Preparing for a lorry journey

Preparing for a lorry journey

Medical checks

The large goods vehicle (LGV) licence has a higher medical standard than a normal driving licence because the fitness of LGV drivers is vital to their safety on the road.

When you first apply for an LGV licence you’ll need to send a medical report with your application. You’ll also need a medical report if you’re renewing your LGV licence and you’re aged 45 or over. You’ll have to get a new medical report every five years when you’re over 45 to renew your licence.

Make sure you book your medical and send the completed form to DVLA at least three weeks before your licence expires, otherwise you won’t be able to drive an LGV until your new licence is issued.

For more information about the medical check, see GOV.UK.

Even when you've passed your medical, there are many other factors that you need to consider before getting behind the wheel. Alcohol, illegal drugs, medicines, injuries, tiredness and your mood can all affect your driving. If you ever feel that you might not be able to drive safely, don’t drive. Decide the best way to deal with the situation: you may need to ask your employer to find another driver for this journey. If it’s a longer-term problem, you may have to stop driving altogether.

Alcohol

You must not drink and drive. Alcohol will seriously affect your judgement and ability to drive safely.

In 2011, 280 people were killed in drink-drive accidents and 1290 people were seriously injured. (Source: Dept for Transport/National Statistics).

The amount of alcohol in a drink is measured in units. The number of units in different types of drink varies.

You must not drive if your breath alcohol is higher than 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres (which is the same as a blood alcohol level of 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres). Driving with alcohol in your blood is extremely dangerous and carries serious penalties if you drive or attempt to drive while over the legal limit. You can find more information on penalties in The Highway Code.

It’s safest not to drink any alcohol before you drive. For more information on drinking and driving, see GOV.UK.

Any amount of alcohol can affect your judgement of speed, distance and risk; it can also make you sleepy. It takes just over an hour for your body to process a unit of alcohol and remove it from your system so if you drink heavily in the evening, you may still be over the limit the following day.

If you’re not sure whether you’re over the limit, don’t drive.

Drugs and medicines

You must not take any drugs that are generally accepted as ‘banned substances’ while driving or before you intend to drive. The effects of illegal drugs can be even more serious than alcohol. Drugs can have unpredictable effects and you may not be aware of them affecting you. The direct effects of some drugs can last up to 72 hours.

During 2011, at least 640 accidents were caused by drug-drivers (using illegal drugs or medicines), including 49 deaths. (Source: Department of Transport).

If you’ve taken illegal drugs, it’s against the law for you to drive. See GOV.UK for more information on the tests and penalties for drug driving.

There’s also information in The Highway Code about the penalties for drug driving.

Some medicines can make you sleepy and will affect your ability to drive. Whether you’ve bought the medicine over the counter or been given it on prescription, always read the label. If it says ‘may cause drowsiness’, it will probably make you sleepy. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to drive while taking a medicine, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Taking a combination of prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, illegal drugs, controlled drugs or alcohol can have an unpredictable effect on you, so you shouldn’t drive while you could be affected by them.

Tiredness

If you’re tired, you won’t be fully alert and aware of what’s going on around you, which means that you won’t be able to drive safely. Don’t begin a journey if you feel tired.

If you start to feel tired while you’re driving,

  • find somewhere safe to stop so you can rest (never on a motorway hard shoulder)
  • try having a caffeine drink and a short nap to refresh you before you start driving again
  • open a window to let in some fresh air if you can’t stop immediately.

To help you stay alert, make sure you

  • have the driving seat in the right place so that you can use the pedals, gear stick and steering wheel comfortably
  • sit up straight – if you slouch, you won’t breathe in as deeply as you should.

Your emotions

Extremes of emotions – such as anger, sadness, stress, grief or even happiness – will affect your concentration and how you judge what’s happening on the road. Many crashes are caused each year by drivers being careless, thoughtless or reckless.

It’s important to think about how you’re feeling before you get behind the wheel and, if necessary, take some time to calm down and get into the right frame of mind or ask someone else to drive.

Driving with an injury

You must make sure that you have full control of your vehicle at all times.

 Remember that

  • a twisted ankle can affect how you use the pedals
  • a stiff neck can make it difficult to check mirrors and blind spots.

If you’ve suffered an injury, you may want to check with your doctor before you drive. Think before you drive: if you can’t control the vehicle properly and see all around, you won’t be able to drive safely.

Eyesight

To have a driving licence, you must be able to read in good daylight, with glasses or contact lenses if necessary, a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres (about five car lengths). If you need glasses or contact lenses to do this, you must wear them whenever you’re driving. To drive a lorry, you must also have a visual acuity test. Find out more about the requirements on GOV.UK.

Eyesight changes over time so you must have an eyesight test at least every two years. If you drive when your eyesight doesn’t meet the standard, you’ll be driving illegally and will be less safe on the road.

When the sun is bright use sunglasses to reduce glare, which can make your eyes tired and reduce the amount you can see. Make sure you take them off when you drive through a tunnel or when conditions are less bright so you can still see clearly.

Aging

Your mind and body go through gradual changes, especially as you get older. These changes can affect your driving – for example, your reactions may become slower, you may tire more easily or your muscles may become weaker.

As you grow older you’ll need to concentrate more carefully on your driving and take care when judging the speed of other traffic.

Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about whether you’re safe to drive.

Disabled drivers

There are many vehicle modifications that can help people with physical disabilities drive safely. These include

  • hand controls for braking and acceleration
  • steering and secondary control aids
  • left-foot accelerator conversions
  • clutch conversions
  • parking brake devices
  • extra vehicle mirrors
  • seat belt modifications
  • harnesses
  • special seating
  • wheelchair stowage equipment.

Automatic gears and power-assisted steering may also help you if you’re a disabled driver.

Drivers’ hours rules exist to make sure that professional drivers don’t spend too long at the controls of a vehicle. Up to one in six of all serious crashes is caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel: this is dangerous in a car, but in a large goods vehicle it can be catastrophic.

Employers who force their employees to break the rules on drivers’ hours can be given a fine, but it’s also your responsibility as a driver to make sure you follow the rules – otherwise you could have to pay a fine or lose your licence to drive goods vehicles.

Driving hours

The European Union (EU) rule limits drivers to driving for 9 hours in any 24-hour period, although this may be extended to 10 hours twice a week. Weekly driving mustn’t be more than 56 hours and fortnightly driving mustn’t be more than 90 hours in any two consecutive weeks.

Breaks

You must take breaks of at least 45 minutes in total during or after a maximum of 4.5 hours of driving. The break can be split into two periods, one of at least 15 minutes followed by one of at least 30 minutes. You can’t split breaks into three periods of 15 minutes.

Daily rest periods

Each day you must have a rest from driving of at least 11 hours: this can be split into one period of at least 3 hours and another period of at least 9 hours.

Weekly rest periods

Within a week, you must have a rest period of at least 45 hours.

For more information about the drivers’ hours rules, see GOV.UK.

Tachographs

You’ll use a tachograph to record your hours of driving, other work, breaks and rest periods, so your employer and the enforcement authorities can check you’re following the drivers’ hours rules. Make sure you know how to use the tachograph correctly: see GOV.UK for more information about using a tachograph.

If you’re carrying passengers, you’ll need to check that they’re safe before you start your journey. As the driver, you’re responsible for everyone in your vehicle.

Seat belts

If there are seat belts fitted in your vehicle, you must use them unless you have a medical exemption certificate or you’re travelling less than 50 metres while making deliveries or collections. All large goods vehicles (LGVs) registered since 1 October 2001 must have seatbelts fitted.

Head restraints

Adjust your head restraint so it’s the right height for you, if there’s one in your vehicle. The widest part of the restraint should be in line with the top of your ears. Using a head restraint correctly can help prevent neck injuries in a crash.

Passenger distractions

Passengers in your vehicles can be very distracting. It’s your responsibility to keep them safe so make sure they don’t distract you. This could involve

  • asking your passengers to be quiet or to turn down music
  • making sure you don’t drive irresponsibly because of something a passenger has said or done
  • stopping the vehicle so you can sort out any problems before you carry on with your journey.

Never allow your passengers to put pressure on you to drive dangerously or show off.

It’s vital to make sure you secure the load on your vehicle correctly to keep the vehicle stable when you’re driving. You’ll need to think about

  • what the load is, its weight, height, shape and volume
  • whether the vehicle is suitable for carrying the load
  • how stable the load is
  • what type of restraint to use
  • protecting the load from the weather, theft and damage
  • how to deliver the load.

Different loads will need to be positioned and secured in different ways. See your company loading policy for the correct procedures. The Official DVSA Guide to Driving Goods Vehicles also contains advice on loading.

As a general rule, the weight of the load should be distributed evenly over the axles to increase stability of load, with the centre of gravity of the load kept as low as possible.

Different types of large goods vehicles (LGVs) may have different characteristics, which you’ll need to know about so you can drive and operate them safely. For example, when emptying a tipper truck, you’ll need to understand how the centre of gravity of the vehicle changes when you’re tilting the vehicle body so you can make sure the vehicle won’t overturn.

If you’re new to driving a particular type of vehicle, ask the vehicle operator for information and training to help you operate it safely.

Calculating the payload

The payload is the maximum load your vehicle can carry. You can calculate it using the maximum authorised mass (MAM) and the kerbside weight of the vehicle.

MAM – kerbside weight (total weight of vehicle and fuel, but not driver or load) = payload

Maximum permitted gross axle weights

The maximum permitted gross axle weights depend on the axle spacing and tyre equipment on a vehicle. You’ll need to calculate the gross axle weights so you can make sure your vehicle isn’t being overloaded.

(Payload in tonnes × distance from centre of load to rear axle in metres) ÷ wheelbase length in metres = front axle load in tonnes

To find the rear axle load, subtract the front axle load from the payload.

These calculations will tell you how much of the payload is being imposed on the road by each axle. To find the true figure of the total weight being imposed on the road by the entire loaded vehicle, you’ll need to add the axle kerb weights (ie the empty vehicle weight).

Changes to the axle weights during a journey

On journeys where you’re making two or more deliveries, you could find that an axle becomes overloaded when part of the load is removed from the vehicle. Redistribute part-loads to keep the weight evenly distributed and within the axle weights.

Changes to the weight of your vehicle

A vehicle that is loaded will handle differently to one that is unladen. Whenever the weight of your vehicle or the distribution of weight in your vehicle changes, you’ll need to adjust the way you drive and think about whether you need to make any adjustments to the vehicle.

When your vehicle is loaded, try to

  • brake in good time and, if possible, when driving in a straight line
  • look well ahead to avoid harsh braking
  • reduce speed before making a turn to avoid turning and braking at the same time.

Securing a load

Make sure you use a suitable device to secure the load on your vehicle and that you attach it to the correct anchoring points. Don’t use the rope hooks (bolted or welded to the underside of side rails or outriggers) because they’re unlikely to be very strong. Check the capacity of the load anchorage points, which should be marked on the vehicle.

Find out more about different restraints or securing your load in The Official DSVA Guide to Driving Goods Vehicles.

Check the load and securing devices periodically to make sure nothing has moved or become loose.

The higher the load, the higher it will make the vehicle’s centre of gravity. This will make the overall vehicle and its load less stable: try to keep the heaviest part of the load as low as possible.

The load restraint system must be strong enough to withstand a force of

  • at least the total weight of the load forward, to prevent the load moving under severe braking
  • half the weight of the load backwards and sideways.

Make sure the restraints and the anchor points, when combined, can bear these weights.

Protecting different types of load

Some loads carried on an open vehicle should be covered, especially granular or flaked materials – for example, loose dry sand or ash should be covered with a sheet to stop the load blowing away.

Covering a load with a sheet will also help protect the load from rain or snow, which can make some loads become very heavy (eg sand or ballast).

Other loads may be covered with mesh netting, such as builders’ waste, to make sure nothing can fall from the vehicle.

Load stability

If you steer, accelerate or brake suddenly, it can cause the load on your vehicle to become unstable or even fall off, which then makes the vehicle unstable.

  • Sudden acceleration can make a load fall off the back of the vehicle.
  • Harsh braking may make the load move forward, causing the vehicle to skid or making the front of the vehicle dip downwards.
  • Tubular loads, such as scaffolding poles and girders, can move forward with enough force to demolish the headboard, with fatal results.

Your vehicle could shed its load as a result of

  • driver error – usually a sudden change of speed or direction, or driving too fast
  • an unstable load, eg the load has moved, been badly loaded or not restrained correctly
  • mechanical failure, eg suspension or tyre failure, disengaged trailer or wheel loss
  • collision with another vehicle, a sign, a bridge, etc.

Shedding a load while you’re on the road can lead to delays, injuries and damage to other road users, and can cause your vehicle to go out of control. Most shed loads are preventable: make sure you know how to handle your vehicle correctly and safely, and that the load is properly secured.

Because of the forces acting on a large goods vehicle, loads are most likely to become unstable when you’re driving

  • around roundabouts
  • on slip roads
  • on long (fast) bends.

You’ll need to be particularly careful to avoid driving too fast and sudden steering, acceleration and braking in these situations.

Checking the load

The load on your vehicle can shift during a journey. Watch out for signs such as leaking liquid, noises that could mean the load is moving inside your vehicle or a change in the way the vehicle handles. If you notice a change, stop as soon as you can safely and check the load.

If you can, re-secure the load before you continue your journey. However, if you can’t fix the problem on your own you’ll need to ask for advice and/or help – don’t start driving again until the load is secure.

You should check loose loads carried in a container periodically because they can move inside the container when you’re travelling up and down hills, and could overload the axles.

Carrying dangerous or obnoxious goods

If you’re going to be transporting dangerous goods on your vehicle, the vehicle operator must give you information about the goods before loading the vehicle, including emergency information.

The vehicle will need to have markings on it to clearly identify what it’s carrying. You must make sure the correct symbol or mark is clearly visible on your vehicle: it could affect how the vehicle is handled if it’s involved in an incident.

Before you drive a dangerous load, you’ll need to have training on how to drive the load safely. Your operator should provide this: if you’re not sure whether you’ve had appropriate training, check with your operator.

You’ll need a vocational training certificate, known as an ADR certificate, if you’re driving

Lifting loads safely

As a large goods vehicle (LGV) driver, you’re likely to do some manual handling and lifting. Lifting loads in the correct way is important to avoid injuring your back – which can then affect your ability to drive.

To reduce the risk of an injury when you’re lifting,

  • follow the systems of work provided
  • use any equipment that’s provided to help you properly
  • tell the relevant person if you identify any hazardous handling activities
  • make sure you don’t put others at risk as a result of what you’re doing.

Always try to use good techniques for lifting and handling so they become a habit.

  • Before you lift, think about what you’re lifting and where it’s going. Can you use anything to help you? Do you need to move anything out of the way? Will you need help?
  • Start from a stable position with your feet apart, one leg slightly forward of the other to keep balance. Move your feet during the lift if you need to.
  • Start in a good posture. Avoid fully bending your back (stooping) or fully flexing your hips and knees (squatting): it’s better to start the lift with a slight bending of your back, hips and knees.
  • Get a good hold on the load so there’s no risk of it slipping or falling.
  • Keep the load close to your waist: keeping it close to your body will make it easier to lift.
  • Avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially while your back is bent. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips. Move your feet to turn rather than twisting.
  • Keep your head up – don’t look down at the load when you’ve got it securely.
  • Move smoothly rather than jerking or snatching.
  • Don’t lift or handle more than you can easily manage. If you’re struggling with a load, you’re far more likely to get injured.
  • If the load needs careful positioning, put it down before adjusting it.

There are some routine maintenance checks that you’re responsible for as the vehicle driver, and others that the vehicle operator is responsible for. By checking your vehicle each day you’ll be able to spot any problems that could cause the vehicle to break down or make it illegal to drive on the road.

If you notice any problems, make a note of them and get them fixed before you start your journey. Before carrying out any maintenance, check the vehicle handbook and follow any safety guidance it gives.

You might find that many of the mechanical parts in your LGV are sealed and can only be checked by a qualified mechanic. Look at the vehicle handbook to see which checks you can make and how to do them.

Engine oil

Engine oil keeps the engine lubricated so it can work efficiently. You need to keep the oil at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Check the oil level often, making sure the vehicle is parked on a level area and ideally the engine is cold.

Look at your vehicle handbook to find out how to check the oil level and how to top it up if necessary. It should also tell you what type of oil to use. Using the wrong type of oil can increase fuel consumption, damage the engine and could affect the vehicle warranty.

While it’s important not to let the oil level get too low, you also need to be careful not to put too much oil in. Overfilling with engine oil can damage the engine and can cause extra emissions from your vehicle, which are bad for the environment.

Engine coolant

The engine coolant is a mixture of coolant solution (containing anti-freeze and a corrosion inhibitor) and water, which stops the engine from overheating. The coolant solution is usually diluted with the same volume of water before being added to the cooling system.

You should check the coolant level frequently. If you find you’re topping it up regularly, there may be a leak or other fault in the cooling system. Look at your vehicle handbook to find out how to check the engine coolant and how to top it up if necessary.

Tyres

The tyres are vital to the safety of your large goods vehicles (LGV). All the tyres on the vehicle and any trailer must be in good condition and should be checked weekly

  • to make sure the tyres are correctly fitted and the pressures are correct
  • for signs of damage or wear that could make them unsafe or illegal to use, eg bulges, exposed ply or cord or deep cuts more than 25 mm long
  • to make sure there is sufficient tread depth, eg using tread-depth indicators.

The wheel fixings must be tightened to the torque specified by the vehicle manufacturer to make sure the wheels are safely attached. Use the information in the vehicle handbook and a torque wrench to check this has been done.

You can use tyres that are specially adapted for different weather conditions.

  • Winter tyres are better than summer tyres for braking and grip when the temperature is under 7°C. You’d need to change the tyres when temperatures rise above this.
  • All-season tyres are between a winter tyre and a summer tyre: they’re designed to work well in low temperatures and in the summer.

Uneven or excessive tyre wear can mean that there’s a fault with the tyres, brakes, steering, suspension, wheel alignment or wheel balance. If you notice abnormal tyre wear, get your vehicle checked by a mechanic as soon as possible so any faults can be put right.

Windscreen and windows

Keep the windscreen and the windows in your vehicle clean and clear – don’t cover them with stickers or decorations that could make it difficult for you to see clearly.

If you notice a crack or chip in the windscreen, report it immediately. The damaged area can quickly become larger during a journey so it will need fixing as soon as possible.

Electrical equipment

Battery

Make sure the terminals on the battery are secure, clean and greased. Most modern batteries are maintenance-free and sealed for life. However, if the battery has a filler cap, you’ll need to check the fluid level to make sure the plates in each cell are covered. Top up the battery with distilled water if necessary, but be careful not to overfill it.

Lights

Make sure the front and rear lights, brake lights, indicators and hazard lights work. You should do this each time you use the vehicle. Use reflections in windows and garage doors to help you see whether the lights are working, or ask someone to help you.

Keep your vehicle’s lights, indicators, reflectors and number plates clean at all times. Dirt on the lights and reflectors will stop them working effectively.

Windscreen washers and wipers

Check the washers are working correctly and make sure there’s enough liquid in the washer reservoir. This is especially important in wet, muddy conditions. Check the wipers too – replace the wiper blades if they’re damaged or worn.

Horn

Check the horn is working properly but be careful not to do it when it might frighten or annoy other people.

The controls

Get your vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible if

  • you feel or hear knocking or rattling from the steering or suspension
  • there is a lot of ‘play’ in the steering wheel (ie you can move the steering wheel from side to side without the wheels moving from side to side)
  • the steering begins to feel heavy (ie it needs a lot of effort to turn the wheel)
  • the brakes feel spongy or slack.

Check your brakes are working whenever you set out on a journey.

Air braking systems use a reservoir of air to make the brakes work whereas hydraulic brakes use brake fluid. If your vehicle has air brakes, you must make sure the braking system is working correctly before you start a journey. This includes

  • checking whether the air reservoirs need draining to remove moisture 
  • checking that the air lines have no signs of damage
  • listening for leaks from the system while the engine is turned off.

Disposing of oil, batteries and tyres

If you service your own vehicle, make sure you dispose of old engine oil, batteries and tyres by taking them to a local authority site or a garage. Don’t put these items in the household waste or pour oil down the drain because they can damage the environment.

Disposing of these items incorrectly is illegal: you could be fined or given a prison sentence. By taking them to a local authority site, they can be safely disposed of or recycled.

Before you start driving your vehicle each day, you’ll need to do a walk-round check including

  • brakes
  • lights and indicators
  • tyres and nuts securing the wheels
  • windscreen wipers and washers
  • horn
  • mirrors
  • fuel tanks and caps
  • speedometer
  • tachograph
  • number plates
  • bodywork
  • reflectors and reflective plates
  • exhaust system
  • any coupling gear
  • speed limiter
  • correct plating
  • current test certificate (if needed)
  • proper licensing with the appropriate valid disc(s) displayed
  • insurance
  • seat belts
  • construction and use
  • any load being carried.

If you spot any defects, you must report them using the correct procedure so they can be fixed before you start driving.

Make sure you know what sort of fuel your vehicle uses. Most large goods vehicles use diesel fuel. Be very careful not to put the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle because this will cause serious damage to the engine.

Some large vehicles need a fuel additive to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Check whether your vehicle needs a fuel additive, what sort it uses and how to use the additive before refuelling your vehicle.

While you’re driving, keep an eye on how much fuel you have left. Some vehicles have a warning light that shows when fuel is getting low; others may have a gauge that tells you how many miles you’ll be able to drive on the remaining fuel (called a range indicator). Don’t rely on this too closely: the distance you can drive will depend on the load on the vehicle, how you’re driving and in what traffic conditions. Only use the range indicator to give you an idea of how far you’ll be able to drive, and re-fuel in good time.

Before you can legally drive on the road in the UK, there are some documents you must have.

Your driving licence

You must have a valid driving licence for the vehicle you’re driving: if there are any restrictions on your licence (such as only driving a large goods vehicle with automatic transmission), you must follow them.

If you’re learning to drive a lorry, you must have a full licence for category B and a provisional licence for the category you wish to drive. You should also be supervised by somebody who

  • is at least 21 years old
  • has held a licence to drive the category of vehicle you’re driving for at least three years.

A learner must also have red L plates on the vehicle (or D plates in Wales) – but these must be removed when the vehicle isn’t being driven by a learner.

The vehicle registration certificate (V5C)

The vehicle must be registered with the DVLA. The vehicle registration certificate (V5C) will show the details that have been registered

  • the name and address of the vehicle’s registered keeper (not necessarily the same as the legal owner)
  • information about the vehicle including its make, model and engine size
  • the date the vehicle was first registered.

If you’re the registered keeper, you must tell the DVLA if you

Vehicle tax

Vehicle tax must be paid on all motor vehicles used or kept on public roads (unless the vehicle is exempt). You can pay for 6 months’ or 12 months’ tax. See GOV.UK for how to tax a goods vehicle.

The registered keeper of the vehicle (the person named on the V5C – see above) is responsible for taxing the vehicle or telling DVLA if it’s off the road or has been sold, transferred, scrapped or exported.

If you’re taking a vehicle off the road and stop taxing it, you’ll need to make a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). You can make a SORN at GOV.UK.

Vehicle insurance

It’s illegal to drive without insurance. You must have at least third-party cover before you can take a vehicle on public roads.

Make sure your insurance covers how you’re going to use the vehicle. Some policies have restrictions on using the vehicle for carrying particular loads, for example.

When you apply for an insurance policy you must answer all the questions as honestly as you can. If you don’t, your insurance policy will be invalid and you’ll be driving uninsured – which could lead to prosecution.

The annual test

The annual test for lorries, trailers and buses is similar to the MOT test that cars take each year. It checks vehicles are roadworthy and meet current regulations.

The annual test is for

  • motor vehicles with a gross weight of more than 3500 kg
  • vehicles that are built or have been adapted to form part of an articulated vehicle
  • semi-trailers
  • horseboxes with a gross weight of more than 3500 kg
  • ‘A’ frame trailers and converter dollies manufactured on or after 1 January 1979
  • other trailers with an unladen weight of more than 1020 kg
  • all public service vehicles with more than 8 passenger seats (not including the driver’s seat).

Lorries and buses must be tested every year, starting one year after the vehicle was first registered with DVLA.

To find out more about the annual test, see the guide on GOV.UK.

Documents you must carry when driving

When you’re driving a large goods vehicle (LGV) professionally in the UK, you’ll need to carry documents to show that you and the vehicle are licensed.

  • Driver Qualification Card
  • tachograph – analogue or digital
  • smart card (if using digital tachograph)
  • goods vehicle operator licence disc

You’ll probably also have paperwork for the load you’re carrying such as a delivery note. Check with your operator that you have all the relevant documents before you set off.

Transporting dangerous goods

If you’re transporting dangerous goods, you’ll need to carry extra documents. You’ll need an ADR certificate, showing you’ve completed vocational training and are licensed by DVLA to carry dangerous goods by road.

Your vehicle will need a specialist ADR test before it can carry explosive or dangerous goods. See GOV.UK for information about the specialist test for lorries.

The sender of the dangerous goods must provide information about the goods, which the vehicle operator must give to you, the driver, before the goods are loaded on your vehicle. These documents must give details about the goods including emergency information, and must be kept in the cab while you’re transporting the goods.

Driving in Europe

You’ll need to carry extra documents if you’re driving in Europe, such as

  • your driving licence
  • your passport
  • the vehicle insurance certificate
  • the vehicle registration document
  • a consignment note (or set of notes if you’re making more than one delivery).

Your vehicle operator should also provide you with instructions on how to secure the vehicle, when and how to check the vehicle and what to do if you suspect the vehicle’s security has been breached.

Some countries will require you to carry other documents: check what you’ll need before you start your journey.

Showing your documents

You must show your driving licence, a valid insurance certificate and a current annual certificate when an authorised person, such as a police officer, asks for them. You can either produce them immediately or within seven days at a police station.

If you borrow or rent a vehicle, or if you lend someone your vehicle, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all the appropriate documents are in place. Never assume that someone else has arranged the documents or that they’re not necessary.

Other countries may have different rules about these documents so remember to check before you drive abroad. You may need to have your documents with you whenever you’re driving.

Your route may be worked out for you by your vehicle operator, or you may have to plan the best route for yourself. There are lots of tools you can use to help you plan your journey to avoid congestion and get to your destination on time. Always plan your journey before you set off and, if possible, plan alternative routes in case there’s a problem with your original route.

Try to allow some extra time for your journey in case there are delays. Although it’s important to try to arrive at your destination on time, you mustn’t allow time pressures to push you into driving illegally or dangerously.

Using a sat-nav

If you’re using a satellite-navigation system (sat-nav), enter the destination before you start your journey so you’re not distracted by it while driving. A sat-nav can be very useful if you need to change your route but be careful not to rely too heavily on it: if you suspect that the route is wrong, use your common sense rather than following it blindly.

You’ll also need to think about whether routes are suitable for your vehicle – eg if you’re driving a high vehicle, watch out for height restrictions such as low bridges.

Using a map

Alternatively, use a map to plan your journey. There are route planners available online. Check motoring organisation websites for information about roadworks and areas that might be congested.

It’s a good idea to keep a map in your vehicle in case you need to change your route or if there’s a problem with your sat nav.

Spotting problems or risks on your route

When you’re planning your route, make sure you know the height, width, length and weight of your vehicle so you can avoid a route that has restrictions such as

  • low or weak bridges
  • traffic-calming measures that make the road narrow
  • tunnels or level crossings with length restrictions.

While you’re driving you’ll need to look out for road signs that show restrictions making the route unsuitable for your vehicle.

Look out for areas where there are congestion charges, charges for entering restricted areas (such as the London low emission zone) or tolls for using roads or bridges: you may want to change your route to avoid these.

How suitable a particular route is can depend on exactly when you travel. You’ll find very heavy traffic on some roads during rush hour or in the holiday season, so you may want to avoid these routes. If you’re driving a vehicle that’s affected by windy weather, such as a high-sided vehicle, you might need to change your route to avoid exposed roads when the weather is windy.

Remember to think about your driving skill and experience when you’re planning a route: if you’re not confident about a route, find an alternative rather than taking risks.

Following your route

When you’ve planned your route, print it out or write it down so you can follow it easily when you’re driving. Try to use place names as well as road numbers in case any of your route isn’t well signposted. If you have a passenger with you, ask them to read your directions to you so you can concentrate on driving.