How to become an HGV Driver

Road haulage is the most common means of transporting freight in Ireland, resulting in a large demand for manpower in this area. According to the IHRA, this sector employs some 50,000 people and is facing a critical shortage of skilled workers. In fact, there’s a need to train some 4,500 truck drivers over the next two years to meet demand.

Given the growth and demand across this industry, this is a great career choice. Not only for school leavers and graduates, but also those wishing to change careers. There are excellent job prospects both domestically and within the UK, where there’s a predicted shortfall of up to 50,000 drivers, leading to a great demand for HGV training.

There’s also a shortage of female drivers, who represent just 1% of truck drivers in Europe. Many companies are working hard to encourage more women to take up the profession, with a number of training schemes on offer.

From stocking supermarket shelves, to ensuring petrol stations have fuel for your car, HGV drivers keep the economy moving. If you want to be a part of this exciting industry, then this article will help make your dream a reality.

What does an HGV driver do?

If you choose this profession, you’ll drive a commercial truck weighing up to 44 tonnes, including articulated lorries, transporters and tankers. HGV drivers typically travel from distribution centres and depots to clients within a range of industries – from agriculture and retail to manufacturing and shipping.

Drivers can work a range of hours and across various distances, depending on the industry sector. As well as driving, responsibilities can include:

  • Supervising the loading and unloading of goods
  • Planning routes and delivery schedules
  • Completing necessary paperwork and log books
  • Ensuring loads are safely secured
  • Dealing with basic maintenance checks

What does an HGV driver typically earn?

Salaries will vary depending on level of experience, industry sector and driving hours. Artic drivers earn an average hourly rate of €15, translating to annual earnings of just under €30,000, which is 1.5 times the median wage of the country.

Overtime is often available, allowing for greater earning potential. However, there are strict EU limitations on driving hours, which must be adhered to. In general, entry level positions tend to start at €21,000, while most experienced workers make over €40,000.

How do I get started as an HGV driver?

While you don’t need to excel academically at school in order to enter this profession, there are several key steps to joining this profession. You’ll need to:

  • Be 18 years of age and hold a full driving license
  • Obtain a provisional HGV license
  • Have a medical examination, which can be conducted by your GP

Once these are in place, drivers need to obtain a driving license for the category of vehicle driven – category C or C+E – as well as study for a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) card. The CPC is divided into the following steps and is offered by training centres nationwide:

  1. Multiple choice theory test
  2. Case study theory test
  3. 30-minute practical knowledge test

Once passed, drivers need to undertake seven hours of refresher training every 12 months – equating to 35 hours over each five-year period – to keep their CPC card valid.

What key skills do I need to become an HGV driver?

Obviously, you need to be a good driver, able to remain alert for long periods of time, with a very keen eye on road safety. However, the following key skills are also essential:

  • A responsible attitude
  • Able to work independently
  • Good customer service skills
  • Strong stamina levels
  • Able to cope with stressful, demanding situations

What do HGV drivers do day-to-day?

On a day-to-day basis, this job can vary greatly depending on the industry sector you work in. There are drivers who work over long distances, spending time away from home and drivers who deliver items at a more local level, allowing more sociable hours and a better work-life balance.

As a truck driver, you won’t just turn up and drive away. You’ll have to check the load that needs hauling, plan your route and complete any necessary paperwork. Once on the road, you’ll need to keep an eye on your route, patiently navigating your way through traffic and inclement weather, keeping an eye on delivery deadlines.

The working week can vary from a five-day working week to the more popular four days on, four days off pattern. Shift patterns can also fluctuate, so you could be driving at day or night. You might be covering multiple deliveries, involving lots of driving hours over a smaller designated area, or be conducting single deliveries over vaster distances, travelling nationally and across Europe.

Once I’m an HGV driver, what career progression is available?

As an HGV driver, there are many options for career progression. Not only will salary scales increase over time, but you could look to move overseas, with territories such as New Zealand reporting shortages of truck drivers. With the right training and support, drivers can also move into different and varied roles within the transport and logistics sector, including:

  1. Becoming an HGV driving instructor
  2. Taking on a logistics role
  3. Moving into transport management

What are the best bits about being an HGV driver?

There are many benefits to being an HGV driver, including:

  • No need for degree-level academic qualifications
  • Plenty of job opportunities
  • A secure profession to be in
  • Excellent earning potential
  • Good career progression
  • The opportunity to travel
  • The option to own your own vehicle and become self-employed

If you enjoy working by yourself, want a job that utilises your driving skills and enjoy being out on the open road, then this is the job for you. There’s also great camaraderie among the trucking community, with Awards ceremonies in place to celebrate and honour achievements.

What are the challenges of being an HGV driver?

Even if you like your own company, this is a solitary lifestyle. Long-distance drivers will not only spending their days in isolation but also frequently spending time away from home. While tachographs limit driving hours, drivers can still face long days – current rules allow 9 hours per day or 56 hours per week – so fatigue can be an issue, along with shift patterns that disturb sleep cycles.

The pressures of traffic congestion and coping with hazardous driving conditions, all the while meeting delivery schedules, can also bring additional stress to the job.

Although being an HGV driver has its challenges, it’s an excellent choice if you love driving, are looking to invest in a secure career choice and relish the opportunity to spend time on your own, where no two days will be the same.

This career is for you if….

You love life on the open road, you’re an independent spirit who likes your own company and you don’t want tying down to an office job. Opportunities abound not only for career progression but also for travel and permanent relocation overseas.

Ready to start your job hunt? Search for Transport & Logistics jobs in Ireland, today.

About the author: Sam Hathway is a Content Marketing Executive for Leapfrog Internet Marketing, working to help clients improve their online presence and maintain market leadership. Her industry experience spans publishing and editorial roles in the world of medical communications as well as digital marketing and event planning for the education sector. She has a broad, eclectic range of writing interests – from lifestyle advice and professional development to digital marketing and emerging technologies.