There is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to truck driving and most people over look this job when considering their career options.
However, there are many reasons why truck driving shouldn’t be ruled out. Working on the road allows you to manage your own day, provides travel opportunities and will allow you to bring home more money that you’d think. Here’s our guide to help you decide if truck driving would be the perfect job for you.
A Brief Overview of the Job
First and foremost, the become a truck driver you need to be able to drive. This may seem like we’re stating the obvious but there’s a little bit more to it than that. Before acquiring the necessary HGV training and Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC), you must be over the age of 18, have a full car licence and pass a medical examination.
In addition to driving the vehicle, you’ll also be responsible for the supervision of your truck. This includes the loading and unloading, as well as ensuring everything is safely and securely stowed.
You will work with your manager to plan your transport route and complete all necessary paperwork and log books.
This may all seem a little bit daunting and a lot of responsibility for someone new into the industry, so here’s an overview of some of the skills which are needed to guarantee you’ll be successful in your role.
To be a truck driver you must be a good driver and have excellent concentration skills.
You will spend a lot of time on the road, where your focus is crucial to the safety of others and yourself. You must also be physically fit, with good levels of coordination and dexterity; able to accept criticism and work well under pressure; and able to undertake basic tasks on a computer or hand-help device.
A strong understanding of road safety and the high way code is also key.
During your working day, there will be many times where you will be alone whilst driving. However, you will also need good people skills as you will meet many customers during deliveries. As well as a good level of English so that you are able to complete any paperwork and record sheets accurately.
Every truck drivers’ work in all weather conditions, at any time of the day for approximately 50 hours per week. You may also spend some nights away from home in order to complete a job.
Additional hours are very often available, however there are strict laws in the UK related to the number of hours you can drive (and the number of brakes you take). These must be adhered to at all times, or risk facing a large fine.
How to Get Started
As mentioned above, you must be at least 18 years of age, have a full car driving licence and pass the medical examination before starting your career as a truck driver. Further to this, you must also have good eye sight and a competent level of English and Maths for the HGV English theory test.
The assessment is divided into two categories; ‘C1’ (able to drive rigid vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes) and ‘C’ (able to drive rigid vehicles over 7.5 tonnes). An additional test ‘C+E’ allows you to drive with trailers.
Usually, it takes around 1-3 weeks to complete the course for the HGV licence and will include driving capability, basic mechanics and learning how to load and secure loads. The test on the other hand includes questions on vehicles safety, road driving, manoeuvres, high way code and HGV regulations.
You can opt to take the course before applying for HGV positions, however your employer may be willing to fund this if you’re already working for a transport business. Another option would be to complete an apprenticeship.
Alongside your HGV license you also need a Driver CPC, which is comprised of four sections; a practical demonstration, a driving ability test, a theory test and a case study test.
Once you have passed both of these examinations you have qualified as a HGV driver. To ensure your qualifications are kept up to date, you will need to undertake 35 hours of driver CPC training every five years.
Different Types of Truck Driving Roles
Not all truck drivers have the same job. There are a number of different roles which you could work in as a driver and each have slightly different requirements. For example, if you don’t like working too far from home, a local or regional position may be more suited to you. This may be due to having a young family or other dependants and commitments. Alternatively, if you would like to drive a truck in an inner city, you must feel comfortable driving in tight spaces and be patient enough to wait in heavy traffic.
Another option to consider would be long-distance driving. If you enjoy travelling and wouldn’t mind driving in both Europe and the UK, this may be the best choice for you.
Driving in the UK alone means that your runs and days may be shorter, meaning you could spend more time at home. Whereas, driving in Europe will provide you with the opportunity to visit may countries and see lots of new places.
Every driver will make their decision based on their personal situation and none is considered a ‘better’ choice than others. Be sure to take some time to think about each option, though you could always change at a later date if your circumstances change.
Salaries of HGV truck drivers can vary depending on your capability. According to the National Careers Service, a Heavy Goods Vehicle driver can expect to start on a wage of approximately £18.5k which may rise to as high as £35k with specialist experience.
Training and Career Progression
One option to get into truck driving is through an apprenticeship. This will see you working alongside experienced truck drivers to gain on-the-job skills. This level of training will provide you with first-hand experience and knowledge of the industry. Once qualified as a truck driver though, there are some further courses which can be attended to progress your career.
Different loads require different training and qualifications. If you’re wanting to work with hazardous good like toxic chemicals, you will need to take enhanced training to gain an Advisory Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) Certificate. Training usually takes around 5 days to complete. However, like the CPC training, it must be renewed every 5 years to remain valid.
If you are employed by the extractives sector, where you will transport aggregates and materials such as concrete, you will be required to obtain the MPQC Driver Skills Card (formerly known as EPIC). This is an industry-wide initiative backed by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and was introduced to improve safety awareness of drivers, minimise accidents and encourage safe behaviour on sites and on the roads.
As an experienced driver, there are many ways that you can further your career. One of these methods is through training to become a HGV instructor. To do this, you need to have been qualified as a HGV driver for a minimum of three years (or one year, if you have held a licence for a passenger carrying vehicle for three years).
Another role which you can progress into is a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor. These are employed by freight companies and training is provided by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
The FTA and RHA also offer routes into transport management roles through their CPC instructor training.
If this doesn’t sound like the route for you, a different option would be to move into a freight transport planner role, or even consider setting up your own business once you have enough experience under your belt.
How Does the Truck Driving Sector in the UK Currently Look?
For several years, the industry has been concerned about the combined impact of an ageing professional HGV driver workforce and the lack of new entrants coming through. Currently, the demand for qualified truck drivers is high due to not enough young people considering logistics, especially HGV driving, as a career option.
At present, the UK is currently 60,000 HGV drivers short which is predicted to continue to decline to 150,000 by 2020. If more drivers are not attracted to the industry, the ability to deliver high quality services will be severely impaired.
Many associations in the UK are getting on board to help combat the driver shortage:
The RHA, together with telematics provider Microlise, have launched the ‘Road to Logistics’ campaign. Developed to encourage new talent into the transport and logistics industry from all sections of society. This scheme also helps companies to reduce the cost of recruitment into their organisations.
The RHA also allow RHA members with less than 20 vehicles to apply for funding, to recruit and train the next generation of HGV drivers.
Further to this, the FTA is campaigning for several changes to the logistics industry. One of which is amendments to the apprenticeship levy to make it a training levy – this would provide more forms of vocational training and upskill the UK’s workforce.
In order to ensure that, school leavers and young drivers are more aware and have a better understanding of the possible career options as a HGV Driver, there needs to be more government funding for firms to train new entrants, more promotion of the industry in schools and colleges and improved conditions for drivers across the sector.
All of this considered, if you are thinking about a new role and driving appeals to you, why not look into becoming a truck driver?
If you’d like to discuss this further with us, give us a call on 03707 870 484.