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How to Become an HGV driver

Responsibilities, working hours, what to expect and qualifications needed

Career guides » How to Become an HGV driver

What does a HGV driver do?

A Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driver is sometimes also known as a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) driver or lorry driver, as they drive vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes. They collect, transport and deliver goods between suppliers, distributors and customers. There are different types of HGV drivers, including shunters, trunkers and trampers.

HGV drivers can be licensed to drive a category C+E, category C, category C1 and category C1+E vehicle, e.g.:

  • Category C+E (class 1) – a driver can drive a vehicle with a detachable trailer (e.g. an articulated (artic) lorry or wagon and drag) that weighs over 7.5 tonnes.
  • Category C (class 2) – a driver can drive a vehicle with a rigid body base (e.g. a rigid lorry) over 7.5 tonnes.
  • Category C1 – a driver can drive a category C1 vehicle between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes. If an individual passed their driving test before 1997, they already have a C1 licence.
  • Category C1+E – a driver can drive a category C1 vehicle and tow trailers over 750Kg behind. However, the combined weight cannot exceed 12,000Kg.

In addition to driving different vehicle categories, HGV drivers can specialise in driving specific types of vehicles, such as tankers, flatbed lorries, refrigerated trucks, curtainsiders, livestock trucks, vehicle transporters, etc. They can also specialise in transporting specific cargo, such as dangerous goods (ADR), foodstuffs, live animals, cars, etc. Therefore, what an HGV driver does will depend on the type and category of vehicle they drive and the goods they transport.

An HGV driver’s main aim is to ensure the goods they transport and deliver reach the intended destination intact, efficiently and safely. They will carry out many tasks, including collecting goods from depots, planning delivery routes, ensuring loads are safe and secure, driving to various destinations, loading and offloading goods, etc. The role will also include administrative work, such as completing vehicle checks, delivery paperwork and logbooks.

HGV drivers work alone for most of their working day, as they will be driving in their vehicles, but they may work with colleagues, such as drivers’ mates, transport managers and support staff. They will also liaise with external stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors, customers (business and private), warehouse/distribution centre staff, other road users, other HGV drivers, mechanics, etc.

HGV drivers will mainly work for transport and logistics companies and hauliers but can also work for other employers, such as major retailers, manufacturers, recovery companies, waste management firms, etc. They can work for small, medium or large-sized companies locally, nationally, in mainland Europe and internationally. Many drivers work for recruitment agencies on a temporary or contract basis. There are also options to become a self-employed HGV driver.

Responsibilities

An HGV driver’s responsibilities will depend on the type of vehicles they drive, where they transport goods and the type of goods delivered.

Some examples of their duties can include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Collecting goods from depots.
  • Driving safely and legally between destinations.
  • Following traffic reports and adapting routes where necessary.
  • Delivering goods efficiently and safely to customers ensuring they meet deadlines.
  • Planning delivery schedules and routes.
  • Ensuring loads are safe and secured.
  • Loading and offloading goods (or supervising and helping).
  • Keeping vehicles clean and tidy.
  • Carrying out basic vehicle maintenance.
  • Checking vehicles to ensure they are safe, legally compliant and roadworthy.
  • Ensuring they give the best possible customer service.
  • Completing various paperwork, such as vehicle checks, delivery records and logbooks.
  • Reporting any issues with vehicles or goods.

Working hours

An HGV driver can expect to work 38–52 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on their role and schedule.

There is a maximum number of hours HGV drivers can work during the day and week, and they cannot legally work longer than:

  • 9 hours a day or 10 hours twice a week (they must not drive longer than 4.5 hours without taking a 45-minute break).
  • 56 hours a week.
  • 90 hours over two weeks (if they have reached 56 hours one week, they would only be able to work 34 hours the second).

The hours an HGV driver works must be legally tracked and recorded in a tachograph.

Being an HGV driver is not a 9–5 job, and those looking at entering this profession must be committed to working unsociable hours, e.g. early mornings, evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays. Some drivers, such as trampers, will sleep in their cabs overnight if driving over longer distances.

HGV drivers will travel during their working day. Depending on their role, they could be based on one site or travel between different ones and could drive locally, nationally and internationally. It can lengthen the working day when travelling back to base and then home.

What to expect

There are many positives to being an HGV driver, especially if individuals love driving and travelling to different places. It is also a good fit for more introverted individuals, as drivers will spend long periods on their own during their working day. If an individual is a good driver, they can become fully trained and start earning within a matter of weeks in some cases.

There is no shortage of HGV driver roles. In fact, there is a shortage of drivers, so there are plenty of jobs available nationally and internationally, and there are different vehicles and goods in which to specialise. The salary is also competitive compared to other career choices. However, it does reflect the level of risk when driving such a heavy vehicle.

Boredom will never be a problem for HGV drivers, as the role allows them to travel and see other areas, including overseas. Some goods can be more challenging to transport, and tasks can vary depending on the job.

Even though being an HGV driver is rewarding, and there are many positives, individuals should consider the cons and challenges, for example (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Training and other costs – it is not cheap to become an HGV driver, and it can cost over £1,000 for a training course. There is also the cost of medicals, theory and practical tests and tachographs, which can add up. There are some UK Government initiatives to help individuals with training costs.
  • Time away from home and unsociable hours – some HGV driving roles require individuals to work away from home for long periods, and the hours can be at awkward times, which can be difficult for some to balance family and work life.
  • Physical demands – being an HGV driver is a physically demanding role. They may be involved with loading and offloading goods, which can mean manual handling. Concentrating while driving for long hours and working unsociable hours can cause fatigue. There are also numerous health and safety risks when driving an HGV, which individuals must bear in mind.
  • Mental demands – HGV drivers can get extremely busy during their working day. They will have tight schedules to meet, which can be frustrating, especially if caught in traffic or there are issues with the load. They will also face numerous stresses, e.g. road closures, abusive and poor drivers, challenging routes and delays.

The number of women HGV drivers is relatively low, and approximately 1–3% are female. However, it should not put off women who want to enter the profession.

Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is a suitable career. It is physically and mentally demanding, the hours can be unsociable and long, and some drivers have to work away from home. However, there are many positives too, and being a trained HGV driver can open the door to more opportunities, and there is the potential to earn well in this role.

When considering whether to be an HGV driver, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.

Personal qualities needed to be a HGV driver

Some of the personal qualities an HGV driver requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Confident, patient, determined and assertive.
  • Physically and medically fit, including good eyesight.
  • Knowledge of vehicle safety, driving, road safety and traffic laws.
  • Knowledge of the road network where travelling.
  • Knowledge of drivers’ hours and Working Time Directive regulations.
  • Knowledge of vehicle maintenance and inspection.
  • Knowledge of health and safety, e.g. manual handling, driving safely, lone working and hazardous substances.
  • Knowledge of the highway code and road sign meanings.
  • Excellent driving skills.
  • Communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Navigational skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Anger management skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Customer service skills.
  • Time management, planning and organisational skills.
  • Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
  • The ability to concentrate and focus while driving for long periods.
  • The ability to work alone using own initiative and to work well with others.
  • The ability to adhere to schedules and meet tight deadlines.
  • The ability to work under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
  • The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
  • The ability to accept criticism.
  • The ability to use IT and software packages.

Qualifications

There are many different routes to becoming an HGV driver. Individuals could apply for an apprenticeship, a Skills Bootcamp, go on an HGV training course or apply directly. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.

Apprenticeships

There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become an HGV driver, e.g. large goods vehicle (LGV) driver C and E intermediate apprenticeship. Individuals will usually need some GCSEs, including English and maths, or equivalent.

Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.

The Armed Forces may also have apprenticeship opportunities, which will be on their websites:

Skills Bootcamps

In England, there are Skills Bootcamps, which can last up to 16 weeks. These are free training courses for individuals new to HGV driving or those returning to the profession. There are also courses for those looking to transport specialist loads or drive different vehicles.

To apply, individuals should contact applicable training providers directly. They must be 19 or older and hold a full car (category B) driving licence. There may be other entry requirements, depending on the course provider.

The Bootcamp helps individuals with the cost of training, their provisional licence, medical exam and Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) tests. Once the training is complete, individuals will usually be given an opportunity to interview with a local company.

Further information on Skills Bootcamps can be found here.

Vocational HGV training courses

Individuals based in England can take a vocational qualification to become an HGV driver, and there may be help towards costs. Further information on qualifications can be found here.

Other HGV training courses

Numerous private training providers offer HGV driving courses. Individuals should look at several companies to ensure they are getting the best possible price and that it is a good fit. Course lengths and costs vary between providers. A list of registered training centres and instructors can be found here.

Applying directly

Some companies advertise trainee HGV driver roles, and individuals could apply directly to them or via a job site. The company will put individuals through the training. However, they will usually require a full current UK driving licence (clean or a maximum number of points) and some knowledge and experience in transport or picking orders.

Driving a van

Work experience

Having relevant work experience can help individuals become HGV drivers, especially driving practice. A full car (category B) driving licence allows individuals to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. They could get experience by driving larger vehicles, such as vans, and also attach a trailer.

If individuals work for a transport, logistics or haulage company, e.g. as an administrator, their employer may pay for them to do an HGV driver training course. It may be possible to shadow an HGV driver as a driver’s mate to see what the role is like and whether it would be a suitable career choice.

There may be volunteer opportunities where individuals could gain experience in driving different types of vehicles or planning routes. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on  Do-IT, NCVO, Volunteering Matters and Indeed.

HGV drivers after doing manual handling course

Training courses

Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training providers can provide relevant training courses.

Some examples of courses that may be useful for HGV drivers include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Health and safety, e.g. lone working, risk assessment, hazardous substances, driving safely, work at height, warehouse safety and manual handling.
  • Dangerous goods.
  • Spill management.
  • First aid.
  • COVID-19 awareness.
  • Time management.
  • Anger management.
  • Conflict management.
  • Customer service skills.

They could also do courses that are specific to driving, vehicles and the law, e.g.:

  • Advanced driving.
  • Traffic and road safety laws.
  • Drivers’ hours and tachographs.
  • Defensive driving.
  • The Highway Code course.
  • Vehicle maintenance.
  • Emergencies.
  • Poor weather driving.

Professional bodies, unions and associations, such as the HGV Alliance UK Ltd, UK Haulier, the Transport Association (for companies), the Heavy Transport Association and Logistics UK, can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide events and support to help individuals become HGV drivers and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.

The type of training required will depend on what employers are looking for and the type of HGV driving in which an individual specialises. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for specific roles and specialisms. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, UK Haulier, HGV Recruitment Centre, European Lorry Driving, and company careers websites, e.g. large retailers. Recruitment agencies may also offer HGV driver jobs.

More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities. Refresher training is also required as it is a legal requirement and keeps an individual’s knowledge and skills up to date.

Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

To drive an HGV professionally, individuals need a professional driving qualification called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

To gain this qualification, individuals will need to:

  • Be over 18 years old.
  • Have a full car (category B) driving licence (with no points or a maximum).
  • Have good English and Maths skills.
  • Undergo a medical exam and submit a medical report.
  • Get a provisional HGV licence with the DVLA.
  • Complete theory and practical training.
  • Take the CPC test, which includes the following:
    – A driving theory test.
    – An online case studies test.
    – A practical driving ability test.
    – A practical demonstration test (final test).

Once completed, individuals will qualify for a CPC and can professionally drive an HGV. They may need further qualifications for large heavier vehicles and if transporting specialist cargo, e.g. dangerous goods.

Refresher training

Once qualified, individuals will have to complete the following to keep their HGV licence:

  • 35 hours of periodic training every five years.
  • Further medical tests every five years (annual for those 65 and over).
  • An HGV licence renewal.

Refresher training providers can be found by online searching or on the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training (JAUPT) website.

HGV driver working in warehouse

Where do HGV drivers work?

As mentioned, HGV drivers will predominately work for logistics, transport and haulage companies.

They may also work for (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Freight companies.
  • Major retailers.
  • Construction companies.
  • Manufacturers.
  • Recruitment agencies.
  • Wholesalers.
  • Supply chain businesses.
  • Water companies.
  • Waste management companies.
  • Breakdown assistance and recovery companies.
  • Equipment and plant hire firms.
  • Emergency services.

HGV drivers will work mainly in their vehicles, e.g. an artic, rigid lorry, tanker, flatbed, etc.

They may also work in (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Depots.
  • Warehouses.
  • Outdoors, e.g. roadsides, yards and docks.
  • Construction sites.
  • Airports.
  • Fuel terminals and stations.
  • Quarries.

Jobs are available nationally, and there can be opportunities for HGV drivers to work overseas.

HGV driver working with transporting cars

How much do HGV drivers earn?

The salaries for HGV drivers tend to be competitive. However, what an HGV driver earns will depend on the following:

  • The type of HGVs they drive.
  • Their qualifications and experience.
  • Their industry.
  • Whether they are employed or work as an agency driver.
  • The loads they transport.
  • The hours they work and types of shifts, e.g. nights.
  • Where they are based and where they travel to, e.g. locally, nationally or internationally.

According to Check-a-Salary (these figures are a guide only):

  • The minimum HGV Driver’s salary in the UK is £25,500 per year.
  • The average HGV Driver’s salary in the UK is £33,291 per year.
  • The maximum HGV Driver’s salary in the UK is £42,608 per year (although some can earn up to £70,000 per year in some cases).

There have been increases in HGV driver salaries due to the shortage of drivers.

As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.

Specific type of HGV snowplough

Types of HGV driver roles to specialise in

HGV drivers have many different areas in which to specialise. As mentioned, they can choose to be licensed to drive certain HGVs, such as category C+E (class 1), category C (class 2), category C1 and category C1+E (they will need a class 2 before they can apply for a class 1).

They may decide to drive specific types of HGV, e.g.:

  • Flatbed lorries.
  • Emergency vehicles, e.g. fire engines.
  • Refuse collection vehicles.
  • Tankers, e.g. fuel and foodstuffs.
  • Refrigerated lorries/trucks.
  • Cement mixers.
  • Snow ploughs.
  • Highway maintenance vehicles.
  • Livestock trucks.
  • Tow trucks.
  • Car transporters.

They can choose to specialise in particular roles, such as:

  • Shunter – drivers work at a site or between local ones. They move and park vehicles and back onto bays.
  • Trunker – travels on regular routes to transport and deliver goods. Drivers will mainly use trunk roads, i.e. dual carriageways and motorways, and will not usually stay overnight in their cabs.
  • Tramper – travels long distances to deliver goods. Journeys can take several days or longer, and drivers usually sleep in their cabs overnight.

There are also different types of jobs they could do, e.g.:

  • Multi-drop – drivers complete multiple drops during their working day, usually in a local area using a smaller HGV.
  • Single drop – drivers complete a large delivery, usually with the assistance of a driver’s mate.
  • Long haul – drivers drive long distances to deliver goods, typically fewer drops.
  • Short haul – drivers drive shorter distances to deliver goods, typically more drops than long haul but less than multi-drop.
  • 5 on 3 off or 4 on 4 off – drivers work five days on and three days off/four days on and four days off as per the agreement with their employer/agency.
  • Night driving – drivers transport and deliver goods at night.
  • ADR – drivers transport and deliver dangerous goods that can be hazardous and harmful to the environment, such as flammable liquids, e.g. petrol, and chemicals. It requires further qualifications and training.
  • Lorry loading/HIAB – drivers use a lorry loader or machinery with hydraulic attachments to lift items onto the back of a trailer.

Various HGV driving roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All HGV drivers must have excellent driving and customer service skills, and collect, transport and deliver their goods efficiently and safely and complete their paperwork. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what an organisation is looking for and the type of HGV driving role an individual wants. Further qualifications and training may be required, e.g. ADR.

HGV drivers not competently carrying out their roles can have serious consequences. There have been numerous examples of severe injuries and fatalities because of collisions between HGVs and other vehicles on the road. Goods can also be damaged, and if hazardous, they can cause severe pollution incidents. Poor route planning can also damage infrastructure, e.g. driving under too low bridges, and delays in goods can cause customer issues. Therefore, whatever the type of role, HGV drivers must have the necessary competence to carry out their work professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.

HGV driver keeping aware of laws

Professional bodies

Vehicles, highways, laws, equipment and technologies are regularly changing. Therefore, HGV drivers must keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to ensure they carry out their roles effectively, safely and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives HGV drivers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, be legally compliant and progress in their careers.

Joining a professional body, union or association, such as the HGV Alliance UK Ltd, UK Haulier, the Transport Association (for companies), the Heavy Transport Association and Logistics UK, can help individuals enhance their skills and overall career. They offer different levels of membership, CPD, support, access to industry contacts and networking events.

There is ample opportunity for career progression for HGV drivers. With more qualifications and experience, they can become an ADR driver to transport dangerous goods, or get a class 1 licence or drive specialist types of HGV. They could also become a transport manager, an HGV instructor, a planner or move into management. Alternatively, they may move from short-haul driving to tramping or become self-employed.

Knowledge, skills and experience from being an HGV driver can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could use their driving skills to operate various plant, such as forklift trucks, dumper trucks or tractors. There may also be opportunities to work for other industries, such as vehicle recovery or emergency services.

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