Top 10 reasons for HGV driving test fails

Failing a driving test is one of those experiences you never forget. Getting to the end of the test only to hear the examiner utter the dreaded words: “I’m sorry but you haven’t passed”. You’re sent a copy of your test report showing the faults recorded that will help you understand where you went wrong. What you may not know is that the information on your email is added to a huge database by the DVSA of all faults recorded on all tests. Training Mentor contacted DVSA to ask them to provide us with the Top 10 reasons for HGV driving test fails. We were kindly provided with the statistics for all C & CE tests between 1st October 2017 and 30 September 2018.

In this article we count down these problem areas, explain a bit more about how they are caused and provide the vital statistic – how many tests were actually failed for each type of fault.

  • 10. Response to signs and signals – traffic signs (1662 fails)

    We start our countdown with tests failed for responses to traffic signs – 1662 people failed HGV tests in the 12 month period for this reason. Common examples of this type of test fail include missing restriction signs such as weight limits and height restrictions. Remember, if the route ahead is restricted for your vehicle, the examiner is not required to direct you to adjust your route. As a professional driver, you must always pay close attention to road signs.

    Watch out for restrictions on your test route


  • 9. Judgement – meeting (1693 fails)

    At number 9 we have ‘meeting’ related test fails. Quite simply, this refers to situations where the driver has failed to demonstrate suitable competence when meeting an oncoming vehicle. Often, this type of fault occurs on narrow roads where there is limited space due to the size of the lorry. Always remember the width of your vehicle including the mirrors. If your offside tyres are on the centre line, your mirrors are on the wrong side of the road. Another common example of this fault is when passing parked vehicles. Highway Code rule 163 states:

    Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road

    If you cause an oncoming vehicle to slow or stop unnecessarily, you could fall victim of this type of fault too.

    Remember the width of your vehicle, take your time on narrow roads.


  • =7 Awareness / Planning (2040 fails)

    In joint 7th place with 2040 fails we have ‘awareness and planning’ faults. Mistakes with awareness include not paying close enough attention to vulnerable road users and failing to ensure your vehicle has passed safely through hazards. Planning faults are caused by drivers failing to effectively judge the potential actions of other road users. All drivers should plan well ahead, but when driving a large, heavy vehicle like a lorry this is even more important.

    Be aware of vulnerable road users at all times.


  • =7 Junctions – turning right (2040 fails)

    With an equal number of tests fails to our last entry, mistakes committed while turning right at junctions are at number 7 in our Top 10. Often, faults of this type are simply caused by poor positioning of the vehicle at the junction. Always take into account the length and width of the truck: you may need to straddle lanes to ensure you and other road users are safe.

    Be careful when turning at junctions. Make sure to allow space for the turn.


  • 6 Response to signs and signals – traffic lights (2205 fails)

    When driving a heavy vehicle, don’t forget that your stopping distance is much greater than when driving a smaller vehicle. Subsequently, you should anticipate the potential for green traffic lights to change as you approach them. Ease off the accelerator and cover the brake pedal, or you may find yourself running through a red light or stopping past the stop line. Mistakes like this were responsible for 2205 HGV driving test fails in the 12 month period.

    Anticipate traffic lights allowing for the increased stopping distance of your truck


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  • 5 Move off – safety (2594 fails)

    As part of your test, you will be assessed on your ability to move off on flat, uphill and downhill roads, as well as at an angle (usually from behind a parked car). Taking effective observation is a vital part of this, including checking over your right shoulder (blind spot) before moving off. A huge number of the 2594 HGV driving test fails for this reason were caused by drivers simply not looking hard enough, take your time and drive on when you’re ready.

    Don’t forget to check all around, including your blind spots, before moving off.


  • 4 Mirrors – change direction (3187 fails)

    At number 4 we have tests failed when drivers didn’t check their mirrors when changing direction. This is as simple as it sounds – when turning you must always check that it is safe to do so by checking the mirror on the side you intend to move towards. A common example of this is when passing parked vehicles. While looking ahead for oncoming traffic (to avoid making a ‘meeting’ fault – see number 9!) drivers can forget to check their right mirror before moving out to the right. This could have serious consequences if, for example, a motorbike is overtaking.

    Before you change direction, look in the mirror on that side.


  • 3 Control – steering (4348 fails)

    Often mistakenly attributed to the crossing of hands on the steering wheel, steering faults are most often incurred when the driver fails to control the vehicle while turning and makes contact with the kerb. In most cases, gentle contact with a kerb won’t result in a test fail. Get the wheel up on the pavement however and you could join the 4348 other test fails for this particular fault. Always read the road ahead and assess whether there is adequate space to make your turns in your vehicle. You may need to straddle lanes, or if driving an articulated lorry, driver further forward than normal before turning to allow for the long trailer.

    Ensure you have enough space when turning so that your wheels don’t mount the kerb.


  • 2 Junctions – observation (5925 fails)

    The fault responsible for the 2nd highest number of test fails was observation at junctions. Trainee HGV drivers can easily misjudge the speed or direction of other vehicles and pull out, causing other drivers to take avoiding actions. Don’t forget, your vehicle is very long and slow, and you’ll need much more space than you would in other vehicle. Naturally, this means you often have to wait longer for a suitable gap. Don’t assume that because you’ve been waiting a while that it will be classed as hesitancy. You should be certain that it is safe to pull out – as instructors say “If you don’t know, don’t go”.

    Don’t upset other drivers by pulling out without sufficient space.


  • 1 Reverse left – control (6233 fails)

    Taking the number one spot for the highest number of HGV driving test fails, it’s faults recorded for mistakes made during the reversing exercise. Usually done at the start of the test when the nerves are running high, it’s easy to see how 6233 candidates failed for this reason. The most important thing to remember with the reversing exercise is that there is no official time limit as such. Providing the manoeuvre is completed in a reasonable time, you will not be penalised for taking your time. Examiners want to see good control and observation, and rushing while reversing is a risky strategy. Take your time, keep watching the mirrors, and remember you are allowed to pull forward up to two times to correct your position.

    Take your time on the reverse exercise. Control and observation are the key skills.


We hope that our list of the Top 10 reasons for HGV driving test fails has helped you appreciate the potential weak points shared by many drivers. Perhaps you’ve experienced issues with these types of mistakes yourself. If so, don’t panic, just make sure you listen carefully to your instructor. As always, please make sure you book with a reputable training provider. You can search for a trustworthy, local HGV training provider right here on Training Mentor. All feedback on our site has been checked and verified to ensure authenticity, helping you find the right training. If you’re unsure about how to choose the right training provider, check out our guide on how to avoid getting ripped off when booking HGV training.

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