How to become an HGV driver (without failing along the way)

Wondering how to become an HGV driver? For the right person, HGV driving offers excellent career opportunities. The online shopping and home delivery boom mean logistics has never been more in demand. And, with a national shortage of drivers out there, the good ones are never out of work [OK – we’ll make an exception for the occasional global pandemic!].
Even so, there are plenty of people out there who have tried and failed to become HGV drivers. So, if you are thinking of taking the plunge, how do you go about it without making the same mistakes they did along the way?
In this article, we’re going to take a quick look at some of the basic facts about HGV driving as well as some quick tips to help you succeed faster and avoid those all-too-common pitfalls.

Some Core Facts About HGV Driving

Part of the reason HGV driving presents a good career opportunity is due to the current shortage of drivers in the UK.
For those that are skilled and experienced there is a huge amount of work going.
For those new to the role there are plenty of opportunities to train and gain experience, allowing you to quickly level up and begin earning good levels of pay.
Because, money matters we thought it’d be worth outlining that, as a broad rule of thumb, drivers in the UK earn between £18,500 to £35,000 per year, based on an average of around 40 hours per week.
How much you earn and the hours that you work depends on your experience, where you’re based and the type of work you’re doing.
For those interested in progressing their career in a different direction, HGV driving can also offer the right drivers the opportunity to move into logistics management at some stage.

What does it take to be an HGV driver?

HGV drivers should have an interest in driving (stands to reason!). Generally speaking, most of your time will be spent on the road and so it’s no surprise that those individuals who display a keen interest in their vehicles often shine.
On top of this, drivers often need to be alone and focused on the road for long stretches of time. Being comfortable in your own company is essential. A favourite radio station can help, too!
You also need to be self-motivated and good at planning. As a driver there isn’t anyone there to help you through the day or if you get stuck with a particular issue. You need to be able to and confident enough to make the right choice when required without assistance.
Basic maintenance and repair skills are also valued as they can help ensure a driver doesn’t end up breaking down on route – and if they do it can help them get back on the road faster, saving valuable time. It goes without saying, though, that unless you are properly qualified, only minor works should be done by you (i.e. don’t go lifting the cab).
Normally, drivers spot maintenance faults before setting off which they can get fixed beforehand – avoiding a time consuming and unnecessary breakdown at the side of a motorway.
A final key asset for drivers is people skills. Whilst drivers spend a majority of their time alone in the cab of their vehicle, they are the face of their company. They have to deal with customers on a daily basis and represent their company in the best light possible.

Avoiding mistakes

There are lots of mistakes you can make as an HGV driver, but most of these come down to being overconfident and not paying attention to detail.
If you are responsible, eager to learn and make the effort to work well with other you should avoid the pitfalls that come with being a bit cocky. Like most things in life, a lot of your successes and failures boil down to attitude.
One of the best pieces of advice we can give is to look for the right employer. A bad employer can really hold you back, knock your confidence and even encourage bad (often dangerous) habits.
On the other hand, a good company will recognise your hard work and reward you accordingly. But more than that, they will offer you every opportunity to advance your career by supporting you and helping you to train and improve.
At Backline we treat all our drivers with the respect they deserve, offering leading pay rates, career development options and even enhanced free training for our Elite Drivers.

Getting started as an HGV Driver?

You don’t need a degree to get started as an HGV driver. However, you do need the right qualifications. First of you need to be at least 18 years of age and have a full car driving licence.
You will then need to complete a Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) as well as train for and take your practical and theory tests for whichever vehicle type you wish to drive.
We talk more about the Driver CPC and vehicle types further on in this article.

The day to day of HGV driving

The day to day roles of an HGV driver can vary, however, essentially HGV drivers drive vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes transporting goods to and from distribution centres, warehouses, depots and the end customers.
Depending on the role and the company the day to day can be quite varied.
For example, a driver on a long-haul international delivery might take several days and spend almost all that time on motorways.
On the flip side, a builder’s merchant driver might spend a lot of time in traffic and/or using the crane to unload. However, they would be able to clock a more regular 8 – 5 (ish) shift and spend more time with family.
Regardless of your route, the role has a few other aspects too. Such as planning the route, dealing with customers, loading and unloading the vehicle and completing all the necessary paperwork that comes with each delivery.

Understanding Vehicle Categories

Medium-sized vehicles

Category C1 – This is the lowest class of licence which enables you to drive commercial vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes MAM* (with a trailer up to 750kg).
Category C1E – With this licence you can drive C1 category commercial vehicles with a trailer over 750kg, however, the trailer cannot weigh more than the vehicle when fully loaded. You may also be restricted to a maximum combination weight of 8,250kg too.

Large vehicles

Category C – This is the most common type of licence among lorry drivers in the UK. With it, you can drive commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (with a trailer up to 750kg MAM*). With a category C licence, you will be able to operate any rigid vehicle: tippers, flatbeds, curtain-siders, tankers – you name it. So long as it doesn’t bend, you’re good.
Category CE – This is the ‘top’ licence you can obtain as a lorry driver and with it you can drive category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg (e.g. articulated semi-trailers or “wagon and drags”).

Driver CPC?

The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) is a qualification for professional lorry, bus and coach drivers. It was introduced across Europe with the aim of improving road safety and helping to maintain competent and proficient standards of driving.
Want to know more about becoming a great HGV driver? Read our article My HGV Driving Career; The Best Advice I Ever Had