TEENAGERS can now learn how to manoeuvre a giant HGV before they’ve passed their driving test.

A state-of-the-art Eddie Stobart Training Academy has opened in Foundry Lane, Halebank, Widnes, and is the only one of its kind in the country, training 150 apprentices a year.

An £80,000 simulator gives youngsters the chance to sit behind the wheel of the legendary truck and master the skills of taking it out onto the road.

Everything is for real, you can hear the engine rev and feel the vehicle move as you negotiate various hurdles, as vehicles pull out in front of you on a computer screen.

Apprentice Liam McColl, aged 19, demonstrated the hi-tech device. He said: “It’s brilliant, a good way to learn.

“You get the full feel of the vehicle.”

Road safety minister Mike Penning, unveiling a plaque, said: “It is a great honour and privilege to open this Academy.

“I hope that this centre will become a model for employers wanting to draw the best talent by offering top notch training facilities to help their people continually develop skills and knowledge.”

Teenagers face an intensive six month logistics apprenticeship, including six weeks alongside experienced drivers.

William Stobart, Stobart Group chief operating officer, said: “The importance of properly trained and highly motivated employees cannot be underestimated..

“The Academy will help us maintain and develop the high standards synonymous with Eddie Stobart.

“The new apprenticeship scheme demonstrates our commitment to the future of this industry and will develop managers and leaders of the future.”

Some 320 drivers have already been recruited following courses.