The past year, we’ve become more aware than ever about what’s an ‘essential’ service. In particular, especially as things return to normal, we’ve seen how vital HGV drivers are to the nation’s economy. A massive shortfall of drivers is attracting people to the profession, but myths still exist about the job and what it entails. Rewarding and with good job security? Yes. But easy and only for the low skilled? Absolutely not. The biggest frustrations undoubtedly involve how drivers are perceived.
Here are the top 10 common misconceptions about HGV drivers, a group of workers who are highly skilled, hard-working and dedicated to their trade:
While it’s still a male-dominated profession, the tide is definitely turning. Today, in the UK 1% of drivers are female, accounting for roughly 3,000 female HGV drivers. This might sound low, but the numbers are rising. In the US, women make up 6.6% of truck drivers – over 230,000 drivers in total. This represents a rise of 68% since 2010, which is really encouraging. Improved safety features and increased accessibility to truck stops will all help increase the numbers. As perception shifts, we anticipate far more inclusion and diversity within the profession
This definitely deserves to be near the top, if not at the top of the list! It’s true that anyone can train to obtain an HGV licence, but this doesn’t mean you’ll make it as an HGV driver.
Firstly, in order to work for a living, you need to obtain a full Driver CPC for the category of vehicle you’re driving. This qualification involves both practical and theory elements, and while good training can help you pass first time, you’ll need to put in the effort in order to make the grade.
Secondly, being an HGV driver isn’t about jumping in the cab and driving from A to B. The role involves a lot more than excellent driving skills. It actually encompasses a wide range of tasks, including completion of paperwork and ensuring loads are safe to transport and the vehicle is fit for use. It’s definitely a rewarding career. But easy? No, but that’s part of the challenge and fulfilment of being an HGV driver.
It’s true that once upon a time, driver hours were poorly monitored. We all know that fatigue effects concentration. But as well as increasing the risk of an accident, it can also have long term health impacts for drivers. However, lorries are now fitted with tachographs. Legislation allows drivers to operate for 9 hours a day, or 56 hours per week. This has definitely improved the working conditions for HGV drivers, as it ensures they have regular stops and breaks. This reduces stress as delivery schedules must take these rules into account.
The job is about so much more than sitting behind the wheel. Being an HGV driver actually includes a range of responsibilities. These include supervising the loading and unloading of cargo, route and schedule planning, completing log books, basic maintenance checks and checking paperwork. So it’s a role that requires more than good driving skills. A level head, responsible attitude and good people skills are also essential.
We don’t know where this misconception comes from – presumably the fact that traditionally it was seen as a low skilled job. Something that we know is far more the truth! Nowadays, new HGV drivers can expect a starting salary of up to £24,000 per annum. This represents an excellent return on the investment in training, which costs a minute fraction of University fees. With experience and training, HGV drivers can expect regular pay rises, with experienced drivers earning an average salary of £32,500 per year. Highly experienced Category C+E drivers can earn an annual salary of over £40,000 a year.
Of all the drivers on the road, HGV drivers are actually the best trained and most safety conscious. After all, if you lose your licence, you’ll have to use public transport. But if a trucker loses their job, that’s it for their livelihood. Ongoing periodic training ensures drivers remain up to date with rules and regulations and maintain good driving standards. They’re also monitored via black box technology, and have to undergo regular drug and alcohol testing.
The probability of a lorry driver being involved in a road accident is three times higher than car drivers. But the majority of the incidents are actually caused by cars driving in blind spots and abruptly stopping in front of a lorry. It takes lorries a lot longer to stop, a fact that most car users are unaware of. Also, if you drive in their blind spots, you won’t be seen by an HGV driver. How many times have you seen the sign “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you”. Well, this would be the rear blind spot, but a lorry also has blind spots along each side of the trailer. Another fact to be aware of around this statistic is that HGV drivers will spend a lot more hours on the road than other users, increasing the probability of even being in an incident.
Just because you’re an HGV driver doesn’t mean that you’ll have to spend days or weeks away from family. There are also short haul positions available, working regionally and locally, that will ensure you’re home each day. Also, if you do choose long haul, this doesn’t mean you’re cut off from your loved ones. Smartphone technology means you can still read a bedtime story, or help with the homework!
Given the wide range of tasks, HGV drivers are actually constantly meeting new people. They also keep in touch with each other using hands free mobile technology, and some drivers (especially those on the continent) are still partial to a CB radio. Given the distances some drivers drive, they’ll also meet people on their travels. So although drivers might appear alone, they’re far from lonely.
This is simply untrue. There are plenty of opportunities for career progression. This can involve moving to larger vehicle categories – for example, from Category C (Class 2) to Category C+E (Class 1). Further specialist training, such as ADR and HIAB, can also improve earning power and open up career opportunities. Some drivers will invest in their own rig, working freelance and taking control of their working hours and salary. You can also move up within a logistics company into management level positions, and ultimately end up running your own business.
We hope this article has helped to dispel some of the most common misconceptions about HGV drivers. As you can see, they’re highly skilled professionals who have a demanding yet rewarding career. If you’re interested in becoming an HGV driver then we can help you achieve your career ambitions. Here at The LGV Training Company we can help guide you through the training process, from applying for your provisional licence all the way though to securing a position. Given the chronic shortage of HGV drivers, and the threat of food shortages, there’s never been a better time to embark on this career choice. So if you fancy playing a key role in keeping the UK economy going, and love the freedom of the open road, then get in touch today!