A Day In The Life Of A: HIAB Driver

Bag packed the night before, ready to head out the door for 05:45. My shift doesn’t start until 07.30 but I’ve got a 75-mile journey to do first. For some reason the construction and DIY sector seems to be booming right now, meaning we’re struggling to get enough crane qualified drivers to fill all the bookings. With a bit of jiggery-pokery, however, we managed it.



Arrive on site a few minutes earlier than anticipated thanks to light traffic and a bit of luck with the traffic lights.


07:15 – 07:40

Vehicle defect checks including a quick test of the operation of the crane to familiarise myself with it. It’s a ‘19 plate DAF with Atlas crane featuring joystick controls (rather than levers). Not seen one of these before but at first glance seems to be a good setup. Essentially each joystick operates two functions – one with up/down and one with left/right – hence only three rather than the more traditional six (or potentially more if you’ve been blessed with an HMF) controls.


07:40 – 08:35

Heading out to my first drop – it’s an outbuilding on a farm estate so not the easiest to locate, but the client is good at putting contact numbers on the paperwork so I was able to get guided in by the customer.


Once I’m there I can see it’s not going to be the most simple of jobs – the area where the customer wants the product – a couple of dumpy bags of sand – is surrounded by some low-lying trees which are going to get in the way of the crane. Strategic positioning of the truck makes things a little easier but it’s still fiddly.


08:35 – 09:20

Drop number two was nice and easy – plenty of space on a quiet residential road with very few cars parked on the road. Slings were required for this one as the customer had ordered several lengths of decking for a project in his back garden, some fence posts and a few bags of postcrete.


09:20 – 09:45

Back to the yard to re-load for run number two. I’m in a 15-tonner which has a payload of just over 5 Tonnes. That means better for access through some tight country lanes but more back and forth to the yard to reload.


09:45 – 10:10

Waiting to be loaded for my second run – more dumpy bags, some XL paving slabs, blocks and a few sheets of Ply.


10:10 – 11:05

Made my way to drop three – there’s no way the crane is going to get these paving slabs where the customer wants them. Handball it is. It’s only 19 degrees, but the humidity makes this a hot & sweaty job!


11:05 – 11:50

Drop four was as about as awkward as it gets. Steep hills, tight corners, double parked cars – you name it, it had it! Fortunately it was only one lift – the plywood. There was no choice but to block the road whilst I unloaded. As luck would have it, an ex-crane operator of 35 years was one of the cars waiting to get through. He hopped out and gave me a hand to save a few minutes which was much appreciated.


11:50 – 12:40

The rest of my load was for drop five. Dumpy bags and blocks. All nice and straightforward. The only slight issue here was the access. A small development site (14 properties) on the outskirts of a small village. Once we were in, though, it was plain sailing.


12:40 – 13:40

Back to the yard to load for run three and to have my WTD break. It’s rare with HIAB work that you’ll ever get close to 4.5 hours driving so 30 mins break is enough.


13:40 – 14:15

Drop six is literally a 2 min drive from the depot. There’s a very low overhanging tree on entry to the customer’s premises. I ask if she’s had any other crane deliveries before to which she says “yes, but it was a few years ago so it’s [the tree] probably grown a bit since then!”. I decide the best chance is to reverse in (rear mounted crane) and hope I can get clear of the tree. With a bit of awkward positioning it’s just doable. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the crane close enough to get the dumpy bag exactly where she wanted it but it was either that or no delivery and she was very understanding. I made a note on the paperwork that pre-packed bags would be a better option if she needed anything else.


14:15 – 15:10

Next up is four project packs of slate to a farm. Fortunately this one wasn’t hard to locate (farms can be notoriously well hidden!) and a quick phone call to the customer prior to setting off meant I knew what I was looking for when I got there. This was another nice easy one. Plenty of space in the farm yard and some good solid ground made for a straightforward drop. The only challenge here was avoiding all the dog mess!


15:10 – 15:25

Return to base for run four but the other driver has beaten me back meaning he was already being loaded ready to head out. That renders me done for the day.


15:25 – 15:50

End of day vehicle checks to make sure everything is in good order, timesheet signed, tacho downloaded and it’s home time!


They say that variety is the spice of life – and that’s exactly what working with a recruitment business such as Backline can offer you. Most of our drivers work with us on a full-time basis but, due to the nature of our client base, will find themselves covering various different types of work depending on their location and the season.