for a truck driver’s job. He had an official heavy-duty driving licence and a professional driving permit, but could not drive the vehicle and had probably never been taught to drive a truck … or even a light motor vehicle.

I had been approached by a company that was in the process of replacing one of its older drivers, who was retiring. There were a number of applicants for the position and I was contracted to test the potential drivers and assist in the selection of the best candidate for the job.

Satisfied that all the potential drivers to be tested had valid licences and professional driving permits, I selected the first candidate to road test his driving proficiency.

Before we started the road test, I asked him to conduct a pre-trip inspection on the vehicle. The poor man had no idea what to do and it was clear that he had never been taught how to do this.

Inside the cab, I pointed to the rev counter and asked him to explain its importance. His answer was that it records the speed that the vehicle is travelling and when the indicator on the counter reaches the red line the driver is going too fast.

Well, I thought this was not too serious, as we could easily teach him how to conduct a pre-trip inspection and how to use the rev counter.

At the start of the road test, he had difficulty in reversing and manoeuvring the truck out of the yard. His clutch control was very poor and very rough, and he could not start the vehicle without it running backwards, but I decided to proceed; giving him some leeway and making allowance for him being nervous.

After exiting the factory gate, we turned into a main road that was heavily congested with traffic and pedestrians, but he ignored all the potential road hazards. He also ignored the speed limit; racing through first, second and third gears and over-revving in each gear.      

In his excited, formula-one, racing-driver style he realised that the truck would not go any faster unless he changed to a higher gear. He battled to select fourth gear and, in his panic, slammed the gearbox back into second. The back wheels locked up and he nearly lost control of the vehicle. It’s a wonder that he did not damage the driveline.

By now it was blatantly evident that he was not competent to drive any type of motor vehicle and had never been taught how to drive. He was also a danger to himself and other road users.

The question is: how did he obtain and possess a code EC driving licence and a current professional driving permit?

Remember, as the owner of a motor vehicle, it is your legal and moral obligation to ensure that the person who you allow to drive your vehicle has a valid licence and a professional driving permit for the class of motor vehicle, and is actually competent to drive your vehicle.


One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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HOD Bailey Mahlakoleng (left) hands over a set of securitised number plates to MEC Gaoage Molapisi of the Bokone Bophirima Department of Community Safety and Transport Management.