The heavy goods vehicle (HGV) licence has a higher medical standard than a normal driving licence because the fitness of HGV drivers is vital to their safety on the road.
When you first apply for an HGV licence you’ll need to send a medical report with your application. You’ll also need a medical report if you’re renewing your HGV 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 will not be able to drive an HGV until your new licence is issued.
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, do not 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.
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 (GOV.UK).
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, do not 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 should not drive while you could be affected by them.
If you’re tired, you will not be fully alert and aware of what’s going on around you, which means that you will not be able to drive safely. Do not 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 cannot 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 will not breathe in as deeply as you should.
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.
- 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 cannot control the vehicle properly and see all around, you will not be able to drive safely.
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 visual acuity requirements on GOV.UK.
Eyesight changes over time so you must have an eyesight test at least every 2 years. If you drive when your eyesight does not 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.