How to become a HGV Driver


If you have ever thought about changing career or starting a new career as a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driver then there is some important information that you need to be aware of regarding qualifications, jobs, recruitment, interviews, salary and skills. Driving a Heavy Goods Vehicle provides you with the freedom of the open road and independent working.

There is currently a shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle drivers in the United Kingdom, but there is plenty of work available, and now is a great time to enter the industry. Work can be demanding and requires a certain set of skills, but office jobs are not for everyone and if you have ever wanted to train as a Heavy Goods Vehicle driver then there is no better time to start.

There are many options available for those looking to learn about driving heavy and large goods vehicles. There are some key and significant differences between driving large vehicles and car driving, and this article will outline all you need to know to get started on your path to becoming a HGV driver.

Getting Your HGV Licence and Training

As with any job, you need to ensure that you have all the correct documentation in place to be able to do the job. For anyone who has worked as a HGV driver, you should already have all the qualifications and documentations you need. For new drivers there are some steps you will need to take to ensure you have the correct licence and qualifications.

The starting point is to ensure you are over the age of 18 and that you have a valid UK drivers licence. If you do not have a UK driving licence then you will need to make arrangements to have your licence transferred to the UK so that you can become a heavy goods vehicle driver.

Currently, there is a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK, and this means the opportunities far exceed the level of competition.

There are three main steps to take when getting your HGV licence.

These are as follows:

HGV Medical

As part of the HGV training program, each HGV driver must pass a medical examination. This examination will identify whether you have any existing medical conditions that could prevent you from safe driving. Usually, the examination consists of a brief medical exam with a doctor followed by a conversation about your health. The doctor will complete your DVLA form. You should always check the cost of the medical exam and see if your employer will reimburse you the costs or offer you a discount.

HGV Theory

As expected, the theory test for HGV drivers is similar to the theory test that is applicable for learning to drive a car. The test questions are in multiple choice format and the test takes place at a test centre. Normally, you will have done some mock tests before the real test, so you will know what to expect. Your employer should also provide you with training support and additional resources you might need for the test.

Practical Training

The practical element takes place once the theory test is done and you have passed. The practical training takes place with an instructor who is DVSA certified. Depending on what your requirements are, the practical training can take anything from one day to a week.

What Kind Of Licence Do I Need?

The kind of licence you need depends entirely on the type of HGV you will be driving.

There are different categories, as outlined below:

CAT C1

This category is for light goods vehicles (3.5 to 7.5 tonnes)

CAT C

Rigid bodied trucks fall into this category irrespective of axles or weight

CAT C and E

This category is for articulated vehicles and draw bar vehicles.

Operators License

If you are an operator looking to obtain a licence then you need to complete the GV79 form which you can find here. A goods vehicle operator licence will enable you to operate a business that uses heavy goods vehicles. 

If you want to operate a vehicle that weighs over 3.5 tonnes plated weight that carries goods pursuant to a trade or business, then you will need an operators’ licence.  The licence should be applied for in the name of the person, partnership or company that uses the vehicle.

Legally, you are deemed to be the ‘user’ of the vehicle if:

  • You are the owner and driver of the vehicle
  • You have lawful possession of the vehicle by virtue of a hire agreement, purchase or loan
  • The driver is an employee of yours and is paid to drive the vehicle

Some vehicles are exempt from the operators licencing rules and these include vehicles such as snow clearers, recovery vehicles and road sweepers.

In order to get an operator’s licence you will have to satisfy the traffic commissioner of the following:

  • You are of good repute
  • You are fit to hold a licence
  • You have arrangements relating to the maintenance of the vehicle
  • You have enough funds to run the business

You can apply for a licence by completing form GV79, and sending it to your local Traffic Area where your operating centre is, together with the correct application fee.  The application needs to be advertised locally, a blank advertisement form is attached to the GV79 for you to complete.  The Traffic Commissioner can take up to 9 weeks to consider or approve your application. 

HGV Insurance

Heavy goods vehicles need comprehensive insurance to ensure the vehicle is protected alongside the driver and the goods carried by the vehicle. Depending on the business you work for, you may need a non-standard and bespoke insurance policy.

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

HGV Driver Shortages

There is currently a UK wide shortage of HGV drivers. The UK needs many more HGV drivers if we are to meet the demand for food, supplies and fuel. The shortage can be blamed on a perfect storm which has been created by the combination of Brexit, the pandemic and other economic factors.

According to the Royal Haulage Association, there is a shortage of approximately 100,000 qualified HGV drivers currently in the UK.

The government has announced measures that are aimed at supporting the road haulage industry and to support recruitment of drivers. Government ministers have pledged to work alongside the industry to:

  • attract new drivers
  • simplify the training
  • encourage drivers to stay within the industry

The government will be launching a consultation to allow divers to take a single test enabling them to drive both rigid and articulated lorries. This proposal would certainly streamline the process for new drivers to obtain their HGV licence.

The government also plans to improve drivers’ working conditions to make them better, this will include more parking spaces for drivers and improved standards at lorry parks.

How Long Will It Take To Qualify

Normally, the process from start to finish takes approximately 8-10 weeks. The practical HGV training element takes 5 days.

What Qualifications/ Education Do You Need?

As mentioned above, to qualify as a HGV driver in the UK you will need to be over the age of 18 and hold a UK driving licence.

You will need the following qualifications:

  1. A provisional lorry drivers licence – you can apply for this by sending in your medical form
  • You will need to pass the theory test and practical driving exam as mentioned above.

Many companies in the UK will offer additional training to you.

Skills and Key Characteristics

To ensure that you secure a role as a HGV driver, there are certain key skills and characteristics you will need:

  • The ability to concentrate
  • The ability to focus
  • Remaining patient
  • Being able to drive through the night or day
  • Completing paperwork during deliveries
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Communication skills
  • Commitment to road safety
  • Understanding of safe policies regarding loading and unloading
  • Ability to work independently

In terms of what kind of experience you need, with the current shortage of drivers you do not necessarily have to have years of experience as a HGV driver. The experience required varies from one company to the next and depends on the service being offered and the product being transported.

Salary – Money

HGV drivers in the UK can expect to earn anywhere from £28,000 to £50,000 plus per annum. Of course, this does depend on the type of HGV you drive and the hours you work. The cargo you carry also affects the salary. Legally, there is a 9 hour driving limit per day and there is also a requirement for HGV drivers to take a 45 minute break for every 4.5 hours they drive.

Due to the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK the pay rates have increased significantly. According to the BBC, HGV drivers are reporting huge increases in salary of up to 40% with some firms offering drivers a salary starting at £50,000.

Work schedules are prepared in advance so you know exactly what you can and cannot do. The business who employs you will clarify your hours and keep account of the hours you have rested and the hours you have driven your HGV for.

Working Hours

As a HGV driver, your hours will be fairly irregular at times. You can expect to be working through the day or the night. As the nature of the industry requires cargo to be moved from one place to the next at all times, you will be required to meet the demands of the role.

However, for the protection of HGV drivers health, there are legal limits that are in place to ensure that lorry drivers are not working hours that deemed to be unsafe for them or other people on the roads.

The legal limits have been mentioned above, but to reiterate, the following limits apply to ensure that lorry drivers are not overworked:

  • The limit is 9 hours per day
  • Drivers can drive for 10 hours a day, twice weekly
  • Drivers can work for 56 hours per week, or 96 hours per fortnight

There are also rules and regulations relating to resting between driving and working. The company you work for will provide you with the relevant advice relating to break (and occupational safety and health), and ensure that the employment rules are explained to you and the logistics relating to working hours.

The government have announced a temporary relaxation of EU drivers’ hours rules which will remain in place until 31 October 20201. The relaxation of the rules was enforced following requests from the haulage industry. The temporary rules allow an increase in the maximum hours that can be driven in a fortnight from 90 to 96 hours. The rules also allow for less frequent rest periods during drives.