Ever wondered what it might be like to be a test driver?
Ever thought about how it might feel to get behind the wheel of a prototype car, the routes and roads they take the vehicles on, or even the tests and methods they use to evaluate vehicle performance?
A typical day in the life of a PT&A specialist driver
Shifts with PT&A are generally split into two eight hour shifts. The early shift is from 06:00 – 14:00. The afternoon shift is from 14:00 – 22:00. Some projects call for a nightshift from 22:00 – 06:00 but these are not often and its optional. Some projects will require you working away from home for several days at a time, this would be at an enhanced pay rate with expenses paid. It’s important to point out that driving for PT&A is not a full-time position. The work varies hugely, there may be times when drivers are asked to work five shifts a week but there will also be weeks where they are not required to work at all. This is a role for drivers who also have another form of income.
At the start of a shift a driver would meet with their supervisor and be informed which vehicle they will be driving, any specific details of the test and cover the risk assessments. The driver will complete some core vehicle checks for safety and damage, including checking the oil-level, temperature and water-level, inspecting the tyres (for condition and pressure) and recording any damage to the interior and exterior. If there is a data-logger in the vehicle the driver would also be responsible for checking this is working correctly. Once the checks are complete the driver would enter details onto the run sheet in clear legible handwriting recording the date, time, start mileage and any issues.
Some vehicles are tested purely on a track, but the majority are on public roads to ensure that the vehicles go through real life road use. The vehicles may be having a shakedown before going to a dealer or to a show. Other vehicles may be with us for mileage accumulation, testing specific new components, software testing, trye wear, petrochemical evaluation, load bearing, emissions, electric charging, battery life, the list is endless.
Drivers are expected to report any abnormal noises, vibrations, electronic faults, software issues etc. If any occur the driver should try to safely re-create these circumstances to understand what may have triggered the issue. For example, having to repeatedly re-pair the driver’s phone with the vehicle, excessive noise at certain speeds, lurching and lulling from the gearbox. The more feedback from the driver the better.
During the shift drivers must take breaks in line with Health and Safety legislation. There is usually a set route that needs to be completed, the route is based on allowing time to complete the mileage, take breaks, fill up with fuel or charge the vehicle and time to complete end of shift vehicle checks and complete the remainder of the report detailing all issues. A driver would then chat to the supervisor and voice any concerns or issues before leaving.