I’m considering becoming a professional driver, but where do I start?
The logistics market in the United Kingdom has seen strong growth in recent years with the overall number of people employed in the industry increasing year on year. There are now nearly 4 million vans on UK roads – accounting for 10% of all road vehicles, and companies need drivers to drive them. Although van numbers have increased, the number of Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) or Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers has continued to fall, causing the demand for quality drivers to be greater than ever before.
What does a commercial vehicle driver do?
The truck driver’s role in logistics is an incredibly important one. Logistics is the movement of goods – getting them from A to B – without lorry drivers, food and consumer goods would never reach our shop shelves. They are practically the glue that holds the whole industry together! If you’re responsible for operating a HGV the vehicle and trailer can cost in excess of £150,000 and carry loads of similar value (or higher).
Therefore you’ll need excellent driving skills, a clean driver record, the ability to work alone and to concentrate for long periods. You’re also responsible for delivering great service, and you’ll be the ‘face’ of the company you’re working for.
The job also involves supervising and helping to load and unload goods, ensuring the loads are safe and secure, carrying out regular vehicle maintenance checks, planning and keeping records of routes, completing delivery paperwork, understanding working time regulations and operating a digital tachograph to track driving hours and breaks.
If you’re driving a 7.5 tonne vehicle or higher, you must also complete necessary periodic training – called Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).
In accordance with working time regulations, driving hours are limited to 56 hours per week with a maximum of 90 over a fortnight. The average working week is 42 hours, and can involve night shifts, weekend work and may also involve staying away in your vehicle. Find out more about drivers’ hours rules here.
Why be a truck driver? What skills do you need?
With ever-increasing demand for delivery services and a declining number of professional drivers, you’ll never be short of opportunities. However, truck driving isn’t for everyone.
You will need to be physically fit and flexible, be able to maintain concentration for long periods, be literature, numerate and understand technology. You’re responsible for driving a heavy vehicle, with a large amount of goods, on busy roads and highways so you need to be an extremely responsible and dependable individual who is a safe driver with excellent driving skill and patience. You will also need to be flexible and be able to respond positively to the unexpected.
If you’re the right person for the role, the career prospects are diverse, offering competitive pay, flexible working and variable work depending on the company you work for and the additional skills or licences you can obtain on top of your category licence.
Typical earning potential for an HGV driver is usually between £23,000 – £45,000 depending on your licence category, location and shifts. This could rise to £55,000 for specialist tanker / ADR Drivers. However, pay rates in the industry are on the rise.
Today’s modern HGV vehicles are automatic, have intelligent cruise control, automatic braking and are cleaner (and quieter) than ever before. In fact, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA) 50% of HGVs on the road are Euro VI – the cleanest emissions standard, and twenty trucks today make the same amount of noise as one truck from the 1970s.
As a driver, you will be joining the logistics and haulage industry – the UK’s fifth largest sector, with over 2.54m people employed. Once you’re in the industry and become a professional driver, there are different career paths you could take further down the line, such as Tanker Driving, Transport Planning, Transport Manager, Driver CPC Trainer, Health and Safety Officer and more. Take a look at this fact sheet from the RHA for more information.
How do I get an HGV licence?
You can train for this job through an apprenticeship scheme or self-finance yourself through HGV training in order to gain the relevant licence/s you wish to obtain, such as Category C (Class 2) or Category C+E (Class 1). You’ll need to be competent in English and Maths in order to take the LGV theory test, be 18 or over, hold a full car licence and have a good driver record, have good eyesight and have passed a medical as part of the HGV test.
Driver Hire provides licence acquisition training that enables you to upgrade your driving licence. Categories include Class 1 (C+E), Class 2 (Cat C), 7.5 Tonne (Cat C1), PCV, HIAB, ADR and also Forklift (FLT). We’re here to help you every step of the way. This includes providing a great way to spread the cost of your training through our personal finance options, and once you’re qualified, the ongoing training you need, such as Driver CPC.
How do I gain driving experience?
If you have recently obtained your HGV licence, you can possibly gain experience by working with a logistics / driving agency. It’s worth talking to a local agency to see if they have clients in the haulage industry who are open to recruiting and supporting newly qualified drivers. Take a look at our case studies which explore how drivers found agency and then permanent work. Working on temporary contracts will allow you to gain experience at different companies, and some will offer temporary to permanent opportunities based on your performance.
How does Driver CPC work?
In order to drive a large goods vehicle (C, C1, C+E or C1+E) commercially, you must obtain a Driver Qualification Card (DQC) and Driver CPC Training is an ongoing obligation. Professional PCV drivers with equivalent licences are also required to hold a DQC. Your card is valid for five years from the date of issue and then you must undertake 35 hours’ periodic training before the end of the five years following the issue date. Each full day course is 7 hours of the 35 hours you need, so it makes sense to take one day’s course once every year. Courses vary and cover a range of topics from Health and Safety, Highway Code, Fuel Efficiency, City Driving and more. Take a look at the Driver Hire Training website for more information on CPC and courses.
Why I love being a truck driver…
Take a look at one of our case studies which really explores a drivers’ love for the lorry!
When her job in the equine industry came to an end, she decided to add another string to her bow, by going down the HGV licence acquisition route. As things have turned out it was a smart move and she’s managed to strike what many people might see as the perfect work/life balance. Click here to read more about Debbie.
Now in his mid-forties, he’s on the books at Driver Hire Cambridge and the proud holder of a Category C+E licence and says he is “living the dream”. Click here to read more about Spencer.
Take a look at all of our Driver Hire driver case studies.
Driver jargon and terminology:
If you’re completely new to the wonderful world of commercial driving and logistics, you may hear some of these words being used to describe the type of work professional drivers carry out. Here are just a few examples…
- Sleeper cab – HGV vehicle that includes a bed so you can sleep in your vehicle whilst working away (includes a bunk / sleeping compartment). Day cab is a short cab without this compartment.
- Tramper / Tramping – A ‘Tramper Driver’ is a driver who travels in his/her Heavy Goods Vehicle on overnight stays. This type of work is usually long-distance driving and typically called ‘Tramping’.
- Shunter / Shunting – A vehicle used in a yard specifically to manoeuvre trailers
- Hand balling – Loose cargo that is manhandled
- ADR – These initials relate to the French name for a European treaty* that governs the carriage of dangerous goods by road. Drivers carrying such goods must obtain a Dangerous Goods Vocational Licence. Take a look at our ADR resource page for more information.
(In full, the Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route)
- Tanker – A semi-trailer designed for the transportation of liquid, usually flammable liquids such as fuel, or food substances like milk
- Tractor (or tractor unit) – The prime mover for pulling semi-trailers
- Low loader – A semi-trailer with a low deck to carry heavy machinery
- Artic / articulated vehicle – A vehicle towing a trailer
Licence Categories and Job titles
Below is a list of licence categories and their typical job titles.
|Typical job title||UK licence||Description|
|Van Driver / Car Driver / Cat B Driver||B||Vehicle less than 3500kg. A trailer with GVM of 750kg or less may be attached. Eligible to drive this vehicle with normal driving licence.|
|7.5 Tonne Driver||C1||Vehicles over 3500kg but below 7500kg. A trailer of up to 750kg may be attached.|
|Class 2 Driver||C||Vehicles exceeding 7500kg with a trailer up to 750kg.|
|Class 1 Driver||C+E||Category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg.|
Take a look at our resource page on Vehicle Licence Categories for more information.
Other opportunities in Road Transport
Being part of the Logistics and Haulage industry doesn’t mean you have to be a goods vehicle driver.
There are so many different roles within the industry, in fact, take a look at this case study with one of our Driver Hire colleagues, Rachael McWilliams – Rachael loves logistics and has worked in driver recruitment for over 15 years. Opportunities in Logistics includes Transport Planning, Warehouse Operatives, Fork Lift Truck Drivers, Van Drivers, Warehouse Supervisors, Depot Administrators, Credit Controller, Customer Services Assistant, Workshop Technicians, IT Operators – the list goes on…
For further reading or advice, take a look at The Road Haulage Association’s website.