The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role of HGV drivers in maintaining global and local supply chains. This led the UK government to collaborate with the industry to address the driver shortage. Consequently, obtaining the necessary training to become an HGV driver has become more accessible.
If you're wondering if HGV driving is right for you, here, FleetEx, specialists in premium ex-fleet vehicles, share their expertise on what you need to know.
What an HGV driver actually does
An HGV driver's everyday routine will vary depending on the type of driving being done. For example, short-haul driving has a different work pattern from long-haul driving. With that said, there are some general responsibilities that are consistent across the trade.
Vehicle safety checks
Before starting any journey, an HGV driver must ensure that the vehicle is safe to operate. This includes checking key components such as the tyres, lights, brakes and fluid levels. This is important both for safety and legality. For example, tyres must have a minimum level of tread to be road-legal.
The driver must also check that the load is correctly placed and fastened securely. These checks help to prevent accidents and protect the driver, other road users, the vehicle and the load itself.
In addition to the pre-journey checks, HGV drivers are also required to carry out routine maintenance and repairs on their vehicles. This includes checking and replacing parts such as brakes, suspension and steering components. They are also expected (or required) to keep the vehicle clean both inside and outside.
Before starting the journey, the driver must plan the route and consider various factors such as traffic, road conditions and weather. This helps to ensure that the driver takes the safest and most efficient route possible, avoiding any hazards or obstacles along the way.
Planning a route also involves identifying rest stops and refuelling points along the journey. This is especially important for long-distance journeys, where the driver must take regular breaks to prevent fatigue and ensure their safety. By planning rest stops and refuelling points, the driver can also ensure that they have enough time to complete the journey without rushing, reducing the risk of accidents.
HGV drivers must also consider any restrictions or regulations that apply to the journey, such as weight limits and height restrictions. Overloading a vehicle or failing to adhere to height restrictions can result in serious accidents and it's the driver's responsibility to ensure that they comply with all relevant regulations.
In addition to planning the route, HGV drivers must also stay up-to-date with any road closures or diversions that may affect their journey. This requires monitoring traffic reports and weather forecasts and adjusting the route as necessary to avoid any disruptions or delays.
Driving safely and legally
In general, safe driving is legal driving and vice versa. For example, staying within the speed limit, maintaining a suitable distance between vehicles and following the rules of the road, help to keep everyone safe as well as within the law.
HGV drivers must also be aware of the specific challenges of driving a large commercial vehicle, such as longer stopping distances and wider turning radii. They must take these factors into account when navigating through traffic and be prepared to adjust their driving to ensure the safety of themselves and others on the road.
To maintain safe driving practices, HGV drivers must also take regular breaks to prevent fatigue. This is especially important for long-distance journeys, where fatigue can become a serious issue. Drivers must follow legal guidelines for rest periods and ensure that they take sufficient breaks to maintain their concentration and alertness.
Finally, HGV drivers must also be aware of the impact of their driving on the environment. This includes driving in a fuel-efficient manner and ensuring that their vehicle meets emissions standards in the area(s) where they are driving.
Loading and unloading
Loading and unloading may be handled by trained personnel at the delivery or collection point. Even when it is, however, the driver may supervise the operation. Sometimes loading and unloading will be carried out by the driver themselves.
In the context of HGV driving, the main challenge of loading and unloading is to ensure that the goods are correctly distributed within the vehicle and properly (i.e. safely) secured. This means that HGV drivers need to know the weight limits and load distribution guidelines set by the vehicle manufacturer.
In addition, drivers must be aware of the specific risks associated with loading and unloading. This includes the risk of injury from manual handling, as well as the risk of damage to the vehicle or goods due to poor loading practices.
When receiving goods for transport, the driver must ensure that all the relevant paperwork is in order and matches the shipment details. This includes verifying the weight, quantity and type of goods against the documentation provided. Any discrepancies should be reported immediately to the relevant parties.
During transport, drivers must also complete various paperwork, such as delivery notes, to confirm the successful delivery of goods. These documents often require signatures from the recipient or a representative to confirm receipt of the goods.
In addition to this, drivers may also be responsible for completing customs documents when transporting goods across international borders. These documents are important for ensuring compliance with international trade regulations and customs requirements.
For clarity, these days, the term "paperwork" is generally used figuratively. Most "paperwork" is now carried out electronically. This has helped to streamline work (and hence make it faster). It does, however, also mean that modern HGV drivers now need to be reasonably comfortable using technology.
Life on the road
Working as an HGV driver is a unique lifestyle that offers both freedom and responsibility. While drivers may spend long hours alone on the road, they also need to be able to work as part of a team and interact with people at their stops.
HGV driving requires physical fitness and the mental and emotional strength to handle long periods away from family and friends. HGV drivers also need to be highly organised and adaptable to changing situations, such as weather and traffic conditions.
For those who are up to the challenges, however, HGV driving has a lot of benefits, including significant financial rewards.
Browse all the latest HGV driver jobs here.