How to Become a Lorry Driver

The complete guide to becoming a lorry driver

Here is our complete guide on how to become a lorry driver. If you want to find out exactly what you need to start a career then you have come to the right place.

There are many reasons for becoming a lorry driver, whether it’s financial, personal, nostalgic or even desperation, regardless of the reason, we can guide you through the process.
The job of a lorry driver isn’t for everyone, there are certain characteristics that bode well for anyone looking to become a lorry driver and these are:
You need to love driving.
You need a lot of patience.
You need to be extremely safety oriented.
You have to be comfortable with your own company for long periods of time.
You have to be self-motivated.
You need to be in good physical condition.

What you have to do as a lorry driver

You will be required to drive commercial vehicles over 7.5 tonnes, including articulated lorries, tankers, transporters and trailer wagons. You will work from depots, distribution centres, ports and warehouses, carrying goods all over the UK and possibly throughout Europe.
As well as from driving, your duties may include:
Planning delivery schedules and routes with transport managers
Supervising or helping to load and unload goods
Making sure loads are safely secured
Following traffic reports and changing your route if necessary
Completing delivery paperwork and log books
You may also have to deal with basic maintenance, like oil, tyre and brake checks before and after journeys.

Lorry driver salary

As a lorry driver you can expect a salary in the range of £18,500 - £35,000 (these figures are purely a guide).
Starter: £18,500 to £22,000
Experienced: £23,000 to £28,000
Highly Experienced: £27,000 to £35,000
You will usually work up to 42 hours a week, although overtime may be available. There are strict laws for the amount of hours you can spend driving between breaks. You can see a complate guide to lorry driver hours.
Most of your time would be spent on the road, and you would drive day and night in all weather conditions. Overnight stays may also be necessary.
Ok, if you have made it this far, and still want to be a lorry driver, then let’s guide you through how to do it.

Getting qualified

Before you can even apply to become a lorry driver you will need to meet the follow criteria:
Have a full car driving licence
Be over 18 years old
If you meet the criteria the next steps are to:
Apply for your provisional lorry driving licence
Complete a Driver CPC qualification


Applying for a provisional lorry licence

Firstly you need to decide which type of vehicle you want to drive. There are a few options, under 7.5 tonnes or over 7.5 tonnes including articulated lorries, tankers, flatbeds and trailer wagons.
Once you have decided on the types of vehicle you wish to operate you then need to apply for the applicable licence.

Medium-sized vehicles

Category C1 – This is the lowest class of licence which enables you to drive commercial vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes MAM* (with a trailer up to 750kg). With this licence you will be able to drive the likes of luton vans, cargo vans and light box trucks.
Category C1E – With this class of licence you can drive C1 category commercial vehicles with a trailer over 750kg, however the trailer cannot weigh more than the vehicle when fully loaded. This class would be ideal if you are looking at driving vehicles with large, heavy utility trailers.
The combined MAM* of both of these categories cannot exceed 12 tonnes.

Large vehicles

Category C – This is the most common class of licence among lorry drivers in the UK. With it you can drive commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (with a trailer up to 750kg MAM*). With a category C licence you will be able to operate most articulated lorries, rigid lorries, tippers and tankers.
Category CE – This is the top licence you can earn as a lorry driver and with it you can drive category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg. You will be able to drive the largest and heaviest vehicles including oversized articulated lorries and heavy construction equipment.
*MAM (maximum authorised mass) basically means the weight of the vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when on the road.
Articulated-lorry.jpg Heavy-haulage-lorry-driver-1.jpg

To become a lorry driver you will be required to have a full Driver CPC


What is a Driver CPC?

The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) is a qualification for professional lorry, bus and coach drivers. It was introduced across Europe with the aim of improving road safety and helping to maintain competent and proficient standards of driving.

How much does the Driver CPC cost?


Driver CPC requirements

You must have a Driver CPC before you can become a lorry driver.
There are four modules in the Driver CPC: two are the same as the tests you will take to get your lorry drivers licence.
The modules are as follows:

Driver CPC module 1: Theory test

The theory test is made up of 2 parts 1) a multiple choice test and 2) a hazard perception test. You have to take both tests separately and it doesn’t matter which order you complete them. As long as you pass both within 2 years of each other you will get your theory test certificate.
The multiple choice test lasts for 1hr 55 minutes and contains 100 questions. The current pass mark is 85%.
You can take a test theory test here to see what it is like.
The hazard perception part of the theory test consists of 19 video clips, with a total of 20 scoreable hazards. Every hazard is worth a maximum of 5 marks and a score of 67% is required to earn a pass.
You can how the hazard perception test works by watching this video.
You will be given a letter at the test centre on the day with your results for the part of the theory test you’ve just taken. 
Once you have passed Driver CPC module 1 you need to pass the Driver CPC module 3 driving test within 2 years, otherwise you will have to pass the module 1 theory test again.

Driver CPC module 2: Case studies test

You can book the Driver CPC module 2 case studies test as soon as you have your provisional licence. You don not need to have passed module 1 of the Driver CPC (the theory test) first.

How the case studies test works

The test comprises of 7 case studies you have to work through on a computer. The case studies are basically short scenarios based on situations that are highly likely to happen in your working life as a lorry driver. The test has been written by industry experts and uses realistic scenarios that a lorry driver may encounter when out on the road. 
You will be asked between 6 and 8 multiple choice questions on each of the 7 case studies. The whole test lasts for 1 hour 55 minutes and the pass mark is 80%.
Again you will receive a letter with your results at the test centre itself. The letter will include your test pass reference number (if you pass) which is needed when booking the Driver CPC module 4 practical demonstration test.
Your pass letter is valid for 2 years and you must complete and pass the Driver CPC module 4 practical demonstration test within the 2 years, otherwise you will have to complete module 2 case studies test again.

Driver CPC module 3: Driving ability

To take your Driver CPC module 3 you must have passed the Driver CPC module 1 theory test. If you have not you will not be able to book the Driver CPC module 3 test.

How the driving ability test works

Your driving ability test is a practical teat that will last for 1 hour and 30 minutes and include:
Vehicle safety questions
Practical road driving
Off-road exercises

Vehicle safety questions

For the vehicle safety questions you could be asked any of the following questions so it is important you have the know exact how to answer these questions and know exactly where things are and how they operate in your lorry.
1) Show me how you would replace the tachograph disc on this vehicle.
2) Tell me how you would operate the loading mechanism on this vehicle (vehicle specific, eg tail lift).
3) Show me how you would check that the wheel nuts are secure on this vehicle.
4) Tell me how you would check the condition of the windscreen wipers on this vehicle.
5) Show me how you would check that all doors including cargo doors are secure.
6) Tell me how you would check the condition of the reflectors on this vehicle.
7) Show me how you would check the condition of the mudguards on this vehicle.
8) Tell me how you would check the condition of the suspension on this vehicle.
9) Show me what instrument checks you would make before and after starting the engine on this vehicle.
10) Tell me the main safety factors involved in loading this vehicle.
11) Show me how you would check for air leaks on this vehicle.
12) Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.
13) Show me how you would set the windscreen demister to clear the windows effectively.
14) Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them (no need to exit vehicle).
15) Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam (no need to exit vehicle).
16) Show me how you would check that the brake lights are working on this vehicle (I can assist you, if you need to switch the ignition on, please don’t start the engine).
17) Tell me how you would check the condition of the body is safe on this vehicle.
18) Tell me how you would check the condition of the windscreen and windows on this vehicle.
19) Tell me how you would check your tyres to ensure that they are correctly inflated, have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.
20) Show me how you would check for the correct air pressure on this vehicle.
21) Identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.
22) Show me how you would check the operation (specify horn, warning device for reversing) of the audible warning devices on this vehicle.
23) Identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.
24) Tell me how you would check that the headlamps, sidelights and tail lights are working.
25) Show me / explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working.
26) Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.
27) Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.
28) Show me where the first aid equipment is kept on this vehicle.

If you need help with the answers for these safety questions you can see some guidelines here.

Practical road driving

During your practical road driving your examiner will be seeing how you:
Use the vehicle controls
Move away at an angle, uphill and downhill
Do a controlled stop
Use the mirrors
Give appropriate signals
Show awareness and anticipation of other road users’ intentions
Manage your progress and control your vehicle speed
Deal with hazards
Select a safe place to stop
You will also have 10 minutes of independent driving, which is designed to test your ability to drive safely while making your own decisions.

Off-road exercises

The off-road exercises that you will be asked to complete will include:
An ‘S’ shaped reverse into a bay
Demonstrating the uncoupling and recoupling procedure if you’re taking a test with a trailer

Test result

After you have completed each part of the driving ability practical test your examiner will advise you if you have passed and explain to you how you did. You will pass if you have 15 or fewer driving faults (minor) and no serious or dangerous driving faults (major).

Driver CPC Module 4: Demonstration test

The Driver CPC Module 4 is an interactive test where you will be expected to demonstrate and explain a number of operations that are required by a lorry driver other than the driving itself.

How the test works

For this module you will be tested on being able to:
Load the vehicle following the correct safety rules and ensure the load is kept secure
Prevent trafficking in illegal immigrants
Asses emergency situations
Do a complete walk round vehicle safety check
The test is made up of 5 topics from the Driver CPC syllabus. You can score up to 20 points for each section. The topics will come from 3 different sections of the syllabus.
1) Advanced training in rational driving based on safety regulations
2) Application of regulations
3) Health, road and environmental safety, service, logistics

For the first section, advanced training in rational driving based on safety regulations, the topics include:

To know the characteristics of the transmission system in order to make the best possible use of it. 
Curves relating to torque, power, and specific consumption of an engine, area of optimum use of revolution counter, gearbox-ratio cover diagrams.
To know the technical characteristics and operation of the safety controls in order to control the vehicle, minimise wear and tear and prevent disfunctioning.
Specific features of hydraulic vacuum servobrake circuit, limits to the use of brakes and retarder, combined use of brakes and retarder, making better use of speed and gear ratio, making use of vehicle inertia, using ways of slowing down and braking on downhill stretches, action in the event of failure.
Ability to optimise fuel consumption.
Optimisation of fuel consumption by applying know-how as regards points 1.1 and 1.2.
Ability to load the vehicle with due regard for safety rules and proper vehicle use.
Forces affecting vehicles in motion, use of gearbox ratios according to vehicle load and road profile, calculation of payload of vehicle or assembly, calculation of total volume, load distribution, consequences of overloading the axle, vehicle stability and centre of gravity, types of packaging and pallets.
Main categories of goods needing securing, clamping and securing techniques, use of securing straps, checking of securing devices, use of handling equipment, placing and removal of tarpaulins.
Ability to load the vehicle with due regard for safety rules and proper vehicle use.
Forces affecting vehicles in motion, use of gearbox-ratios according to vehicle load and road profile, calculation of payload of vehicle or assembly, load distribution, consequences of overloading the axle, vehicle stability and centre of gravity.

For the next section, application of regulations, the topics include:

To know the social environment of road transport and the rules governing it.
Maximum working periods specific to the transport industry; principles, application and consequences of Regulations (EEC) No 3820/85 and (EEC) No 3821/85; penalties for failure to use, improper use of and tampering with the tachograph; knowledge of the social environment of road transport: rights and duties of drivers as regards initial qualification and periodic training.
To know the regulations governing the carriage of goods.
Transport operating licences, obligations under standard contracts for the carriage of goods, drafting of documents which form the transport contract, international transport permits, obligations under the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, drafting of the international consignment note, crossing borders, freight forwarders, and special documents accompanying goods.

The final section, health, road and environmental safety, service, logistics, the topics include:

To make drivers aware of the risks of the road and of accidents at work.
Types of accidents at work in the transport sector, road accident statistics, involvement of lorries/coaches, human, material and financial consequences.
Ability to prevent criminality and trafficking in illegal immigrants.
General information, implications for drivers, preventive measures, check list, legislation on transport operator liability.
Ability to prevent physical risks.
Ergonomic principles; movements and postures which pose a risk, physical fitness, handling exercises, personal protection.
Awareness of the importance of physical and mental ability.
Principles of healthy, balanced eating, effects of alcohol, drugs or any other substance likely to affect behaviour, symptoms, causes, effects of fatigue and stress, fundamental role of the basic work/rest cycle.
Ability to assess emergency situations.
Behaviour in an emergency situation: assessment of the situation, avoiding complications of an accident, summoning assistance, assisting casualties and giving first aid, reaction in the event of fire, evacuation of occupants of a lorry/bus passengers, ensuring the safety of all passengers, reaction in the event of aggression; basic principles for the drafting of an accident report.
Ability to adopt behaviour to help enhance the image of the company.
Behaviour of the driver and company image: importance for the company of the standard of service provided by the driver, the roles of the driver, people with whom the driver will be dealing, vehicle maintenance, work organisation, commercial and financial effects of a dispute.
To know the economic environment of road haulage and the organisation of the market.
Road transport in relation to other modes of transport (competition, shippers), different road transport activities (transport for hire or reward, own account, auxiliary transport activities), organisation of the main types of transport company and auxiliary transport activities, different transport specialisations (road tanker, controlled temperature, etc), changes in the industry (diversification of services provided, rail-road, subcontracting, etc).
As mentioned the test consists of 5 topics from these above and each topic is worth a maximum 20 marks. To pass you have to get at least 15 out of 20 in each topic and have an overall score of at least 80%. 
When you’ve passed all four Driver CPC modules, you’ll be given a Driver Qualification Card (DQC) which you must carry with you whenever you’re driving an LGV.

Now you are a qualified lorry driver! Congratulations!
All you need now is a lorry driving job. There are several job websites that are good for finding haulage work these include: Jobsite, Indeed and Monster.
If once you have become a lorry driver you decide you want to branch out on your own and become an owner driver have a look at our guide to becoming an owner driver which will let you know what is required.

Enjoy your career as a professional lorry driver and help keeping the UK moving.

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