There are a number of reasons why people choose to enter a career in the haulage industry as a qualified HGV driver. It’s a skill that is consistently in high demand – companies will always need to move parts and goods between locations, and this combined with an ongoing shortage of HGV drivers in the UK means that good drivers can command impressive levels of pay. These same factors mean that most drivers also enjoy high levels of job security. It’s not a career for everyone, but if you have what it takes, you can enjoy a job that offers variety, flexibility and a chance to travel. Here are a few key facts you should know if you’re considering becoming an HGV driver.
First of all, you need to be over 18 and hold a standard driving licence. You then have to obtain a professional driving qualification called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). You need this certificate to work driving a lorry (or a bus or coach) as the main part of your job. In order to qualify for the Driver CPC, you need to apply for a provisional HGV licence, then pass the four individual tests that make up the Driver CPC to qualify: an HGV theory test, case studies, driving ability and practical demonstration. There are various centres across the country where you can undertake your HGV training. You need to renew your licence every five years (every year when you reach 65) and undertake 35 hours of periodic training within each five-year period to remain qualified.
The primary responsibility of an HGV driver is obviously to transport goods safely, and on time, from point A to point B. But it would be a mistake to think that’s all that is involved. Working out of distribution centres, depots and warehouses, other responsibilities and duties can include planning routes and delivery schedules with transportation managers, following traffic and weather reports and changing to alternative routes if necessary, and completing delivery paperwork and log books relating to the freight you’ve moved. Other on-the-job responsibilities will include supervising or helping to load and unload goods, and ensuring that all loads are safely secured for transport. You’ll also be expected to deal with basic vehicle maintenance, such as oil, tyre and brake checks.
At a minimum, you’ll need excellent driving skills, first-class road safety knowledge and a reasonable degree of competence in rudimentary vehicle maintenance. But, as with the responsibilities mentioned above, it would be wrong to think that these are the only skills an HGV driver needs. As we said earlier, not everyone has what it takes to be a professional driver; you need the right mindset and temperament to be able to work alone and concentrate on the road for long periods.
And for all that the majority of your time will be spent in your vehicle’s cabin on your own, you’ll also have to interact with people more than you might expect – you’ll be expected to be polite and professional in your dealings with clients and customers. You will also be expected to complete paperwork such as log books and record sheets as part of your job, so attention to detail and the ability to complete such tasks accurately is a must.
There is a lot of demand for good drivers, and there are job opportunities both in working directly for transport and other businesses, and in subcontracting as a driver. While many people who enter the industry choose to stay behind the wheel for the duration of their career, others may choose to move into other roles, often within the freight and logistics industry. Logistics management and other roles such as freight transport planner, or even working as an HGV instructor are all possible. You may also wish to undertake additional training for more specialist driving jobs, such as qualifying for an ADR (Advisory Dangerous Goods by Road) Certificate, which allows you to transport dangerous loads such as hazardous chemicals.
As a general guide, a full-time HGV driver starting out can expect to earn up to around £22,000 per year. More experienced drivers can command salaries up to about £35,000.
Here at Transmode we rely on drivers as the cornerstone of our business, so if you have any queries about what it takes to become an HGV driver in the haulage industry, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re also always on the lookout for good drivers to grow our network of haulage subcontractors – if you are interested, you can download and return our subcontractor application pack.