Driving a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) may seem like a dream job to many, providing freedom on the open road and an opportunity to see new places. However, newly qualified HGV drivers often find themselves facing challenges and hurdles that can make the transition into this career daunting. Are you a newly qualified HGV driver struggling to navigate the nuances of your new profession? Do you feel like you aren’t getting the support you need?
Don’t worry–help is on the way! In this blog post, we’ll share expert tips and insights to help you navigate the world of HGV driving with ease. From mastering the art of timely deliveries to navigating unfamiliar routes, we’ll cover all the pain points that often arise during your HGV courses and the early years of your HGV driving career.
We’ll also share practical tips to help you avoid common mistakes, and provide guidance on how to enhance your skills as an HGV driver. By the end of this post, you’ll feel confident and prepared to tackle whatever challenges come your way on the open road.
Getting Started as an HGV Driver
For newly qualified HGV drivers, the first few weeks on the job can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you get started and make a smooth transition into your new career:
1. Familiarise yourself with your vehicle
It’s important to know every inch of your vehicle, including how to operate it, perform basic maintenance, and identify any potential issues. This will help you feel more confident on the road and prevent breakdowns or accidents.
2. Plan ahead
As an HGV driver, you’ll need to plan your route carefully to ensure you arrive at your destination on time. Use a GPS system or map to navigate, and take time to research your route beforehand to identify any potential issues such as roadwork, narrow roads, or low bridges.
3. Stay alert and focused
It’s important to maintain a high level of alertness while driving and stay focused on the road. HGV drivers are more susceptible to driver fatigue due to long hours on the road, so take breaks as needed and avoid driving when you’re tired.
4. Follow road safety guidelines
Always adhere to road safety guidelines. Driving an HGV requires more caution and attention than driving a regular car. Know your vehicle’s weight and height restrictions, follow speed limits, maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles, and check your mirrors frequently.
5. Communicate effectively with colleagues
HGV drivers often work as part of a team, such as with co-drivers, loaders, and dispatchers. Therefore, it’s important to communicate effectively with colleagues and foster a cooperative work environment.
6. Take care of yourself
Being an HGV driver can be mentally and physically demanding. To prevent burnout, it’s important to take care of yourself by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and engaging in physical activity when off the road.
Preparing for Your First HGV Job
One of the most important steps for newly qualified HGV drivers is preparing for their first job. This involves a number of different considerations, from finding the right position to understanding the expectations of employers. Here are some tips to help new drivers prepare for their first HGV job:
1. Research Your Options
Start by researching the different jobs available to HGV drivers. Look for companies in your area that are actively recruiting drivers and see what qualifications and experience they require. You can also check job boards and industry publications to get a sense of the different job opportunities available to new drivers.
2. Get Your Paperwork in Order
Before starting your first HGV job, it’s important to make sure that all of your documentation is up to date. This includes your licence, CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence), and any other certifications required for the position. Make sure that you have all of the necessary paperwork in order before applying for positions or attending interviews.
3. Understand the Role
When preparing for your first HGV job, it’s important to understand the expectations of employers. This includes being aware of industry regulations, keeping up with vehicle maintenance, and maintaining compliance with legal requirements. Some employers may also expect drivers to have experience with specific types of loads or equipment, so it’s important to be aware of these expectations before starting the job.
4. Practice Safety
Safety is a top priority for HGV drivers and employers alike. When preparing for your first job, make sure that you’re familiar with the latest safety regulations and best practices. Always follow safety guidelines when operating your vehicle and report any issues or concerns to your employer immediately.
5. Be Flexible and Adaptable
As a new HGV driver, it’s important to be adaptable and willing to learn. Your first job may involve different types of driving, vehicles, and load types, so make sure that you’re prepared to take on new challenges. Be open to feedback from your employer and colleagues, and always take the opportunity to learn from your experiences.
Safety First: Navigating the Roads
Driving an HGV can be a daunting experience for newly qualified drivers, but safety should always be a top priority. Here are some tips to help you navigate the roads safely:
1. Always Wear Your Seat Belt
It is important to wear your seatbelt at all times while driving, regardless of the distance. This could save your life in the event of an accident. It is also a legal requirement and failure to wear it could result in a fine.
2. Use Your Mirrors
Before changing lanes or turning, make sure to check all of your mirrors. This will help you identify any potential hazards on the road. Remember, blind spot accidents are a common cause of road accidents, so never rely solely on your mirrors.
3. Reduce Your Speed
As an HGV driver, you need to be aware of the weight and size of your vehicle, as well as the load you are carrying. Always adjust your speed according to the road conditions, visibility, and weather. This will help you avoid accidents and keep yourself and others safe.
4. Keep a Safe Following Distance
It is recommended to keep a following distance of at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front. This will allow you enough time to react in case of an emergency.
5. Stay Alert and Focused
As an HGV driver, concentration on the road is crucial. Avoid using your mobile phone while driving, as this is both illegal and dangerous. Also, make sure to take regular breaks to avoid fatigue, which is a leading cause of accidents.
6. Know Your Route
Familiarise yourself with the route you will be taking before you start your journey. This will help you avoid making sudden turns or lane changes. It also ensures that you are aware of any potential road closures or diversions.
7. Keep Your Vehicle Maintained
Regular vehicle maintenance is essential for every driver, but even more so for HGV drivers. Make sure to check your brakes, tires, and lights before every journey to avoid mechanical breakdowns while on the road.
8. Load Cargo Properly
Loading cargo involves distributing weight evenly in the vehicle while ensuring it is secure with no voids or gaps. Remember to stack boxes and containers in order of height and weight to maintain stability. Additionally, keep the weight of the vehicle under control to avoid centralization in any one area, which can damage the vehicle or cause a road emergency.
9. Check and Secure the Load
Before you start your journey, be sure to fully inspect and crosscheck the cargo. This includes identifying any damage, loose clamps, or unsecured parts, which should be addressed before being subjected to movement. Also, check that the load has been correctly secured before embarking on your journey.
10. Monitor the Load during the Transport
It’s vital that you continuously monitor the condition of your cargo while in transit. Ensure that all fastenings and tarpaulins are secure and not in danger of becoming loose. Keep an eye on the behaviour of the vehicle, and if necessary, adjust your driving style, route, or speed to keep the load stable.
11. Follow Safety Precautions
Always wear the right protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves or goggles, when handling cargo. To avoid muscle strains or back pain, learn the correct lifting techniques. Keep emergency equipment, such as a first aid kit or fire extinguisher, in your vehicle as well.
Essential HGV Maintenance
As a newly qualified HGV driver, maintaining your vehicle’s safety and performance should be of utmost importance. Whether you’re driving short or long distances, regular checks and proper maintenance can go a long way in preventing potential breakdowns, minimising repair costs, and ensuring safe transportation of goods. Here are 5 essential HGV maintenance tips that every newly qualified driver should keep in mind:
1. Check Tire Pressure and Tread Depth Regularly
Maintaining the proper tire pressure and tread depth is critical for your vehicle’s safety and performance. Check your tire pressure at least once a week, and adjust it to the recommended level based on your vehicle’s load and carrying capacity. Ensure that your tire tread depth meets the legal minimum requirements (1.6mm) to prevent slipping or skidding on wet or slippery roads.
2. Oil, Coolant, and Fluid Levels
Checking and maintaining the right oil, coolant, and fluid levels can prevent engine damage and extend the life of your vehicle. Ensure that you check your oil regularly and change it at the recommended intervals. Check coolant levels and top them up as needed to prevent overheating. Don’t forget to check brake fluid and power steering fluid levels as well.
3. Brake and Suspension System
Checking your brakes and suspension system is crucial for your safety and the safety of others on the road. Perform regular brake checks to make sure they are not worn out and pedal depression is not excessive. Ensure there are no leaks in the system, and the brake fluid level is correct. Check suspension parts at least once a week, including shock absorbers and wheel bearings.
4. Lights and Electrical Systems
Maintaining your lights and electrical systems is crucial for road safety. Before setting out on a journey, check all your vehicle’s lights including brake lights, hazard warning lights, headlights, and indicator lights. Ensure that your battery is in good condition and secure.
Maintaining the cleanliness of your vehicle is essential, not only for aesthetics but also for preventing the buildup of dirt and debris, which can impact performance and fuel economy. Regularly clean the exterior and interior of the vehicle, including the windscreen, mirrors, and lights.
If you’re new to driving a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), following these tips will help you get started and avoid common mistakes. Remember to stay safe on the roads and always drive responsibly. Thank you for taking the time to read this guide!