How To Become A Freelance HGV Driver

How To Become an HGV Driver

There has never been a better time to become a heavy goods vehicle driver.  If you love the freedom of the open road and working independently, then becoming an HGV driver is the role for you.  Working in the haulage industry as a driver comes with some great benefits that include the following:

  • Freedom from an office and desk-based job
  • The opportunity to travel
  • A good salary
  • Independent working and team working

If there is one thing the last few years have shown, it is that logistics operations and HGV drivers play a critical and essential role in ensuring that the country is able to run efficiently. Indeed, the growth, economic prosperity and general living standards in the UK are aided hugely by HGV drivers and the haulage industry.

Skilled HGV drivers serve an important purpose when it comes to keeping the country running and are vital for smooth operations and distribution within many different industries and sectors.

The recent HGV driver shortage means that the salary on offer is more attractive than ever, and the UK Government are working hard to improve working conditions, especially in relation to hours and overnight stopping facilities.

If you are interested in becoming an HGV driver, then this article will explain what you need to do and how to enter the industry.

Current estimates indicate that there is a shortage of approximately 100,00 HGV drivers in the United Kingdom (according to the Road Haulage Association in Q4 2021) and the haulage industry is seeking new HGV drivers all the time.

Becoming an HGV Driver – The Basics

There are some essential criteria you need to fulfil in order to become an HGV driver.

They are:

  • You will need to be over the age of 18
  • You must have a valid United Kingdom car licence
  • If you have a licence that is not from the United Kingdom, then you need to arrange to have your licence transferred to the UK
  • You should be willing to work flexibly and independently

You will also need to obtain a professional qualification called a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence, also known as a CPC.  More on this qualification later.

In addition to the above, each HGV driver will need to pass a medical exam to qualify.  The medical tests consist of an examination and discussion with a doctor who will assess whether you are able to drive safely.

Skills Needed to Become an HGV Driver

There are some key characteristics you will need if you want to become an HGV driver.

These include the following:

  • Excellent driving skills
  • Be able to communicate well and on time
  • Excellent understanding of road rules and safety
  • Awareness and understanding of health and safety principles
  • Excellent time management
  • Reliability
  • Ability to complete paperwork accurately and on time
  • Organisation skills
  • The ability to manage stress and concentrate for long periods

How Much Experience Is Required to Become an HGV Driver?

With the current HGV driver shortage, the industry is keen to recruit new and old (returning) drivers.  This means that although previous experience will be useful, if you have no experience of HGV driving then this lack of experience will not be a barrier to you becoming employed.

The level of experience will vary from company to company, so you need to check the requirements before you apply.

HGV Training and Timescales

To become qualified as an HGV driver you will need to have the basics mentioned above (over the age of 18 and clean driving licence), and you will need to get the Driver Certificate of Professional Qualification.

The Driver CPC is made up of 5 tests, but you do not have to take all 5 tests if you have previously qualified as an HGV driver.

The entire process of becoming an HGV driver can take between 8-10 weeks, but the actual practical HGV training only takes 5 days.

One of the first questions to think about is what kind of licence you will need.  There are different licence categories in the UK depending on the different weights of vehicles, and how much weight they carry.  The company you work for will advise you on what licence you need and how to secure it.

New HGV Driver

If you are a new HGV driver looking to qualify for the first time, then you will have to:

  1. Apply for the provisional HGV licence
  2. Pass the tests required to obtain the Driver CPC
  3. Undertake 35 hours of training every 5 years to ensure that you stay qualified

Your HGV licence will need to be renewed every 5 years, and then every year after you turn 65 years of age. 

The Driver CPC Test

The Driver CPC test is a standard that has been set to ensure that all HGV drivers adhere to competency standards, ongoing education, and training.

Not only will new HGV drivers need to complete the Driver CPC test, but they will also need to ensure that they complete periodic training in order to retain their CPC qualification.

There are 4 main parts of the CPC test:

  1. Part 1 is the theory test that takes the form of multiple-choice questions
  2. Part 2 consists of case studies that you work through on a computer
  3. Part 3a relates to the practical driving test that will test driving ability and off-road exercises
  4. Part 3b relates to on-road driving exercises
  5. Part 4 is the Driver CPC Practical Test where you will be tested on your ability to load the vehicle safely, assess emergencies, undertake walkaround checks, and reduce risk.

Drivers Who Have Previously Qualified as an HGV Driver

For drivers who have previous experience of being HGV drivers, you are not required to take all 5 of the Driver CPC tests.  Instead, you need to:

  1. Renew your HGV licence
  2. Undertake 35 hours of training or take part 2 and 4 of the CPC tests

Post Qualification

Once you have qualified and completed the Driver CPC tests, then you will be sent the Driver CPC card.  You will need to carry this card with you whenever you are driving any Heavy Goods Vehicle. 

HGV Insurance

Heavy goods vehicles should have comprehensive insurance to ensure the vehicle is protected alongside the driver.

ISIS Insurance offers a wide variety of insurance options and quotes that cover everything an HGV operator might need when it comes to insurance, from skip lorries to refrigerated vehicles.