As you might have noticed by now, there are a fair few steps involved in becoming a professional HGV driver. And among the theory and practical exams, the training hours and the practice you need to put in, these also a medical exam to consider. It often seems like a small part of the whole process, but it’s actually very important, because as a HGV driver you have a huge amount of responsibility, and we need to make sure you are safe on the road. That’s why such a small part of the process actually has the biggest impact, and many aspiring HGV drivers have fallen at the hurdle of the medical exam. And if you’ve never been through it before, the medical exam might seem a little daunting. So today, we wanted to show you exactly what it entails.
Regardless of the type of HGV licence you’re looking to get, or to renew, you will need to go through a full medical exam to prove you are fit and healthy. Once you have your license, you will have to renew it every 5 years, to show that you are still in good health and haven’t developed any problems. The medical exam is made up of 2 parts:
Discussion: A chat with your doctor. This will be like any other consultation you have with your GP, and you’ll be given the chance to discuss your medical history in-depth and any issues you think might impact your ability to drive safely.
Physical Exam: You’ll then undergo a physical exam, which will include your vital signs, vision and general health. This should take around half an hour, and the doctor will fill out a form for the DVLA as they go. This will be sent off directly so you won’t see it, but you can request a copy from the DVLA if you want.
Your medical exam will be done in one sitting, and can be done by any NHS care provider or a private physician. However, there is no DVLA mandate saying these have to be done for free, so you may need to pay a nominal fee. The doctor will check you for a number of conditions that might stop you from driving safely, including:
Impaired eyesight: Being able to see well, both at distance and up close is obviously a pretty important part of being a HGV driver! You will be required to read a number plate from a distance of 20 yards, either with or without glasses or contacts. If you do need glasses that isn’t necessarily an issue, but the prescription do need to be no higher than +8 in order to qualify, and your vision needs to be 160 degrees or above. If you’re not sure what your vision is like, it might be worth making an appointment with your optician before you start out on your training.
Neurological Conditions: There are a number of neurological conditions that can impact your ability to drive, and their severity can vary. Some won’t present a problem at all, or will be fine as long as you can demonstrate that they can be properly managed. But others, like narcolepsy or unexplained seizures, are grounds for immediate disqualification due to their nature and seriousness. Your doctor will ask you about things like epilepsy, blackouts, seizures, memory problems, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, narcolepsy, cataplexy, strokes, prior brain surgeries or any chronic brain conditions.
Mental Health: We’ve talked about the seriousness of mental health in HGV drivers before, and that’s because it’s incredibly important, especially when it comes to keeping you and everyone else safe on the road. So you will be asked to discuss your mental health with the doctor, including any issues you may have with depression, dementia, cognitive impairment or hospitalisation for psychiatric issues in the past.
Heart Conditions: Any heart problems that aren’t being treated or controlled are going to be an immediate red flag for your doctor. That’s anything from angina to a stroke and even atrial fibrillation. If your condition is being managed properly then this shouldn’t cause any issues, but there are some exceptions – for example you can’t drive within 3 months of having major heart surgery.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a very common illness that affects around 9.5% of the population, so having it won’t mean you can’t become a professional driver. But it does mean you will be asked to prove that you can keep the condition under control. That means twice-daily glucose testing, and if you have insulin-treated diabetes, you will need to be able to provide your last 3 month’s worth of glucose readings and your personal reader with you to the exam.
Sleep Disorders: One of the leading causes of serious accidents among HGV drivers is lack of sleep. So in order to keep you safe, your doctor will ask you about your sleep, looking for any symptoms of possible sleep disorders. You need to be really honest here. A sleep disorder isn’t necessarily an automatic disqualification, but it does need to be managed properly.
Alcohol and Drug use: It’s safe to say that if you use drugs or alcohol, you can’t drive. But if it’s just the occasional drink or use in your private time, the DVLA are less concerned. What they do want to catch is anyone with signs of chronic substance abuse, as they are more likely to pose a threat to other road users, and get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
At the LGV Training Centre, we see it as our duty to make sure you are fully prepared for life as a HGV driver, right from the start. That’s why we give you detailed information on the medical exam, and guide you through the whole process from start to finish, as well as the rest of your HGV training. If you would like to know more, please just get in touch with our team today.