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What it takes to be an HGV driver in the UK

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·4-min read
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The government is offering immediate visas for 300 foreign tanker drivers. Photo: PA
The government is offering immediate visas for 300 foreign tanker drivers. Photo: PA

For the past few months, the UK has been in desperate need of lorry drivers. A "double whammy" of drivers going back to their home countries either due to uncertainty over new Brexit rules or pandemic-related restrictions has lead to a major shortage. Trade bodies have estimated the UK currently has a shortage of about 100,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

This is impacting deliveries to petrol stations, retailers and homes and there is concern the problem will worsen as the holidays come close and demand for pretty much everything goes up.

The fuel crisis in particular has reached fever-pitch and the UK government is offering immediate visas for 300 foreign tanker drivers to work in the UK from now until the end of March to deliver fuel to forecourts.

However, only 127 drivers have applied for these temporary visas, prime minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday and it looks like the crisis is not going to be resolved overnight.

Watch: Former HGV driver dismisses Government 'plea'

Here is everything you need to know if you are thinking of taking up this profession.

How does one become a lorry driver and how much does it cost?

It costs around £2,000 ($2,727) to get fully trained and takes around six to eight weeks. The practical training itself only takes about five days.

Drivers will need to decide what kind of vehicle they want a licence for: Cat C1 is for vehicles weighing between 3500kg and 7500kg with a trailer up to 750kg. A Cat C+E is for a vehicle weighing over 3500kg with a trailer weighing over 750kg

Read more: Fuel crisis: UK petrol prices hit eight-year high

A five day Category C course may cost around £1,500, or more if you need more thorough training. Progressing to Category C+E will cost upwards of £1,000, approximately.

At the moment, drivers must pass Category C to move on to Category C+E, but from January 2022 they will be able to go straight from a car license to Category C+E.

They will then apply for a provisional HGV licence and take a theory and practical test, followed by getting a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence. 

Theory and practical tests cost from £11 to £141.

They will also need to take 35 hours of periodic training every five years to stay qualified (and every year after the age of 65.)

Angelique Ruzicka of This is Money said: “Getting the right training can be costly but if you keep your ear to the ground there's a good chance you could get a logistics or retail business to pay the fees in exchange for agreeing to work for them for a specific period.”

What’s more, the Department for Education has said it is investing up to £10m to create new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 people to become HGV drivers.

Read more: UK's best selling car in September revealed

These bootcamps are free, flexible courses that last up to 16 weeks and will train drivers to be road ready and gain a category C or category C+E licence.

Participants that successfully complete the course are guaranteed a job interview with a local employer.

Those who wish to go down this route will need to wait until next month, as the courses will begin in November.

What skills do drivers need?

Other than getting the right license, there is no specific skillset required but the job is best suited for those who enjoy driving and are comfortable being alone for long periods of time.

Drivers can expect to work unsociable hours and spend days away from home.

Following traffic reports and changing routes if necessary, driving in all kinds of weather and completing delivery paperwork and log books are also part of the job.

How much can drivers expect to make?

Due to the driver shortage driver salaries have increased significantly recently. Job site Indeed said HGV driver wages rose 12.8% between February and August this year.

Salaries from £35,000 to £50,000 are now typical, along with signing on bonus payments and loyalty payments. 

Tesco had offered a £1,000 bonus for HGV drivers that start working for the company before 30 September. Aldi has also reportedly increased its pay for drivers.

Read more: UK's new car market sees worst September since 1998

Those willing to spend nights away in a truck will also receive a "night out" allowance of around £26 per night.

There are other factors at play — How much drivers make could depend on the type of vehicle they are driving, what sort of cargo they are carrying and the company they work for.

Watch: HGV driver shortage sees other sectors suffer staff losses

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