Top 10 Driver Bag Essentials
Whether you’ve been driving for decades, you’re completely new to the world of transport or you fit somewhere in between, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got everything on this list so you’re ready for anything!
1. USB Charger
Most devices these days run off a USB power connection; mobile phones, sat-navs, e-cigarettes, bluetooth earpieces – you get the picture.
Fortunately, it’s nice and easy to use the power generated by your wagon to keep your various technological trinkets sufficiently charged whilst on the move. Investing in a 12v (cigarette lighter) to USB converter will definitely be worthwhile.
There are plenty of options available depending on your needs – whether that’s multi-USB connections, a variety of USB, USB-B, USB-C etc. connections, the internet can satisfy almost any requirement here.
Expect to pay £15-20 for a decent one, but cheap and cheerful versions can be had for under a fiver if you’re on a budget.
In the UK it tends to be wet. A lot. On average, it’ll be raining for just over 1/3 of the year so waterproofs are a must (unless you’re just trunking, perhaps).
You can spend a lot of money on a decent set of waterproofs, but you don’t have to. Screwfix, Toolstation etc. have waterproof workwear starting at about £10-15 for an entry-level pair of trousers or coat – including in hi-vis if required.
Spending a bit more will likely get you something better quality (and breathable!) which might be worthwhile if you’re working in them regularly or your work is fairly active. The cheaper non-breathable fabrics will soon soak you in sweat rather than rainwater if you’re grafting in them, which sort of defeats the object!
3. Hard Hat
If you’re doing crane work this is an absolute must – but even if you’re not, it’s always handy to have one in your bag just in case. Some sites won’t let you enter without one, so going without could lead to failed deliveries or cause delays which we can all do without!
If your employer doesn’t provide these as standard, they’re easy to get hold of at most builders merchants, DIY stores or online. They won’t break the bank either with a basic one costing a few quid at most.
Not as essential in the Summer when the days are much longer, but a decent torch is a must for working in the winter months – or if you’re working at night. Without one, Mr/Mrs DVSA might enquire how you managed to do your defect checks properly.
The punch packed by many modern LED torches means you can even get a very capable one that will be small enough to chuck on a keyring, too.
In terms of price, you’re looking at up to £5 for a budget one through to about £20 or so for a decent one that should last a good few years. Bear in mind if you’re doing ADR work you’ll need an ‘intrinsically safe’ one which will bump the price up – although in this instance your employer should provide you with a PPE kit containing one.
As a nation we have become heavily reliant on technology over the past 20 years or so. And it’s easy to understand why – punch in a postcode and let the computer do the rest sounds so easy, right?
The problems come when the computer gets it wrong – which has been known to happen – or simply runs out of juice. A sat-nav with a flat battery isn’t going to get you very far.
Not just any map will do, however. You’ll want one that marks height, weight, length and width restrictions so you can avoid getting yourself wedged (let’s be honest, we’ve all done it to a lesser or greater degree!). Phillips have a good reputation for HGV maps, particularly if you’re delivering in rural areas as they tend to have most of the farm names on them where other brands don’t.
Maps can be a little bit pricier and you might need a few depending on the type of work you’re doing but an area-specific A-Z style map shouldn’t be much more than a tenner, with a large atlas type national version (more suitable for distance driving) approaching £20.
6. Spare Ratchet Straps
One of the less obvious items on the list, but also one that could prove invaluable! Running out of straps can be a common problem – many operators, however well intentioned, will only supply the bare minimum as they try and keep costs down to stay competitive on price.
Having a spare strap or two can help to put your mind, as the driver – and therefore the person responsible for the load’s security – at ease. It’ll also help you to avoid delays caused by your load shifting or spilling in transit, even if it does stay on the truck.
That’s gloves, plural. Having the right gloves for the job makes such a difference, so pack a couple of pairs to suit different situations.
For fridge work you might need something with a bit of insulation to prevent your hands sticking to the cages. If you’re out with a builder’s merchant you’ll want something a little more tactile, particularly if you’re going to be operating a crane throughout the day.
Other things to consider are whether you’ll need to use a pen or touch screen frequently. If so, a fingerless pair might be the way forward.
Essentially, we can’t make any specific recommendations here because there are multiple things to consider.
8. Handsfree Kit
Using a handheld device whilst driving is thought to increase your chances of being involved in an incident by a whopping 600%. If you’re behind the wheel of a 1.5 tonne car the results of a collision can be catastrophic enough – let alone if you’re in something weighing well over 10 times that.
The Plantronics Explorer 55 is a standout contender here. Small, comfortable and lightweight, it can connect to two phones at the same time (e.g. your cab phone and your personal phone). The battery life is exceptional and with 11 hours of “talk time”, that is actually being on the phone to someone, it will easily last a full shift or two without the need to charge it. At the time of writing, Halfords are flogging these for £25 so it won’t break the bank, either.
9. Pack of Wipes
Particularly important with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a good idea to have at any time. You don’t want to be tucking into your sandwiches with grease and muck all over your hands.
It’s amazing, too, the difference you’ll see by giving your cab a once-over with a couple of wet wipes, especially if you share your truck with other people.
We saved the most important ‘til last. Whatever you do, NEVER leave the house for work without food (and drink). OK – depending on your shift it might be breakfast or dinner instead, but the point remains the same.
Staying well fed and hydrated is actually very important for your health and concentration levels. For more on staying fit and healthy on the road, check out our blog post from last year here.