Vicky Ewan: Driving-related stress as fuel runs out, theory test failed and hubby awaits HGV test

A sign outside a BP petrol station in Birmingham informing people that there is no fuel. Picture dat

A sign outside a petrol station informs motorists that there is no fuel - Credit: PA

The subject of vehicles has been very much in the news recently, and it's been on our minds, too.

My daughter, who is a food delivery driver, nearly got stuck last weekend when she was out and about in the Bay transporting orders and her quest for fuel proved fruitless.

She messaged my husband and me in desperation, but we were both helpless to assist with her plight.

All we could do was offer encouraging words as we stared in consternation at the images of her petrol gauge that she had shared; she was hovering dangerously close to the red, but we both felt sure that she could just about get home on a wing and a prayer - if she drove to the best of her ability.

I held my breath, awaiting the news that she had come to a grinding halt somewhere on a forlorn stretch of road and would need emergency assistance.

Thankfully, the next message I received confirmed that she had located a forecourt that was open, well stocked and quiet; she filled her tank, and headed home. Crisis averted. 

We heard that my sister-in-law had taken and failed her practical driving test the other day.

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A seasoned driver in her native Australia, she had a hankering to get behind the wheel in the UK, not least incentivised by a desire to facilitate journeys from their home in London to visit their Devon relatives.

She had been tight-lipped about the date itself - and understandably so: there is nothing like the pressure of interested parties pestering folk awaiting an important date, which only serves to enhance the sense of occasion and accompanying nerves.

She sailed round most of the route with aplomb, but came a cropper at a traffic island that was difficult to negotiate.

With the pandemic backlog, it may be a while until she can book a retest, but I'm sure she'll gem up on islands for the next - and, hopefully, final - attempt.  

My friend, who has a daughter the same age as one of mine, informed me when I saw her lately that this young woman had also failed her test.

Apparently, the car that she was utilising - her instructor's car - had developed a fault during the test, rendering it impossible to continue.

It seemed more than a little unfair that this was the sole cause for the result; I wonder whether the examiner was required to follow protocol for this decision.

I certainly hope her next test is free - or, perhaps, a gift from her instructor.

My poor beleaguered husband has been trying to gain his HGV licence for over a year - a topical, thorny subject if there ever were one.

He forked out a hefty sum for training last summer, but the reality of his lack of overall experience and knowledge hampered his chances, and he failed the first attempt.

Covid restrictions, coupled with the packed-solid examination schedule, delayed a retest booking.

He eventually managed to secure a date in early December 2020 - which later became a pivotal day restrictions-wise - and we travelled together to the test site on a cold and frosty morning to try his luck.

Upon arrival, it was immediately clear that something was amiss and, sure enough, he was regrettably informed that the test had been cancelled.

A new slot was generated - and ultimately cancelled.

And then a fourth date was offered, alongside four hours refresher training; this was cancelled the day before it was due.

He now expects to take the test in early November.

Naturally, devoid of an HGV-owning friend and a private airfield, he has had no opportunity over the past 16 months to clock up further driving hours in the behemothic vehicle in which he will be tested.

He fully anticipates failure, even in the current crucial climate, and is sanguine about this fate - he is happily employed in his current job, whose hours allow him both the freedom to assist my aging parents with health-based issues and time to himself in the house - as rare as hen's teeth with our large family, and a source of sanity for him.

I wish him luck, of course, but I fear if he does pass he'll succeed in a different sort of driving: driving us all - himself included - round the bend.