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Are you thinking about becoming a lorry driver and wondering what it’s like to be an HGV driver in the UK? Do you think that driving a lorry for a living is easy? It sounds idyllic to some being sat down behind the wheel all day with the freedom that the open road has to offer you.

If that’s your view of the job, think again as driving an HGV is a challenging profession that requires an in-depth knowledge of logistics, concentration, and attention to detail. Read on to find out more about what the nation’s lorry drivers get up to every day.

Being an HGV driver is an incredibly responsible job, which until recently has suffered from over a decade of lackluster wages and inadequate investment in general in logistics infrastructures such as truck stops and modern vehicle fleets.

You will have no doubt heard about the national driver shortage in the UK, and when you stop to consider the historic conditions for drivers, coupled with the effects of Brexit on the UK Haulage industry, it’s hardly surprising that the industry is not getting enough new drivers in to replace those who are retiring.

This article will give you a better appreciation of what’s involved in being a successful HGV driver and will explain why there’s never been a better time to consider it as a career.

What Roles And Skills Are Involved In Being An HGV Driver?

The role of the HGV driver can be a very varied one, and like many professions, drivers will often specialise in a particular subset of work. Drivers work a wide variety of shift patterns, days, nights, earlies, and late to name a few.  

Some HGV drivers carry out regular daily routes on main roads and motorways, known as trunking, usually with a single delivery at the end of their journey whilst others may have numerous drops in a day around a more local geographic area.

Some drivers will perform long-distance deliveries, often to the continent, and become accustomed to spending extended periods away from home and sleeping in their wagon en route when they must take their legally required rest. Drivers that spend time away from home in their trucks are known colloquially as ‘Trampers’.

There are several skills and activities however that are common across the board, whichever branch of HGV driving you decide to go into. Let’s look at these in turn.

HGV Driving Skills

Driving obviously makes up a significant part of the job as a lorry driver, but there are certain traits you should try to cultivate in HGV driving. Overseeing an HGV is an incredibly responsible position to be in, as the potential damage wreaked by an HGV in an accident is exponentially much worse than that of a car.

Safety is key, so the right attitude is every bit as important as technical competence. HGV drivers need to stay relaxed and focussed, not get angered easily, and possess a high level of hazard perception.

The laws and regulations surrounding HGV driving are comprehensive and strict, and lorry drivers need to have an excellent working knowledge of them and will call on that knowledge every day.

HGV drivers need to be experts on the Highway Code, The EU Drivers Hours Rules, and the Working Time Directive, not to mention specific regional laws and practices if working abroad.

Mechanical Safety

As a professional lorry driver, it is your responsibility you ensure that your vehicle is safe before you even take it out on assignment. Once you start your drive, any safety issues the vehicle has become your responsibility.

A legal requirement for every HGV driver is to carry out a ‘daily walk-around’ check (as required by the DVSA – the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) before they take their vehicle out on the road. Any issues with the vehicle (known as defects) must be reported to the Vehicle Operator, and if any defect may impact the safety of the HGV, it should NOT be used until the defect is repaired.

The DVSA checklist includes items such as indicators, engine warning lights, mirrors, washers, fluid levels, tyres, coupling security, mudguards, and the general condition of the body of the vehicle.

It is equally important to report any defects that occur during the journey itself. By requiring drivers to take responsibility for defects before AND during their journey, safety issues are identified as early as possible, ensuring HGV vehicles on the road are safe. Drivers that do not carry out their walk-around checks can be stopped by the DVSA and sanctioned.

Coupling And Uncoupling The HGV

Any driver qualified to drive a Class 1 HGV (which requires the C+E licence), needs to know how to couple and uncouple their vehicle to the trailer unit that it tows. This is another especially important safety aspect of driving an articulated lorry.

If a trailer is not correctly coupled to the HGV tractor unit, the trailer may become disconnected from the vehicle, known as ‘dropping’ the trailer, which is a serious incident that must be reported and possibly sanctioned.

Securing The Load

There are a wide variety of loads that need to be carried by HGV vehicles, and each has to be secured in a particular manner. It is a common occurrence that loads are prepared for a journey by someone other than the driver, but it is important to remember that the HGV driver still bears ultimate responsibility for the safety of the load during transit.

Drivers must gain knowledge through experience and training on how to secure their goods during transit. For example, fluid loads (including liquids or building aggregates such as sand or topsoil) can move during transit, so, therefore, must be contained appropriately.

Some vehicles have rigid sides, but the contents must still be secured within the trailer itself. The main types of securing systems that drivers need to be familiar with include over-the-top lashings, rear kites, intermediate bulkheads, and direct lashings.

Training And Personal Development Of HGV Drivers

By law, lorry drivers must maintain a level of training to maintain their right to drive commercially. They must attend 35 hours of training every five years to keep their Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

Additionally, many employers offer specialised training on the job, which is a great way for drivers to gain additional skills as they progress through their careers.

As well as the legal and career-based training, drivers also need to be well organised and possess good decision-making skills. Once you leave the yard, you are on your own, and you need to manage your own time, and plan your journey to take the legally required rest when needed.

Lastly, HGV drivers need to be good communicators when dealing with colleagues, other road users, and clients. They should be reliable and honest and be able to manage stress effectively. Driving for long periods in itself can be stressful, but there are many challenging situations that can occur in a day of the life of a lorry driver!

 A Great Time To Get Into HGV Driving

The current driver shortage has had a big impact on the daily lives of most people in the UK. Fortunately for drivers, this means that wages are at an all-time high, with more choices in career paths than ever before.

Many employers offer free HGV training to encourage new talent into the industry, with many government-backed schemes to assist. Getting your licence has always been a barrier to becoming a driver, but with the opportunities available today, it really is a good investment, and might not cost you anything at all.

HGV driver salaries of £40,000 plus are easily achievable in today’s market and can be much higher for specialist drivers such as petrol tankers or hazardous materials.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the article, if you’re a qualified HGV driver and looking for a new role, please get in touch with Optimum Driving Group on 01908 018072 for more information about our latest HGV vacancies.