The great British trucker is the lifeblood of the UK’s economy.
With around 85 per cent of all consumer goods in Britain being transported by road, Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) drivers – or Heavy Goods Vehicle drivers as they were previously known – are a vital cog in keeping the supply chain moving. It is almost certain that the groceries in your weekly supermarket shop to the neatly-wrapped presents under the Christmas tree will at one stage have been in a LGV. But statistics show the trucker could soon become an endangered species. There are 600,000 LGV-licensed drivers currently registered in the UK – but with an average age of 57, it is expected that 25 per cent will retire within the decade!
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has stated that an extra 60,000 drivers are already needed, and with only 17,000 new LGV drivers qualifying each year, the shortages are only going to intensify. Surprisingly, it only takes a short period of time to become a fully qualified commercial driver. Within the space of just a few months it’s possible to go from holding a car licence to becoming a full C+E trucker – opening up countless employment opportunities.
So how do you become a qualified LGV driver?
Well, first of all, you have to be aged 18 or over and hold a full UK car driving licence. You must be competent in English and maths to pass the theory test, have good eyesight, and pass a driver’s medical to gain the appropriate provisional entitlement. All applicants must pass their category C practical test before moving on to taking the category C+E truck and trailer combination driving test. Category C licence holders can drive any rigid truck up to 32-tonnes, and C+E holders any truck and trailer, including wagon and drags, and articulated lorries. Once candidates have received their LGV provisional entitlement they can then move on to the four modules required.
Module 1 – Part one, the theory test, involves a series of 100 multiple-choice questions, and part two, the hazard perception test, comprises of screen footage of 20 potential dangers developing on the roads, and candidates are marked on their response time.
Module 2 – The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) case study theory test. This involves a series of seven short computer-generated stories, based on situations drivers could face during their working day.
Module 3 – The practical on the road driving test, requires a driver answer numerous questions about vehicle safety, and demonstrate competent and safe driving skills. These include moving away at an angle, uphill and downhill starts, dealing with hazards, road awareness and finding a safe place to stop. Off-road exercises include an S-shaped reverse into a bay, and uncoupling and recoupling of a trailer for those taking the Category C+E test.
Module 4 – The drivers CPC’s practical demonstration test involves following safety rules when loading the truck, ensuring it is secure to prevent trafficking of illegal immigrants, assessing emergency situations and performing a walkaround vehicle safety check.
Candidates who pass modules 2 and 4 – the ‘Initial Qualification’ – will be awarded with the all-important Driver Qualification Card which is valid for 5 years. This allows them to drive for commercial purposes.
Older drivers, who passed the car driving test prior to 1997, will have ‘Acquired Rights’ allowing them to opt out of the Initial Qualification tests, and instead attend a 35-hour (five day) ‘Periodic Training’ course, where they too will be awarded a five-year Driver Qualification Card.
All commercial drivers must subsequently attend a Periodic Training course at least every five years to keep the card valid.