Preparing for a bus journey

Preparing for a bus journey

Medical checks

The passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) licence has a higher medical standard than a normal driving licence because the fitness of PCV drivers is vital to their safety on the road.

When you first apply for a PCV licence you’ll need to send a medical report with your application. You’ll also need a medical report if you’re renewing your PCV licence and you’re aged 45 or over. You’ll have to get a new medical report every five years when you’re over 45 to renew your licence.

Make sure you book your medical and send the completed form to DVLA at least three weeks before your licence expires, otherwise you won’t be able to drive a bus until your new licence is issued.

For more information about the medical check, see GOV.UK.

Even when you've passed your medical, there are many other factors that you need to consider before getting behind the wheel. Alcohol, illegal drugs, medicines, injuries, tiredness and your mood can all affect your driving. If you ever feel that you might not be able to drive safely, don’t drive. Decide the best way to deal with the situation: you may need to delay your journey for a day or two or ask your employer to find another driver for this journey. If it’s a longer-term problem, you may have to stop driving altogether.

Alcohol

You must not drink and drive. Alcohol will seriously affect your judgement and ability to drive safely.

In 2011, 280 people were killed in drink-drive accidents and 1290 people were seriously injured. (Source: Dept for Transport/National Statistics).

The amount of alcohol in a drink is measured in units. The number of units in different types of drink varies.

You must not drive if your breath alcohol is higher than 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres (which is the same as a blood alcohol level of 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres). Driving with alcohol in your blood is extremely dangerous and carries serious penalties if you drive or attempt to drive while over the legal limit. You can find more information on penalties in The Highway Code.

It’s safest not to drink any alcohol before you drive. For more information on drinking and driving, see GOV.UK.

Any amount of alcohol can affect your judgement of speed, distance and risk; it can also make you sleepy. It takes just over an hour for your body to process a unit of alcohol and remove it from your system so if you drink heavily in the evening, you may still be over the limit the following day.

If you’re not sure whether you’re over the limit, don’t drive.

Drugs and medicines

You must not take any drugs that are generally accepted as ‘banned substances’ while driving or before you intend to drive. The effects of illegal drugs can be even more serious than alcohol. Drugs can have unpredictable effects and you may not be aware of them affecting you. The direct effects of some drugs can last up to 72 hours.

During 2011, at least 640 accidents were caused by drug-drivers (using illegal drugs or medicines), including 49 deaths. (Source: Department of Transport)

If you’ve taken illegal drugs, it’s against the law for you to drive. See GOV.UK for more information on the tests and penalties for drug driving.

There’s also information in The Highway Code about the penalties for drug driving.

Some medicines can make you sleepy and will affect your ability to drive. Whether you’ve bought the medicine over the counter or been given it on prescription, always read the label. If it says ‘may cause drowsiness’, it will probably make you sleepy. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to drive while taking a medicine, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Taking a combination of prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, illegal drugs, controlled drugs or alcohol can have an unpredictable effect on you, so you shouldn’t drive while you could be affected by them.

Tiredness

If you’re tired, you won’t be fully alert and aware of what’s going on around you, which means that you won’t be able to drive safely. Don’t begin a journey if you feel tired.

If you start to feel tired while you’re driving,

  • find somewhere safe to stop so you can rest (never on a motorway hard shoulder)
  • try having a caffeine drink and a short nap to refresh you before you start driving again
  • open a window to let in some fresh air if you can’t stop immediately.

To help you stay alert, make sure you

  • have the driving seat in the right place so that you can use the pedals, gear stick and steering wheel comfortably
  • sit up straight – if you slouch, you won’t breathe in as deeply as you should.

Your emotions

Extremes of emotions – such as anger, sadness, stress, grief or even happiness – will affect your concentration and how you judge what’s happening on the road. Many crashes are caused each year by drivers being careless, thoughtless or reckless.

It’s important to think about how you’re feeling before you get behind the wheel and, if necessary, take some time to calm down and get into the right frame of mind or ask someone else to drive.

Driving with an injury

You must make sure that you have full control of your vehicle at all times.

 Remember that

  • a twisted ankle can affect how you use the pedals
  • a stiff neck can make it difficult to check mirrors and blind spots.

If you’ve suffered an injury, you may want to check with your doctor before you drive. Think before you drive: if you can’t control the vehicle properly and see all around, you won’t be able to drive safely.

Eyesight

To have a driving licence, you must be able to read in good daylight, with glasses or contact lenses if necessary, a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres (about five car lengths). If you need glasses or contact lenses to do this, you must wear them whenever you’re driving. To drive a bus, you must also have a visual acuity test. Find out more about the requirements on GOV.UK.

Eyesight changes over time so you must have an eyesight test at least every two years. If you drive when your eyesight doesn’t meet the standard, you’ll be driving illegally and will be less safe on the road.

When the sun is bright use sunglasses to reduce glare, which can make your eyes tired and reduce the amount you can see. Make sure you take them off when you drive through a tunnel or when conditions are less bright so you can still see clearly.

Aging

Your mind and body go through gradual changes, especially as you get older. These changes can affect your driving – for example, your reactions may become slower, you may tire more easily or your muscles may become weaker.

As you grow older you’ll need to concentrate more carefully on your driving and take care when judging the speed of other traffic.

Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about whether you’re safe to drive.

Disabled drivers

There are many vehicle modifications that can help people with physical disabilities drive safely. These include

  • hand controls for braking and acceleration
  • steering and secondary control aids
  • left-foot accelerator conversions
  • clutch conversions
  • parking brake devices
  • extra vehicle mirrors
  • seat belt modifications
  • harnesses
  • special seating
  • wheelchair stowage equipment.

Automatic gears and power-assisted steering may also help you if you’re a disabled driver.

 

Drivers’ hours rules exist to make sure that professional drivers don’t spend too long at the controls of a vehicle. Up to one in six of all serious crashes is caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel: this is dangerous in a car, but in a large vehicle like a bus it can be catastrophic.

Employers who force their employees to break the rules on drivers’ hours can be given a fine, but it’s also your responsibility as a driver to make sure you follow the rules – otherwise you could have to pay a fine or lose your licence to drive buses.

For more information about the drivers’ hours rules, see GOV.UK.

Tachographs

You’ll use a tachograph to record your hours of driving, other work, breaks and rest periods, so your employer and the enforcement authorities can check you’re following the drivers’ hours rules. Make sure you know how to use the tachograph correctly: see GOV.UK for more information about using a tachograph.

 

Carrying your passengers safely, on time, efficiently and courteously is a vital part of your job as a bus driver. You’re responsible for their safety and well-being while they’re on your vehicle.

Seat belts

As the driver of a bus, coach or minibus, you must use a seat belt if there’s one fitted in your vehicle, unless you’re reversing or you have a medical exemption certificate.

Since 1998, the law has required that when 3 or more children aged between 3 and 15 years are carried on an organised outing in a minibus, larger minibus or coach, they must be provided with a lap belt on a forward-facing seat as a minimum.

All front-seat passengers must use also use seat belts if they’re fitted: these are the passengers that are seated parallel to the driver. Children under 3 years old must use the correct child restraint if they’re sat at the front; if there isn’t a child restraint, they must travel in the rear of the vehicle. From age 3 up to a height of 135 cm, children seated in the front must use a child restraint if available, or use the adult seat belt. If there are no seat belts, children must not travel in the front.

Passengers in the rear of a minibus must use seat belts if they are fitted. Children aged 3, up to a height of 135 cm, must use a child restraint if there’s one available, otherwise they must use the adult seat belt.

In bigger vehicles, rear-seat passengers aged 14 and over must use seat belts where fitted.

Never allow an adult to put one seat belt around both themselves and an infant on their lap: this could cause serious injuries to the child in the event of a crash.

Passengers must be told that seat belts must be worn where they’re fitted. There may be signs or you may need to make an announcement. You should make sure that all passengers understand the regulations on seat belt use: remember that some may not be able to read or may not understand the signs.

Passenger distractions

When you’re carrying lots of passengers, you’ll need to make sure you concentrate on the road when you’re driving as well as being aware of your passengers, without being distracted by them.

This could involve

  • asking your passengers to be quiet or to turn down music
  • making sure you don’t drive irresponsibly because of something a passenger has said or done
  • stopping the vehicle so you can sort out any problems before you carry on with your journey.

Avoid talking to passengers while you’re driving because this will take your attention away from the road. Do not use hand-held equipment such as microphone while you’re driving: keep your hands on the steering wheel.

Never allow your passengers to put pressure on you to drive dangerously or show off.

Interior lights

Your vehicle may be fitted with interior lights: these will help passengers move around safely when it’s gloomy during the day and at night. Make sure that the inside of your vehicle is lit whenever you’re carrying passengers.

You don’t need to turn these lights on when you aren’t carrying passengers, but they will make the vehicle easier to see at night.

Bell codes

Few buses have conductors but, if your bus does, you’ll need to know the bell codes the conductor will use to communicate with you.

  • 1 bell: stop when safe
  • 2 bells: move off when safe
  • 3 bells: bus full
  • 4 bells: emergency on bus.

Remember that passengers may use the bell incorrectly.

Tickets and luggage

If you’re responsible for taking payments, issuing tickets and managing passengers’ luggage, make sure you know your organisation’s procedures for doing these correctly.

Documents when driving abroad

If you’re taking passengers abroad in your vehicle, everyone on the vehicle (including you) must have a valid passport. Some countries may require people to have visas before they will allow them in.

You must carry your driving licence when you drive abroad.

Security checks

Carrying out security checks will discourage crime and help your passengers feel confident about their safety. Your checks should include

  • locking doors, windows and equipment boxes when you’re at a stop and planning to leave the vehicle unattended
  • searching your vehicle at the end of your route and before starting your return journey, including under seats and in storage areas
  • only allow passengers to board when you’re present
  • on a scheduled service, check all tickets as passengers board; if you make a stop, ask passengers to who their tickets when they re-board
  • make sure the number of passengers matches the records for the journey, if appropriate
  • on a coach, check the luggage matches the passengers so no items are loaded without them belonging to a passenger on the coach
  • remind passengers not to leave bags unattended and to report any unattended or suspect packages.

Your operator should provide a security check list, so make sure you use this when you make your checks.

 

Your vehicle will handle differently depending on how much weight it’s carrying and how the weight is distributed. Because of the forces acting on a large vehicle such as a bus, you’ll need to take particular care when you’re driving

  • around roundabouts
  • on slip roads
  • on long (fast) bends.

Avoid driving too fast in these situations or steering, accelerating and braking suddenly.

Calculating your vehicle’s weight

You’ll need to know how much your vehicle weighs because there may be weight limits on roads and bridges. You’ll also need to make sure you don’t overload your vehicle or exceed the maximum authorised mass (MAM).

You can find out your vehicle’s unladen weight by checking the information plate: this is usually in the vehicle cab or near the driver’s seat. To estimate the actual weight of your vehicle including passengers, luggage and fuel, add to the unladen weight

  • 1 tonne per 15 passengers
  • 330 kg per 15 cases
  • 100 litres (weighing 100 kg) per 15 passengers.

Check the carrying capacity on the sign in your vehicle, near the front.

Changes to the weight of your vehicle

A vehicle that is loaded will handle differently to one that is unladen. Whenever the weight of your vehicle or the distribution of weight in your vehicle changes, you’ll need to adjust the way you drive and think about whether you need to make any adjustments to the vehicle.

When your vehicle is loaded, try to

  • brake in good time and, if possible, when driving in a straight line
  • look well ahead to avoid harsh braking
  • reduce speed before making a turn to avoid turning and braking at the same time.

Load stability

When loading your vehicle, think about the best way to organise the load and how to secure it to make sure items don’t move around while you’re driving. As a general rule, the weight of the load should be distributed evenly over the axles to increase stability of load. You may need to use ropes, straps or other equipment to keep the load secure.

If you steer, accelerate or brake suddenly, it can cause the load on your vehicle to become unstable or even fall off, which then makes the vehicle unstable.

  • Sudden acceleration can make a load shift to the back of the vehicle.
  • Harsh braking may make the load move forward, causing the vehicle to skid or making the front of the vehicle dip downwards.

 

As a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) driver, you’re likely to do some manual handling and lifting. Lifting loads in the correct way is important to avoid injuring your back – which can then affect your ability to drive.

To reduce the risk of an injury when you’re lifting,

  • follow the systems of work provided
  • use any equipment that’s provided to help you properly
  • tell the relevant person if you identify any hazardous handling activities
  • make sure you don’t put others at risk as a result of what you’re doing.

Always try to use good techniques for lifting and handling so they become a habit.

  • Before you lift, think about what you’re lifting and where it’s going. Can you use anything to help you? Do you need to move anything out of the way? Will you need help?
  • Start from a stable position with your feet apart, one leg slightly forward of the other to keep balance. Move your feet during the lift if you need to.
  • Start in a good posture. Avoid fully bending your back (stooping) or fully flexing your hips and knees (squatting): it’s better to start the lift with a slight bending of your back, hips and knees.
  • Get a good hold on the load so there’s no risk of it slipping or falling.
  • Keep the load close to your waist: keeping it close to your body will make it easier to lift.
  • Avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially while your back is bent. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips. Move your feet to turn rather than twisting.
  • Keep your head up – don’t look down at the load when you’ve got it securely.
  • Move smoothly rather than jerking or snatching.
  • Don’t lift or handle more than you can easily manage. If you’re struggling with a load, you’re far more likely to get injured.
  • If the load needs careful positioning, put it down before adjusting it.

 

There are some routine maintenance checks that you’re responsible for as the vehicle driver, and others that the vehicle operator is responsible for. By checking your vehicle each day you’ll be able to spot any problems that could cause the vehicle to break down or make it illegal to drive on the road.

If you notice any problems, make a note of them and get them fixed before you start your journey. Before carrying out any maintenance, check the vehicle handbook and follow any safety guidance it gives.

You might find that many of the mechanical parts in your vehicle are sealed and can only be checked by a qualified mechanic. Look at the vehicle handbook to see which checks you can make and how to do them.

Engine oil

Engine oil keeps the engine lubricated so it can work efficiently. You need to keep the oil at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Check the oil level often, making sure the vehicle is parked on a level area and ideally the engine is cold.

Look at your vehicle handbook to find out how to check the oil level and how to top it up if necessary. It should also tell you what type of oil to use. Using the wrong type of oil can increase fuel consumption, damage the engine and could affect the vehicle warranty.

While it’s important not to let the oil level get too low, you also need to be careful not to put too much oil in. Overfilling with engine oil can damage the engine and can cause extra emissions from your vehicle, which are bad for the environment.

Engine coolant

The engine coolant is a mixture of coolant solution (containing anti-freeze and a corrosion inhibitor) and water, which stops the engine from overheating. The coolant solution is usually diluted with the same volume of water before being added to the cooling system.

You should check the coolant level frequently. If you find you’re topping it up regularly, there may be a leak or other fault in the cooling system. Look at your vehicle handbook to find out how to check the engine coolant and how to top it up if necessary.

Tyres

The tyres are vital to the safety of your bus. All the tyres on the vehicle must be in good condition and should be checked weekly

  • to make sure the tyres are correctly fitted and the pressures are correct
  • for signs of damage or wear that could make them unsafe or illegal to use, eg bulges, exposed ply or cord or deep cuts more than 25 mm long
  • to make sure there is sufficient tread depth, eg using tread-depth indicators.

The wheel fixings must be tightened to the torque specified by the vehicle manufacturer to make sure the wheels are safely attached. Use the information in the vehicle handbook and a torque wrench to check this has been done.

You can use tyres that are specially adapted for different weather conditions.

  • Winter tyres are better than summer tyres for braking and grip when the temperature is under 7°C. You’d need to change the tyres when temperatures rise above this.
  • All-season tyres are between a winter tyre and a summer tyre: they’re designed to work well in low temperatures and in the summer.

Uneven or excessive tyre wear can mean that there’s a fault with the tyres, brakes, steering, suspension, wheel alignment or wheel balance. If you notice abnormal tyre wear, get your vehicle checked by a mechanic as soon as possible so any faults can be put right.

Windscreen and windows

Keep the windscreen and the windows in your vehicle clean and clear – don’t cover them with stickers or decorations that could make it difficult for you to see clearly.

If you notice a crack or chip in the windscreen, report it immediately. The damaged area can quickly become larger during a journey so it will need fixing as soon as possible.

Electrical equipment

Battery

Make sure the terminals on the battery are secure, clean and greased. Most modern batteries are maintenance-free and sealed for life. However, if the battery has a filler cap, you’ll need to check the fluid level to make sure the plates in each cell are covered. Top up the battery with distilled water if necessary, but be careful not to overfill it.

Lights

Make sure the front and rear lights, brake lights, indicators and hazard lights work. You should do this each time you use the vehicle. Use reflections in windows and garage doors to help you see whether the lights are working, or ask someone to help you.

Keep your vehicle’s lights, indicators, reflectors and number plates clean at all times. Dirt on the lights and reflectors will stop them working effectively.

Windscreen washers and wipers

Check the washers are working correctly and make sure there’s enough liquid in the washer reservoir. This is especially important in wet, muddy conditions. Check the wipers too – replace the wiper blades if they’re damaged or worn.

Horn

Check the horn is working properly but be careful not to do it when it might frighten or annoy other people.

The controls

Get your vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible if

  • you feel or hear knocking or rattling from the steering or suspension
  • there is a lot of ‘play’ in the steering wheel (ie you can move the steering wheel from side to side without the wheels moving from side to side)
  • the steering begins to feel heavy (ie it needs a lot of effort to turn the wheel)
  • the brakes feel spongy or slack.

Check your brakes are working whenever you set out on a journey.

Air braking systems use a reservoir of air to make the brakes work whereas hydraulic brakes use brake fluid. If your vehicle has air brakes, you must make sure the braking system is working correctly before you start a journey. This includes

  • checking whether the air reservoirs need draining to remove moisture 
  • checking that the air lines have no signs of damage
  • listening for leaks from the system while the engine is turned off.

Disposing of oil, batteries and tyres

If you service your own vehicle, make sure you dispose of old engine oil, batteries and tyres by taking them to a local authority site or a garage. Don’t put these items in the household waste or pour oil down the drain because they can damage the environment.

Disposing of these items incorrectly is illegal: you could be fined or given a prison sentence. By taking them to a local authority site, they can be safely disposed of or recycled.

 

Before you start driving your vehicle each day, you’ll need to do a walk-round check including

  • brakes
  • lights and indicators
  • bodywork
  • tyres and nuts securing the wheels
  • windscreen wipers and washers
  • horn
  • fuel tanks and caps
  • mirrors
  • speedometer
  • tachograph
  • number plates
  • reflectors and reflective plates
  • exhaust system
  • any coupling gear
  • speed limiter
  • seat belts (if fitted).

If you spot any defects, you must report them using the correct procedure so they can be fixed before you start driving.

All passenger-carrying vehicles must carry a fire extinguisher.

Fuel

Make sure you know what sort of fuel your vehicle uses. Most buses use diesel fuel. Be very careful not to put the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle because this will cause serious damage to the engine.

Some large vehicles need a fuel additive to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Check whether your vehicle needs a fuel additive, what sort it uses and how to use the additive before refuelling your vehicle.

While you’re driving, keep an eye on how much fuel you have left. Some vehicles have a warning light that shows when fuel is getting low; others may have a gauge that tells you how many miles you’ll be able to drive on the remaining fuel (called a range indicator). Don’t rely on this too closely: the distance you can drive will depend on the load on the vehicle, how you’re driving and in what traffic conditions. Only use the range indicator to give you an idea of how far you’ll be able to drive, and re-fuel in good time.

Route number and destination

If you’re driving a service bus or a scheduled coach service, make sure you’re displaying the correct route number and destination on the vehicle. This sign must be lit between sunset and sunrise. On a temporary bus service, a temporary sign should be displayed.

 

Before you can legally drive on the road in the UK, there are some documents you must have.

Your driving licence

You must have a valid driving licence for the vehicle you’re driving: if there are any restrictions on your licence (such as only driving a bus with automatic transmission), you must follow them.

If you’re learning to drive a bus, you must have a full licence for category B and a provisional licence for the category you wish to drive. You should also be supervised by somebody who

  • is at least 21 years old
  • has held a licence to drive the category of vehicle you’re driving for at least three years.

A learner must also have red L plates on the vehicle (or D plates in Wales) – but these must be removed when the vehicle isn’t being driven by a learner.

The vehicle registration certificate (V5C)

The vehicle must be registered with the DVLA. The vehicle registration certificate (V5C) will show the details that have been registered

  • the name and address of the vehicle’s registered keeper (not necessarily the same as the legal owner)
  • information about the vehicle including its make, model and engine size
  • the date the vehicle was first registered.

If you’re the registered keeper, you must tell the DVLA if you

Vehicle tax

The registered keeper of a vehicle (the person named on the V5C – see above) is responsible for taxing the vehicle or telling DVLA if it's off the road or has been sold, transferred, scrapped or exported. You can pay for 6 months’ or 12 months’ tax. See GOV.UK to tax a bus.

If you’re taking a vehicle off the road and stop taxing it, you’ll need to make a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). You can make a SORN at GOV.UK.

Vehicle insurance

It’s illegal to drive without insurance. You must have at least third-party cover before you can take a vehicle on public roads.

Make sure your insurance covers how you’re going to use the vehicle. Some policies have restrictions on using the vehicle for carrying particular loads, for example.

When you apply for an insurance policy you must answer all the questions as honestly as you can. If you don’t, your insurance policy will be invalid and you’ll be driving uninsured – which could lead to prosecution.

The annual test

The annual test for lorries, trailers and buses is similar to the MOT test that cars take each year. It checks vehicles are roadworthy and meet current regulations.

The annual test is for

  • motor vehicles with a gross weight of more than 3500 kg
  • vehicles that are built or have been adapted to form part of an articulated vehicle
  • semi-trailers
  • horseboxes with a gross weight of more than 3500 kg
  • ‘A’ frame trailers and converter dollies manufactured on or after 1 January 1979
  • other trailers with an unladen weight of more than 1020 kg
  • all public service vehicles with more than 8 passenger seats (not including the driver’s seat).

Lorries and buses must be tested every year, starting one year after the vehicle was first registered with DVLA.

To find out more about the annual test, see the guide on GOV.UK.

Documents you must carry when driving

When you’re driving a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) professionally in the UK, you’ll need to carry documents to show that you and the vehicle are licensed.

  • Driver Qualification Card
  • tachograph – analogue or digital
  • smart card (if using digital tachograph)

Public service vehicle operator licence

If you’re driving a PCV and carrying fare-paying passengers, this is classed as a public service vehicle (PSV). The operator of the vehicle must have a PSV operator licence and the licence disc must be displayed in the front nearside of the windscreen.

Find out more about the PSV operator licence on GOV.UK.

Driving in Europe

You’ll need to carry extra documents if you’re driving in Europe:

  • your driving licence
  • your passport
  • the vehicle insurance certificate
  • the vehicle registration document.

Your vehicle operator should also provide you with instructions on how to secure the vehicle, when and how to check the vehicle and what to do if you suspect the vehicle’s security has been breached.

Some countries will require you to carry other documents: check what you’ll need before you start your journey.

Showing your documents

You must show your driving licence, a valid insurance certificate and a current annual certificate when an authorised person, such as a police officer, asks for them. You can either produce them immediately or within seven days at a police station.

If you borrow or rent a vehicle, or if you lend someone your vehicle, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all the appropriate documents are in place. Never assume that someone else has arranged the documents or that they’re not necessary.

Other countries may have different rules about these documents so remember to check before you drive abroad. You may need to have your documents with you whenever you’re driving.

 

Your route may be worked out for you by your vehicle operator, or you may have to plan the best route for yourself. There are lots of tools you can use to help you plan your journey to avoid congestion and get to your destination on time. Always plan your journey before you set off and, if possible, plan alternative routes in case there’s a problem with your original route.

Try to allow some extra time for your journey in case there are delays. Although it’s important to try to arrive at your destination on time, you mustn’t allow time pressures to push you into driving illegally or dangerously.

Using a sat-nav

If you’re using a satellite-navigation system (sat-nav), enter the destination before you start your journey so you’re not distracted by it while driving. A sat-nav can be very useful if you need to change your route but be careful not to rely too heavily on it: if you suspect that the route is wrong, use your common sense rather than following it blindly.

You’ll also need to think about whether routes are suitable for your vehicle – eg if you’re driving a high vehicle, watch out for height restrictions such as low bridges.

Using a map

Alternatively, use a map to plan your journey. There are route planners available online. Check motoring organisation websites for information about roadworks and areas that might be congested.

It’s a good idea to keep a map in your vehicle in case you need to change your route or if there’s a problem with your sat-nav.

Spotting problems or risks on your route

When you’re planning your route, make sure you know the height, width, length and weight of your vehicle so you can avoid a route that has restrictions such as

  • low or weak bridges
  • traffic-calming measures that make the road narrow
  • tunnels or level crossings with length restrictions.

While you’re driving you’ll need to look out for road signs that show restrictions making the route unsuitable for your vehicle.

Look out for areas where there are congestion charges, charges for entering restricted areas (such as the London low emission zone) or tolls for using roads or bridges: you may want to change your route to avoid these.

How suitable a particular route is can depend on exactly when you travel. You’ll find very heavy traffic on some roads during rush hour or in the holiday season, so you may want to avoid these routes. If you’re driving a vehicle that’s affected by windy weather, such as a double-deck bus, you might need to change your route to avoid exposed roads when the weather is windy.

Remember to think about your driving skill and experience when you’re planning a route: if you’re not confident about a route, find an alternative rather than taking risks.

Following your route

When you’ve planned your route, print it out or write it down so you can follow it easily when you’re driving. Try to use place names as well as road numbers in case any of your route isn’t well signposted. If you have a member of crew with you, ask them to read your directions to you so you can concentrate on driving.