The recent global climate has led to people looking at the world from a new perspective. For example, certain occupations have gained a whole new level of respect. HGV driving is one of them. What’s more, there’s a massive demand for HGV drivers, which is likely to continue well into the future.
HGV drivers, or “heavy goods vehicle” drivers, are similar to long-haul truckers and delivery people in the United States. So, could HGV driving be the career for you?
A Reality Check
The main reason HGV drivers are in such limited supply is that the occupation has an image problem. It makes people think of long hours alone behind the wheel, limited opportunities to rest and sleep, extended periods away from home, and low pay. There is some truth in all of this, but it is certainly not the whole truth.
HGV drivers spend long hours alone behind the wheel, but they also interact with people when they make deliveries. Many HGV drivers enjoy this balance. Rest and sleep do have to be balanced with work, but this is true of all jobs. The days of employers forcing HGV drivers to skip rest breaks are, however, now long gone.
Some HGV drivers do spend extended periods away from home. This is, however, not the case for all of them. Those who do make long-distance runs tend to do so either because they enjoy the opportunity to travel (essentially a “busman’s holiday”) or because of the wages on offer (or both). It’s also worth noting that these drivers can get extended rest periods between jobs.
It’s also true that newly trained HGV drivers start on the lowest wages. In this case, that’s about 17K to 20K. The early days on the job are, however, generally an extension of their training period. Once this is over, even a general HGV driver can earn up to £40K. Specialist drivers (e.g., chemical- and fuel-tanker drivers) can earn even more.
The Practicalities of Becoming an HGV Driver
You need to convert your regular driving license into either a C1 license or a C-licence. A C1 license allows you to drive rigid vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes. A C-license allows you to drive rigid vehicles over 7.5 tonnes. You can get the C1 first and then convert it to a full C-license. In addition to theory and practical tests, you’ll need a medical assessment, including an eye test.
To work as an HGV driver, you’ll also need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (also known as a Driver CPC). You might find it handy to apply for a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. This can be required for work on construction sites.
It has to be recognized that this training comes at a cost. Up until now, candidates have generally had to pay that cost themselves. This is still largely the case, but many training providers will offer financing, and mainstream lenders will likely view the course favorably.
If money is an issue, but you are still interested in HGV driving, then definitely keep an eye on industry websites. The industry is lobbying hard for government money to be made available to train HGV drivers. Given the importance of the logistics industry, the government may have little choice but to provide funding.
If you are currently in an apprenticeship, it might be worth seeing if your employer would include HGV training as part of your course. If you have any relevant experience, you could try approaching an employer directly and see if they will pay for your training in return for you agreeing to work for them for a period afterward.
Other Skills HGV Drivers Need
There’s a lot more to being an HGV driver than “just” driving. HGV drivers do need to have a lot of “soft skills” as well. Firstly, they need the ability to work with other people. HGV drivers interact with mechanics, transport managers, and customers, both sending and receiving. In some situations, you will be the “face” of your company.
Secondly, HGV drivers need great organizational skills. Being an HGV driver involves quite a lot of administration. As a minimum, HGV drivers will need to plan routes and keep a basic record of the journeys they make. They may have to handle the paperwork for deliveries even in the UK. For overseas deliveries, they will often need to take goods through customs.
Thirdly, HGV drivers need good problem-solving skills and the ability to remain calm under pressure. Sometimes you will encounter challenges with the vehicle or its parts, and, physically, at least, you may be on your own dealing with them.. Obviously, you’ll only be a phone call away from your employer, so help can be sent if necessary, but it’s on you to manage the situation until it arrives.
There are other skills you may have or be able to acquire, which will make you even more attractive to employers. For example, if you’re comfortable using technology, you may be a good fit for admin-heavy jobs. More advanced vehicle-maintenance skills are always welcomed. Language skills, even basic ones, can be beneficial.
Why Become an HGV Driver?
With the negatives out of the way, it’s time to think of the positives. Firstly, HGV drivers are generally only out of work if they choose to be. Employers are always looking for them. There are also opportunities to go self-employed. What’s more, demand is set to increase massively over the coming years as Brexit and retirement shrink the number of available HGV drivers.
Secondly, HGV driving is a great job for anyone who likes to be in control of their own workday, even if they’re employed. In general, as long as HGV drivers follow the law (especially taking breaks when they should), they can organize their day however they like. They need to be sure to meet their deadlines.
Thirdly, HGV driving does give HGV drivers a lot of effective free time at work. They must keep their eyes on the road, but, for the most part, they can use their ears how they want. This means that drivers have plenty of time to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
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