Driving HGVs for a living

As with most occupations, driving for a living has its good points and bad points. Many heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers enjoy being out and about rather than sat behind a desk, and organising the structure of their day.

The downsides include long hours, often at unsociable times such as early mornings or late nights, and dealing with other road users who may not understand the challenges of driving a large vehicle. This makes it all the more important that you drive carefully and considerately.

Driving with the right attitude

Goods vehicles are heavier than most other vehicles on the road, especially when they’re loaded. When they’re travelling at speed, they can cause serious damage if they collide with another vehicle. This makes it extremely important that you drive responsibly.

As a professional driver, you should set a good example by showing care, courtesy and consideration for other road users. Having a good attitude and being calm will help to make your working life more enjoyable too.

Manual handling techniques

Working with HGVs can involve lots of manual lifting so it’s important to know the correct way to lift loads safely.

  • Think before you lift: is there anything you can use to help you lift? Where do you need to put the load? Is there anything in the way?
  • Start in a good posture with your feet in a stable position: feet slightly apart and one leg slightly forward to keep balance.
  • Avoid stooping or squatting.
  • Get a good hold on the load, ideally keeping it close to your waist.
  • Avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially while your back is bent.
  • Keep your head up.
  • Move smoothly.
  • Do not lift more than you can easily manage.
  • Put the load down before adjusting it, if precise positioning is needed

Diet and driving ability

Good health is essential for getting and keeping your HGV licence. An important part of this is taking a healthy approach to what you eat and drink. Eating well can help to reduce your risk of developing serious problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Regular balanced meals will help you to concentrate. Carry water with you: staying hydrated will also help your concentration. You can use drinks containing caffeine, such as tea, coffee or some soft drinks, to help you feel more alert. Remember that caffeine does not remove sleepiness though, it just masks it for a while and you’ll feel more tired when it wears off. You should only use it as a short-term emergency way of dealing with tiredness when you’re driving.

Types of load

Some products need specialist transport operators and specially designed vehicles.

  • Refrigerated lorries and trailers carry frozen food: drivers are trained to operate refrigeration units and in hygiene procedures.
  • Tankers and tank containers carry solid materials, liquids or gases in large quantities: drivers are trained to load and unload the goods safely and to be able to deal with spills.
  • Bulk goods are carried in tipper lorries, skips and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs): as with tankers, there are particular procedures for loading and unloading these vehicles safely.
  • Driving livestock requires training in caring for animals during the journey.

National Driving Standard

GOV.UK provides a guide to the National Driving Standard, which describes what you should know and understand to be a safe and responsible lorry driver.

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