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How to become a lorry driver [GUIDE]

As any vehicle licence holder may be able to tell you, there are many classes of UK driving licence. Each one allows you to drive a particular type and size of vehicle and each requires a particular training regime in order to pass the appropriate driving test.

Let’s consider what it takes to become a lorry driver.

What is a lorry?

The first question is just what is a lorry? Because life is never quite so straight forward, a lorry is described more formally in English as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) or in the standard adopted within the EU, a large goods vehicle (LGV).

Most people are able to recognise a lorry, of course, but the formal definition in English driving legislation for either an HGV or an LGV is a vehicle in excess of 3.5 gross plated weight, or maximum authorised mass (MAM).

Just to confuse matters a little further, HGVs are divided into further classes: those between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes MAM and those in excess of 7.5 tonnes.

Becoming a lorry driver

If you are interested in becoming a lorry driver one of the first steps might be to read the literature provided on the official government website about all that is required. Since the website runs to many pages, however, it might be useful to summarise the key steps:

  • apply for a provisional licence to drive an HGV in the relevant category – you generally need already to hold a full licence to drive a car (a category “B” driving licence) and be over the age of 18;
  • the various categories of HGV licence are as follows;
  • category “C1” – a lorry with a MAM greater than 3.5 tonnes and less than 7.5 tonnes. You might also see this described (by its old name) as a class 3 HGV licence;
  • category “C” – a lorry with a MAM greater than 7.5 tonnes. You might also see this described as a class 2 HGV licence;
  • category “+E” – this denotes the ability to drive either an HGV towing a trailer. In order to do so, you need first to have passed the driving test for the relevant tractor unit before you can hold the “+E” endorsement. That is to say, you need to pass a “C1” test before applying for your “C1+E” licence or the “C” test before holding a “C+E” licence. The “C+E” licence you might also see described as a class 1 HGV licence;
  • following the necessary period of training as a provisional licence holder you may apply to take the relevant theory and hazard perception test;
  • once you have passed the theory test, you may then apply to take the practical driving test, which lasts for about 90 minutes and includes both on-road and off-road manoeuvres and questions about the safety of the vehicle;
  • when you have passed both theory and practical tests, you are entitled to hold a full licence in the category or categories for which you have applied; but
  • there is one final step if you wish to become a professional lorry driver to earn your living. This is a further test and one that leads to the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC). In keeping with its professional status, this certificate needs to be kept up to date by completing at least 35 hours of recognised training every 5 years.

On-going responsibilities

Although your driving licence and Driver CPC grant the entitlement to drive HGVs for a living there are further obligations to which you must adhere, on pain of losing your licence, receiving a fixed penalty notice or having penalty points on your licence.

In essence, these obligations relate to your strict observation of the rules relating to your maximum permitted working hours (behind the wheel and otherwise) and to your responsibility for conducting daily safety inspections. All of these are set out clearly in a short leaflet issued by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).


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