The great thing about a career in road haulage is that it is varied. No two days are alike, but at the same time, it’s not all about driving a lorry, loaded with goods to haul from depot to depot, or store to store. There’s a lot of manual labour involved on the job, and that doesn’t just pertain to the heavy handling of the vehicle.
In terms of HGV and LGV- the both are the same.
The DSA, (Driving Standards Agency) now the DVSA, (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) changed the term “heavy goods vehicle” (HGV) to Long Goods Vehicle (LGV) back in 1992 as it’s more universal and doesn’t just imply that it’s a male only career due to the heavy lifting required.
There’s plenty of female lorry drivers who can put some of the burliest of men to shame when it comes to the handling of goods. It’s all in the technique you use, the speed you can perform your duties at the loading dock, and get yourself back behind the wheel and onto your next scheduled delivery.
Lorry drivers are a vital part of the UK economy growth and sustainability, ensuring manufactured products reach the retailer, so they can get them onto the shelves for consumers. The industry operates around the clock, 365 days of the year, so shift work will be commonplace.
While stores may close, the logistics keep on moving behind the scenes.
In terms of the vehicles you could be driving, they’re as varied as the job itself. Starting out, you’ll be driving rigid lorries, carrying loads over 7.5 tonnes, progressing onto articulated vehicles, which includes wagon and drag which is the rigid lorry with a trailer attached, tankers, and perhaps even transporters. Time is of the essence in road haulage, as all driving hours are strictly regulated and monitored with digital tachographs.
It’s not a career you can settle for a lower salary, based on the assumption you’ll increase it with overtime. Legislation prevents HGV drivers from spending too many hours on the job, and that’s in the best interests of road safety. For those who hate the prospect of being stuck in an office, preferring a more hands on job role, the career of an HGV driver might just be the route to take. There’s opportunity to progress into continental driving too, travelling the breadth of Europe. Provided you are medically fit that is. Form D4 needs to be completed by your doctor, or Optometrist, and you’ll be required to complete form D2. Both are available from the DVLA.
Areas your medical assessment evaluates are:
Provided you’re assessed to be medically fit, you’ll be able to apply for the appropriate provisional licence required for training.
You do need to already hold a class B (car) licence, before you can obtain a provisional for any other type of vehicle. Once you pass the test, you also need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence. This is called the CPC training and is classroom based.
Your licence needs renewed every five years, and you’ll need to sign a declaration stating you still meet the medical standards. If you’re over 45, a medical report will need to be accompanied for licence renewal. Due the medical assessments, it’s not everyone who is in perfect health, and therefore suited to this career.
Only those of good health should continue looking into further training, as it does come at a cost, for training, licences, and ongoing renewals of certifications.
Once you’ve passed your medical assessment, and received your provisional licence, it’s time to get the show on the road, and into driver training.
If your dream job is driving an articulated lorry, then you cannot jump right into that career. You first need to start on the rigid vehicle, and obtain your class C licence. Years ago, when HGV licences were class one and two, you’d sit your driving exam in the type of lorry you’d be training to drive. Now though things have changed, as a class one licence, certifies you to drive a large goods vehicle with a trailer.
There’s two types of those.
The traditional articulated lorry, when you have the cab and trailer, and the rigid lorry with the trailer on tow, (wagon and drag). Depending on what type of vehicle you want to be driving, you should check with the training centre you’re considering doing your driver training through about which vehicles they use. Some C+E training centres will prepare you using the articulated vehicle, whereas others will cut their overheads by using a rigid truck for training drivers for a class C , C1, and a C1+E. Any “+E” on a licence, allows you to drive the vehicle with a trailer attached.
A class C licence (carry loads over 7.5 tonnes) was formerly known as the HGV 2 licence, but despite the name change, there are still some recruiters go by class one and two, rather than by the letters, and you will notice that on some job boards.
By attaching a tow bar and trailer to the rigid you’re then being trained towards your C+E licence, which is what you need for both articulated vehicles and wagon and drag. The both will have different handling styles. Also worth noting is that there’s varied opinion among already qualified HGV drivers as most are of the opinion that it’s dependent on the individual drivers preference, as both vehicles handle differently. As part of your training, you’ll also need to undergo a hazard perception test.
This will include the following checking and correct procedures for:
Each of the aspects above will have a direct impact on the course of action you take. Alter your speed, change direction, or come to a complete stop. The hazard perception test ensures you know how to handle different situations that can arise on the road.
Besides the driving licence, you may also need to undergo additional training for safety purposes, such as an ADR certification (Advisory Dangerous Goods). Establishing the right training provider requires due diligence, to ensure you’re getting the best driver training approved by certified bodies. The Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training (JAUPT) has a searchable database to find approved HGV driving schools.
Preference is usually given to those who can demonstrate a firm knowledge of logistics.
Ideal work history will include warehousing work, such as palletising products, loading and unloading vehicles, and forklift driving. Any delivery experience is advantageous, but no matter the type of background you have, the first two years after qualifying are the most difficult time to get through. Most recruiters are looking for drivers with a minimum two years experience. Partially due to the insurance costs to the transport operations.
Due to the two year hurdle, and even if you plan to sit your HGV 1 test, it’s worth putting your class two to use first. At least to get yourself over the two year hurdle.
The easiest way to do that is through agencies. Some drivers prefer this as it pretty much guarantees your job is going to be diverse and travelling to different locations, using various routes.
It has its ups and downs. For one, with agencies, you’re likely to be travelling a lot to different depots. The time it takes you driving to your work and back, isn’t counted as part of your legal driving hours, so you have to bear in mind the safety aspect and make sure you don’t overdo things with travelling around.
The best jobs with agencies are usually with the larger and established recruitment firms. They will have the bulk of major distributors with decent work. And decent runs and shifts.
The smaller firms tend to be with smaller distribution centres where you’ll probably find yourself doing mostly multi-drop work locally. That’s where the most manual labour is involved, and it’s often the new drivers left fighting for the scraps the experienced drivers don’t want the hassle of. However, it gets experience, and the hard and often tedious work is done in the early stages, to advance later in your career, so it is worth putting the effort in early on and reap the rewards later in your career when you can pick and choose the runs you take or leave. It’s starting at the bottom rung of a ladder and climbing your way up. Only you’re not doing it with one employer. You’re doing in a highly competitive job market, so the best job should always be done every time.
The major upside to agency work is that you get into various depots, and distribution centres where you can find yourself being offered permanent or contract work directly. Besides the recruitment agency avenue for jobs, there’s big brand retail chains who directly recruit HGV drivers for their own distribution fleet, so there are jobs there to gain experience with an HGV 2 licence. That will help you cover the cost of the “upgrade” to an HGV 1 licence, where you can pass your test and possibly have work already lined up. With experience, HGV drivers can become owner-drivers and it is something that’s on the increase.
One reason for that is that owner-drivers must be reliable, and it’s that reliability that businesses use their services for. No delivery – no pay, is the usual terms, and companies don’t have the hassle of dealing with various departments and logistics managers to find out where their products are. They’re in direct contact with the driver, and it’s that good working relationship that keep owner-drivers in business.
It’s not something suited to everyone and like everything else in self-employment, it has its ups and down.