Get the basics and go from C to HC
Did you know that there are five licence classes covering different sizes of truck?
Every state and territory has its own requirements when it comes to licensing conditions and testing processes (identify and contact your local licensing authority here), but licence classes remain the same Australia-wide.
Heavy vehicle licensing classes are governed by gross vehicle mass (GVM) and axle count.
A Light Rigid (LR) class licence will get you steering small buses or trucks above 4.5 tonnes and up to 8 tonnes. There are two types of licence – automatic and manual.
Variants of the Hino 300 Series 616 IFS, 616 and 617 models can be driven with a car licence, but the heavier end of the 300 Series range requires an LR or MR stamp in the wallet.
A Medium Rigid (MR) class licence means you can work the pedals on trucks and buses over 8tonnes and up to 15 tonnes and with two axles, such as the higher end of the 300 Series 920 and 921 models and the lower GVM two-axle Hino 500 Series models. Like LR, there are separate variants of this licence for manual and automatic transmissions, and an ‘unconditional’ class for non-synchromesh or constant mesh manual transmission-equipped vehicles.
A Heavy Rigid (HR) class licence is as big as you can go in a rigid truck. With a HR licence you can drive trucks and buses over 8 tonne GVM with three or more axles and a maximum towing weight of 9 tonnes. Hino rigid 500 Series models are available to licence holders in this category. Again, there are unconditional, A and B classes for this licence depending on transmission type.
Stepping up from rigids, a Heavy Combination (HC) licence puts you in heavy articulated vehicles with a truck and trailer over 9 tonne or a semi-trailer with one trailer.
At the top end of heavy vehicle licensing the Multi-Combination (MC) licence means you can operate B Doubles, set and road trains.
It’s important to note that a higher licence class means you can also drive vehicles below that class; so a HR licence holder can drive MR and LR trucks, and an MC licence holder can drive the lot.
While it can be tempting to go for the highest licence you can, heavy vehicle instructor and assessor John Chapman says going straight for the top GVM may not be the best option.
“I would suggest starting with an MR and after 12 months or so going to the HR or the HC depending on ability,” John says.
“It’s an apprenticeship. I don’t necessarily agree with people going straight to HR: it’s a six-wheeler and it’s 23-tonne as opposed to a four-wheeler at a maximum of 16.5 tonnes. You’re walking before you can crawl.”
HC licences require you to hold an MR or HR licence for at least 12 months, with MC requiring 12 months of HR or HC before applying.
Choose your trainer
The best way to get through your Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA) is to enrol with a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).
There are a host of courses and providers for all classes available nationwide, including one-day options for those with busy schedules.
It’s important to do your research before you choose your training provider. Remember, they are teaching a craft, not just helping you to pass a test.
“You’re only as good as the trainer or assessor sitting alongside you,” says John.
“You want an instructor with industry experience … someone who has been there and done it.”