How to Get Your HGV Licence and What to Expect

Road haulage is vital to the UK economy. Indeed, industry figures show that 98% of all food, agriculture and consumer goods are transported by road. This means that HGV drivers are the lifeblood of the economy. The importance of the transport sector is also borne out in employment statistics – the industry employs over 2.5 million people and there are almost half a million HGVs registered in the UK.

However, the industry is currently facing a massive shortfall of 45,000-50,000 drivers. This is caused by a number of factors, including an ageing workforce, Brexit and a lack of diversity within the workforce (women truck drivers make up just 1% of the European workforce). Given the scale of this problem, the Parliament’s Transport Select Committee has identified that the industry will actually have to hire 1.2 million extra personnel by 2022.

So if you’re just starting out from school, or are thinking of changing career, then now’s a great time to become a part of this exciting industry. But how do you get started, and what are the benefits of becoming an HGV driver? Read on to find out more….

What does an HGV driver do?

HGV drivers transport goods from distributors and suppliers to customers. Qualified to drive lorries and trucks that weigh over 3,500 kg (3.5 tonnes), HGV drivers travel around the UK, across Europe and beyond, ensuring goods arrive on time and in good order. 

However, this job isn’t simply about driving from one destination to another. It can also involve the following duties:

  • Planning routes and schedules.
  • The loading and unloading of goods.
  • Ensuring cargo is safely secured.
  • Completing paperwork.
  • Basic maintenance checks.

For this reason, it’s not all about good driving skills. You’ll also need to have a responsible attitude, good customer service skills and be able to cope with stressful situations. 

Why become an HGV driver?

If the above skillset applies to you, you enjoy being on the open road and like working independently, then this is the ideal career for you. There are so many benefits, including:

  • Guaranteed employment.
  • Job security.
  • No need for A levels or a degree.
  • The opportunity to travel.
  • Excellent career progression.
  • The possibility of becoming self-employed.

How much do HGV drivers earn?

HGV driving not only offers secure employment, but it’s also well paid. While salaries will vary with experience and industry sector, you can expect to start on approximately £19,000-24,000 per year. The average salary for drivers is £32,500 per year, but lucrative positions can pay upwards of £40,000. 

HGV training: Step 1 – choose your category

So how do you get started? To become an HGV driver you need to:

  1. Be over 18 years old. 
  2. Hold a full UK driving licence.
  3. Obtain a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification.

In order to take the Driver CPC, you’ll first have to apply for a provisional licence. For HGV drivers, your licence will need to include one of the following categories:

  • Category C1

This is the most basic HGV license. It covers vehicles with a gross weight of 3,500-7,500kg, and trailers of up to 750kg. In fact, if you passed your car driving test before 1997 then you’ll automatically have the C1 class added to your licence.

  • Category C1E

This allows for C1 category vehicles with a trailer weighing over 750kg (although the combined weight cannot be over 12,000kg).

  • Category C

Also known as Class 2, this is the entry level license if you want to be a professional HGV driver. The category C license allows drivers to pilot rigid vehicles (where the cab and trailer are fixed together) over 3,500kg in weight, but under 32 tonnes. It also permits towing of trailers weighing up to 750kg. 

  • Category CE

Also known as Class 1, this is for rigid and articulated lorries. This is the full HGV licence and allows a driver to operate Category C vehicles that haul a trailer over 750kg.

Once you’ve determined your category, you can apply for your provisional licence. This can be done via the Government’s DVLA website and involves completing two forms – the D2 application pack and the D4 medical. 

Step 2: The CPC tests

The CPC qualification is divided into four parts. The tests are conducted at test centres throughout the UK. We recommend choosing one that’s local to home, to ensure familiarity with the local road networks for practical elements. Likewise, choose a training centre that’s close to home, and remember that the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best. Do your research, and read reviews. You’ll need to complete 35 hours of driver training before you can take the practical tests, so you’ll definitely need the services of a good HGV training provider.

The four parts of the CPC are as follows:

Part 1 – Theory

Multiple Choice

This test lasts for 1 hour and 55 minutes; the minimum mark needed to pass is 85 out of 100.

Costs: £26

Hazard Perception

In this simulation, you’ll watch 19 videos and have to identify 20 potential hazards; the minimum needed for a pass is 67 out of 100.

Costs: £11

When you’ve passed your theory, a test certificate will be sent to you. You’ll need this in order to move on to Part 3. 

Part 2 – Case Studies

You can book this phase as soon as you have your provisional licence, you don’t need to wait for the test certificate. This part is composed of seven case studies. You’ll need to answer 6-8 multiple choice questions for each case study. The test lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes and you’ll need to achieve 40 out of 50 to pass.

Costs: £23

Part 3 – Driving Ability

This practical test lasts for 1 hour and 30 minutes. It will assess:

Vehicle safety

Just like in a normal driving test, you’ll also be asked vehicle safety ‘show me, tell me’ questions. Examples include:

  • Show me how you would check for air leaks on this vehicle.
  • Tell me the main safety factors involved in loading this vehicle.

Practical road driving

In this phase of the test, you’ll be examined on:

  • Using the vehicle controls.
  • Moving away at an angle (uphill and downhill).
  • Doing a controlled stop.
  • Using your mirrors.
  • Giving appropriate signalling.
  • Awareness and anticipation.
  • Managing your progress and controlling your speed.
  • Dealing with hazards.
  • Identifying a safe place to stop.

Off-road exercises

These include coupling and uncoupling a trailer (if you’re taking your test with a trailer) and an S-shaped reverse into a parking bay.

You’ll pass your Driving Ability test if you make 15 or fewer faults, and no serious faults.

Costs: Weekday – £115; Evenings/weekends – £141

Part 4 – Practical Demonstration

You must have passed the Part 2 test before you’re able to move on to Part 4. This final phase  is essential if you want to drive for a living. The test is made up of five topics from the Driver CPC course. 

You’ll be tested on:

  • Loading the vehicle safely and ensuring goods are stored securely.
  • Identifying and assessing emergency situations.
  • Completing a walkaround safety check.
  • Minimising physical risks.
  • Preventing trafficking of illegal immigrants.

In order to pass, you’ll need to achieve 15 out of 20 points for each topic and have an overall result of at least 80 out of 100.

Costs: Weekday – £55; Evenings/weekends – £63

After you’ve passed all four elements, you’ll be sent your CPC card, and that’s it, you’re ready to go!

Step 3: Staying qualified

Given the strict driving standards HGV drivers must adhere to, and changes in regulations, drivers must complete 35 hours of Driver CPC training every 5 years. The periodic training is composed of 5 modules, each totalling 7 hours. The training must be completed before the 5 year deadline or you won’t be able to drive professionally. After the training, you’ll be issued with a new Driver CPC card.

We hope that’s helped you understand the route through to getting your HGV licence. Whatever stage you’re at in life – whether you’re just out of school, or are looking to change careers, then this is an incredibly rewarding profession and it won’t involve hefty student loans to achieve your ambition. For more information on HGV training contact us, we can provide instant quotes from three leading training providers, helping you move forward with your trucking dream.