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Trainer’s adaptive-controls steers Darren to Class 1

Trainer’s adaptive-controls steers Darren to Class 1

Top trainer’s adaptive-controls vehicle steers Darren to Class 1 licence

A disabled driver says his world ‘would be so much smaller’ without the support of a training expert in helping him gain a Class 1 HGV qualification.

Darren Wiles, a T12 paraplegic, needed to pass his Category 3a and 3b driving tests in order to tow a trailer with his 12.6 ton motorhome and was able to achieve his goal by training and testing in an adaptive-controls vehicle provided by driver training specialist Dulson Training.

Adaptive-controls vehicle training is just one of the services provided by Dulson Training through its centres in Wrexham, Shrewsbury, Telford, Ludlow, Wolverhampton, West Midlands and at customer sites nationwide. 

Steve Dulson, of Dulson Training, said: “We have helped a lot of disabled people gain a new lorry or bus licence using adaptive controls – many of whom are former Armed Forces personnel. We are a proud member of the Armed Forces Covenant and were delighted to pick up an Armed Forces Bronze Covenant on the Employer Recognition Scheme for helping people with a disability learn a new skill. 

“Darren first visited us to look at his options and in order for us to get an understanding of his capabilities and limitations. From that we were able to put a training and testing programme in place to assist Darren in achieving his goals using one of our adaptive-controls vehicles.

“We are delighted to have worked with Darren and helped him achieve his new licence. It is helping him maintain a level of independence he was looking for and means travel is no barrier.”  

Darren said: “I went to Dulson Training to discuss options for getting in the cab and what adaptations I would need for driving. The truck already had hand controls, push pull, that could be fitted. The bigger problem for me was getting in the cab as I’m a complete T12 paraplegic. 

“Dulson Training fabricated a frame in the cab that could support a block and tackle style winch. I transferred from my day chair onto another normal chair into the sling which was laid out. We then clipped the sling to the winch hook and they pulled me up into the cab. Once in the seat it was pretty straight forward with the push pull hand controls and a steering ball.

“After 32 hours training I was confident driving the truck and was test ready.

I went out for my first drive without a trailer which went well. The next day we put a trailer on the back of the unit which at first seemed large but with great instructions from my instructor Paul on how to gauge my position using mirrors, my confidence grew.  

“After four 4.5-hour training sessions combining road driving and training for the 3a trailer part of the test, I took my test and passed first time. My instructor gave me the skills and knowledge I needed to pass this test with great confidence. I had to reverse and uncouple and couple back to the trailer safely with a DVSA examiner.”

Darren then had a further four days training on the road, with his confidence growing all the time. By the time his 3b driving test came round he admits to feeling slightly nervous but confident.  

“On test day I made a small error and my breaking was a bit aggressive – which was classed as a major and cost me my test,” Darren added. “However, the rest of my test was very good with only four minors and I booked a retest for the following week, which I’m very happy to say I passed.

“I am so pleased that I passed as I have a 12.6 ton motorhome and can now go away towing my trailer with my van on and enjoy the world. After passing my test, I drove the motorhome around locally two or three times before jumping in at the deep end and travelling to Pembrey race circuit for a weekend of motorsport. 

“The hardest thing to get used to was something that big being left-hand drive, but about two hours down the road I was fine – although it was a bit of a squeeze round the back roads of Wales. I am now planning to get away to Spain over the winter.

“It was a pleasure to work with Dulson Training and my instructor Paul was brilliant. If it wasn’t for Dulson Training willing to help me and other disabled people to train and take tests in HGV’s, my world would be a much smaller place.” 

To find out more about the options available through Dulson Training, including obtaining Class 2, Class 1 or any sort of bus or minibus licence, improving towing skills for a trailer to caravan or qualifying as a forklift operator, visit  https://www.dulsontraining.co.uk/  

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