How to become a HGV driver

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) carry essential loads up and down the UK, delivering everything from food to building materials. HGV owner driver jobs are, therefore, pivotal to the economy, making the current shortage of drivers a real concern.

The Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of around 100,000 drivers in the UK. It’s been caused by a perfect storm of events and issues.

Brexit has meant many drivers have left the UK to find work back home or in countries remaining in the EU. Others, paid by the mile, have been deterred by delays caused by Brexit bureaucracy. And with the drop in value of the pound versus the euro, being paid in pounds has become less attractive to drivers from mainland Europe.

Drivers’ pay has also been hit by IR35 tax rules around self-employment, with drivers now having to pay more in tax and national insurance contributions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, played a major role in the driver shortage, with many drivers returning to their home countries as the UK locked down. Allied to this, there is now a substantial backlog in HGV driver tests, preventing new drivers from getting out on the road.

To help tackle the shortage, the government recently announced new measures, designed to boost the recruitment and retention of drivers. Our guide gives you useful information on how to join this in-demand profession.

What are the responsibilities of a haulage driver?

As well as transporting goods using large lorries, HGV drivers usually have these responsibilities:

  • Work with transport managers to plan delivery schedules and routes
  • Oversee or help to load and unload goods
  • Make sure loads are secured safely
  • Stay up to date with traffic reports, changing routes as required
  • Complete delivery admin

What is the average salary for a haulage driver in the UK?

As demand for drivers has shot up, the financial rewards have become more and more attractive. According to Totaljobs, the average HGV driver in the UK earns £32,500 per year*. 

However, with the national shortage of drivers hitting multiple industries many are offering much more than this. Waitrose is offering up to £53,780 annually, while Tesco and Waitrose have introduced joining bonuses of £1,000. One recruitment specialist is even paying £5,000 for new drivers to become qualified.

What qualifications does a haulage driver need?

There are various routes into a driving role, but if you choose the intermediate apprenticeship route, you’ll usually require some GCSEs, including Maths and English.

You’ll also need:

  • a driving licence that includes LGV for lorries, or PCV for buses, if you work with these vehicles
  • a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), also known as the Driver CPC

LGV licences come in different categories:

  • Category C1: for rigid vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tonnes
  • Category C: for rigid vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes 

To drive vehicles with trailers, you’ll need to take a category C+E test.

What skills make a great haulage driver?

In addition to being a competent driver, HGV drivers need a particular set of skills:

  • Concentration and focus
  • Patience and a calm manner in stressful situations
  • Physical coordination and dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • Teamworking skills and the ability to act on feedback
  • Customer service skills
  • Basic IT skills

If you want to become a HGV driver, you’ll also need some knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits. It may also help if you have a flexible attitude towards spending nights away from home and working in an environment where space is restricted.

What are the benefits of being a haulage driver?

As drivers are more in demand than ever, it’s an industry that offers stability and security. With home deliveries of all kinds of goods rising sharply during the pandemic, it’s also an industry on the up, presenting you with long-term career prospects.

Some people hate the thought of being stuck in an office 9-5. Being a haulage driver gives you much more freedom and keeps you moving all day, meeting new people as you deliver loads.

Once you’ve qualified as a HGV driver, Haulage Exchange can help you to find regular, well-paid work. With over 8,000 professionals using the Exchange – and thousands of new loads posted daily – it offers great business and networking opportunities.

*As per available figures on Totaljobs as of 9 September 2021: 

The article was published on . It was updated on 30 April 2024 to make it more relevant and comprehensive.