There is a huge shortage of lorry drivers, so there are plenty of opportunities to get into driving a lorry for a living. To get a job you will need a large goods vehicle licence. First you’ll need to apply for a provisional lorry licence, then pass the four tests that make up the Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence). You can practice the theory questions for free for the first test.
Every five years you’ll need to take 35 hours of periodic training, and sign a medical declaration until age 45. After then you’ll need to provide a medical report every 5 years until you’re 65, then every year after that.
Applying for a job as a lorry driver
Types of lorry driver jobs you can apply for
There are many career options as a driver, but if your desire is to be a lorry driver then you need to decide what kind of driving you’d like to do. You’ll need to be able to be alone for long periods, but you must be able to get along with a wide variety of people. People in the transport industry can be brash and don’t tolerate fools. If you have a thin skin or have anger management issues, trucking might not be for you.
Some of the terminology is variable and you’ll hear different names for these types of driving. Following are fairly standard names and descriptions:
Shunter driving: shunter drivers don’t technically need an HGV licence because they will just be moving vehicles around within a company’s depot or yard. It can be a useful step up into a company while you are getting your full HGV licence, although it helps if you’ve completed a shunter driver course.
Location-to-location, less-than-full-load or local driving: these driver usually carry partial loads short distances. Often the load will be broken across several locations and you may return to a depot once or more per day to collect more goods. This is your ’round’, and you could be called a ’roundman’. Courier drivers and delivery drivers are examples of this, and the lorries are mostly smaller. You may end up delivering milk to cafes (in which case the truck could be refrigerated), or moving furniture for an office. You might see it called an inter-depot driver.
Short haul and regional driving: these drivers drive within the same and surrounding counties. They may be away overnight occasionally. If they drive the same (or similar) routes all the time they might be called trunking drivers (because they tend to stick to trunk roads).
Long haul driving: these drivers drive much longer distances and might be away several nights or even weeks if going to continental Europe. This can suit husband and wife teams who can keep the lorry on the road for longer and make deliveries quicker. Sometimes you might see them called line haul which is where there are no stops between the departure and delivery point.
LGV driving instructor: you can teach others how to drive a lorry if you become an LGV driving instructor. Check out the approved driving instructor theory questions. More information about the entire process is here.
How much can you earn?
Lorry drivers earn between £18,000 and £40,000 per year, plus overtime. At the lower end of the salary range are local delivery drivers and at the higher end are very specialist drivers including drivers of chemical and fuel tankers.
Self-employed drivers will earn more, but may have to own their own lorry.
How are jobs listed
You can look on sites such as Reed for trucking jobs. Not all jobs will list a salary or hourly rate. Look for whether it’s a temporary or full-time job. The description or title of the job should tell you what licence you need (e.g. C+E), whether it’s regular hours or night shift, what you will be delivering, any other responsibilities (e.g. managing site staff when unloading, or assisting with vehicle valets if you are driving a car transporter), what type of lorry you will be driving (e.g. tanker, refuse truck with rear-steer, HIAB 26-tonne), and any specific qualifications or certification you must have (e.g. ALLLMI lorry loaders certificate, CSCS accreditation, Advisory Dangerous Goods by Road certification, Petroleum Drivers Passport, etc).
If you need extra accreditation there are many places which offer training. For example the Freight Transport Association has a large number of courses available.
Here is a huge list of social media sites for HGV drivers in the UK. Join them and start getting to know people.
Applying for a job
Make sure your CV is presented well (printed on A4, or supplied as a Word document or PDF) and has zero spelling errors. If should clearly state your name and contact details – don’t make it difficult for someone to get hold of you – plus your skills and work history. Look online for CV templates.
Sometimes it can be best to call the company you want to work for (unless the job as specifically says not to), especially if you have a particular set of skills that would put you above the other candidates; if a job has 60 applicants and the person evaluating them is already familiar with you because you’ve had a productive chat on the phone, it gives you more chance of getting the job.
In general you will need a good command of English, although this has become less important recently as a large number of drivers have arrived from the continent and demonstrated excellent driving skills, plus there is a shortage of drivers. What you will need are:
- Superb driving skills and awareness of road safety and load safety
- The ability to work with customers when delivering or picking up loads
- The ability to work alone for long periods of time
- A reasonable level of fitness
- Trustworthy and diligent manner
- The ability to complete documentation and paperwork accurately.
The most important thing when attending an interview is to be on time. Think about what the company needs from you and anticipate their questions: they’ll want to know whether you’ve done this type of work before, how you resolve specific problems, whether you have any restrictions on what you can do, whether you have any points on your licence, what extra qualifications and training you have done, etc. It will help to write the answers to any questions you think you’ll get before you do the interview and then you’ll be better prepared.
They may also ask you when can you start.
What are freight and trucking companies looking for?
The skills freight and trucking companies are looking for are:
- Good communication – you’ll be dealing with clients
- Customer service – taking care of products and clients
- Ability to work unsupervised, but also as part of a team
- Literacy and numeracy – accurately being able to complete paperwork
- Problem-solving skills – things go wrong and you need to deal with them
- Health and safety knowledge
- Can-do attitude – mucking in when required
- Planning and organisational skills – being efficient and fitting in with company operations
- Punctuality – time is money, and lateness shows disrespect
- Calmness in an emergency
- Courtesy on the road – your lorry will have someone else’s logo on it, and you are representing that company on the road
The benefits of employing you as a driver
Are there other benefits you can bring to the company, e.g:
- You are good at maintenance
- You have contacts at potential clients
- You are happy to work a shift which is unpopular
- You have a certain level of experience that’s desirable
- You speak multiple languages
- You’ve had experience driving on the continent
- You have done advanced driving courses or are a member of RoSPA or the Institute of Advanced Motorists
- You have experience in a related industry
- You have auxiliary experience that is useful, e.g. can drive a forklift truck.
How do you get paid for working as a lorry driver?
Lorry driving jobs can be paid in a number of ways:
- Paid by the load – when you deliver a specific load (i.e. your round, or a unique load) you get paid. Drivers may also arrange additional pickups along the way to maximise their time on the road and earn more money. Drivers can often negotiate extra pay for shift work, urgent deliveries, difficult routes and loads which require extra attention when driving or loading/unloading.
- Paid by the hour – a simple contract whereby you get paid for the hours you work on the road and loading/unloading.
- Salaried employee – you get paid a fixed rate per week for a set number of hours (which might vary a small amount) doing whatever tasks your employee requires. This is common where a driver also has other responsibilities such as yard foreman.
- Paid per mile – you get paid for every mile completed. The company and the driver agree on the route, or agree on a fixed number of miles. Drivers that can maximise loads by picking up and delivering multiple loads on the way can earn more from this arrangement. Sometimes the distance is calculated as the crow flies, and so drivers must be aware of any detours or whether the road itself is unduly winding.
Working for yourself
Roughly 22% of people in the transport industry are self-employed. If you own your own lorry you can contract to a firm, but bear in mind that you will need to take care of your own accounting and administration. You might be able to build up to having several lorries and then start winning contracts yourself. If you plan to do this, start in a particular niche so that you can learn it thoroughly and know how to compete. This also makes it easier for you to brand yourself and get a name in that industry. For example, you might specialise in boat haulage, or logging or chilled goods.
If you have specialist equipment for your niche then you can help minimise the maintenance and purchase costs because you’ll be dealing with the same types of equipment: rather than having, say, a tanker trailer and a tipper trailer, if you have two tanker trailers then you’ll get to know them better and you’ll be more useful to larger clients that need that type of work.
What tasks do you do as a lorry driver?
The obvious one is driving, but it’s not the whole job:
Supervising or assisting in loading and unloading goods
Some jobs require specific knowledge of the product and/or safety features. For example transporting cars or fuel.
Loads are secured with straps, tie-downs, chains and more. A driver must know the correct loading procedures, knots and fastenings. Drivers must know how to keep loads secure from thieves when parking up.
Completing delivery documentation and log books
It’s an offence not to complete your log book. Delivery paperwork must be completed accurately so that there’s a paper trail for the client’s goods and so that they can be charged for the delivery.
Planning schedules and routes
Routes should be planned to be the most efficient and quickest to help avoid stress on the driver and vehicle, reduce costs and delivery the goods in a timely manner. There may be particular obstacles to avoid such as low bridges or narrow roads. The transport manager will help plan the route.
Large freight companies might have an on-site mechanic, but it is still the driver’s responsibility to check oil, tyres, brakes and other fluids.
Dangers of working as a lorry driver
Health and safety laws are reasonable strict but there are a number of dangers while on the job:
- Heavy lifting – incorrect lifting can cause back issues
- Long period spent sedentary (sitting down) can lead to postural problems, weight gain and loss of fitness. Weight loss can lead to sleep-related problems, as well as other health issues.
- Long periods of vibration can cause musculoskeletal problems
- Long periods in a noisy cab can cause hearing loss
- Shiftwork can cause sleep deprivation and sleep disorders.
- Many journeys will be quite monotonous if you drive them regularly, particularly those on motorways with scenery that doesn’t change frequently. This can cause you to feel tired at the wheel and increases your risk of falling asleep at the wheel. This is compounded by other issues such as sleep apnoea.
- Long periods of driving can cause mental fatigue.
- Long periods on the road in heavy traffic expose drivers to concentrated levels of traffic fumes. This can also be the case in delivery yards where lorries are idling.
- Carrying hazardous goods is dangerous in the case of an accident
- Driving on the continent on the other side of the road can increase your risk of an accident as you will be less familiar with the rules.
- Driving can be stressful if it’s always done in heavy traffic, or if the schedules are unrealistic.
There are more risks here.
Lorry driver slang
Lorry driver slang was popularised in movies in the USA such as Smokey and the Bandit, and Convoy. Slang exists in the UK and it was originally based off the American slang. This BBC article explains more.