A heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver is now one of the most in-demand jobs in the UK. As part of the haulage industry, HGV drivers form the backbone of the UK's economy, delivering goods and transporting essential infrastructure throughout the country.
Whether we know it or not, we all depend on HGV drivers and will do for the foreseeable future.
For those who love driving and are looking for long-term job stability, becoming an HGV driver is a wise career move. Below, we'll explain everything you need to know to obtain your HGV licence and begin a career as a lorry driver.
Why become a lorry driver?
The UK is in desperate need of HGV drivers. Since 2017, large swathes of the workforce have left the profession primarily due to covid-19, Brexit, and an ageing workforce. It's estimated that the country is around 50,000 lorry drivers short of meeting demand with some estimates way higher.
Becoming an HGV driver, then, means almost guaranteed work. With such a huge demand for lorry drivers, almost anyone with the right driving qualifications can find work.
The profession resonates especially with those who enjoy working solo and enjoy driving.
● Good time keeping
● Ability to keep your cool during stressful road situations
● Excellent driving skills (can be trained)
● Reasonable health (to pass a medical exam)
The daily life of an HGV driver primarily involves picking up loads, driving to a destination and dropping off goods. In reality, however, there can be a lot more to it than that.
Daily tasks include:
● Driving heavy goods vehicles short and long distances
● Planning routes and scheduling with transport managers
● Supervising the loading and unloading of vehicles
● Manoeuvring goods for unloading using pallet trucks
● Keeping abreast of traffic reports
● Completing paperwork
● Maintaining logs
● Performing basic maintenance and checks on vehicle
● Ensuring loads are secure
● Overnight stays and longer for international deliveries
Types of HGV licenses
In order to become a lorry driver, you're going to need a suitable HGV driving licence. HGV licences are typically divided into two types: class 1 and class 2.
Class 1 licences allow you to drive vehicles of class C and E which is anything up to an articulated lorry up to 44 tonnes.
Class 2 licences allow you to drive class C vehicles only. This includes anything up to rigid lorries up to 32 tonnes.
Below you'll find a detailed breakdown of the types of licences available.
The most basic HGV licence, a C1 licence allows you to drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes laden (fully loaded).
This licence is the same as a C1 but allows the driver to also tow a trailer. The combined weight of both the vehicle and the trailer can be up to 12 tonnes.
A cat C licence enables a driver to drive vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes up to 32 tonnes. Cat C vehicles are lorries with a rigid body, meaning the trailer is fixed and does not articulate when turning.
A category C+E driving licence is the most requested by employers and haulage companies. It enables a driver to operate vehicles up to 44 tonnes including those with a drawbar attached trailer or articulated trailer.
How to get become an HGV driver
Almost anyone can become a HGV driver. There are no special qualifications needed making it one of the most accessible careers available.
1. Obtain driving licence
The first step involves obtaining your regular driving licence. If you don't already have one, this will involve applying for a provisional licence from the DVLA and taking driving lessons. Upon completion of your theory exam, you will then need to pass your practical test.
2. Apply for a provisional HGV licence
After you've obtained your driving licence (and ideally become an experienced driver) you will need to apply for your provisional HGV licence. This is also achieved through the DVLA.
Unlike applying for a regular driving licence, an HGV provisional requires you to fill out a D4 form. This is a medical form that must be signed by a doctor after assessing your overall health. This includes eyesight, heart conditions, neurological issues, mental health, a history of diabetes, sleep problems, and substance abuse.
While some GPs will conduct this for you, in most cases you will need a private health company to conduct the assessment. This can cost anything up to £150.
3. CPC Test
After you receive your provisional licence, it's time to complete your Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) test. This is a necessary qualification to drive heavy goods vehicles in a professional capacity.
The CPC test involves a four-part theory test, studying, and practical tests. A CPC course will teach you everything you need to drive HGVs safely and responsibly. You will need to have 35+ hours of instructor-observed driving to take your test.
A CPC course and HGV tests include:
● Theory test
● Case studies
● Off-road tests
● On-road tests
● Practical demonstration
4. Apply for HGV jobs
After gaining your HGV qualification, it's time to apply for jobs. You will find HGV jobs advertised on almost every job vacancy website and also by local companies. The role is in such demand you may even see companies take out entire billboards to attract drivers.
It's important to read the description of jobs carefully, however. Some roles require specific training and experience.
How much do HGV drivers earn
While HGV driving is not the most lucrative career, it is a rising field with the average pay increasing steadily to attract people to the career.
You can expect your pay to increase the longer you haul for a company and the more experience you gain.
Newly qualified HGV drivers can expect to earn around £22,000 per annum while they gain experience.
This quickly ramps up to an average of £32-35,000 a year for HGV drivers.
Experienced HGV drivers and those with specialized training such as handling wide loads can expect to earn in excess of £40,000 per year.
HGV Driver career progression
Career progression for an HGV driver involves gaining specialist driving qualifications and making their driving skills more valuable.
This includes the following:
● Explosives + Dangerous goods (ADR)
● Use of vehicle-mounted cranes (HIAB)
● Operating vehicle-mounted forklifts (Moffett)
While driving heavy goods vehicles is not for everyone, it’s a career that offers significant benefits. You’ll need good time management skills and the job can sometimes offer anti-social working hours. Nevertheless, HGV driving offers great job stability and steady income, also offering the chance to travel to new places in some roles.