For those at ease behind the wheel, a career as a professional driver has plenty of opportunities, particularly as a huge shortfall in trained drivers is predicted.
Anyone who has seen the film, Sorcerer, might have second thoughts about driving volatile cargo around for a living, but much like the mismatched heroes that are led by Roy Sheider in the 70s cult classic, many Service-leavers are equipped with the professionalism, grit and calmness under pressure that many haulage contractors require – pressures that are all amplified when you’re transporting high value or even highly unstable loads.
Although grinding up the M6 with a load of groceries might lack the excitement or the raw machismo that is glamorised in the likes of the grizzly-dodging, frozen lake-defying Ice Road Truckers, driving large goods vehicles (LGVs) in the UK is both a good way of seeing the country and earning a decent wage, with salaries regularly exceeding £30,000.
The sector offers careers well suited to numerous Service-leavers, given the central role of logistics in the Armed Forces and the variety of substantial vehicles they deploy. Moreover, it’s a growth industry – according to the latest government figures, for example, road haulage currently accounts for 68% of all goods moved in the UK compared with 53% in 1980, and there are currently 467,000 van and LGV drivers – making up 2% of Britain’s workforce.
LGVs are commercial vehicles over 7.5 tonnes and these include rigid trucks, articulated lorries, tankers, transporters and trailer wagons. LGV drivers transport and deliver goods between suppliers and customers all over the UK and overseas, with 12% of the industry currently self-employed.
As well as the driving itself, duties include planning delivery schedules and routes with transport managers, supervising or helping to load and unload goods, making sure loads are safely secured and routine maintenance – such as oil, tyre and brake checks before and after journeys.
Drivers work an average of 42 hours a week and, although overtime may be available, there are strict laws about the amount of hours you can spend driving between rest breaks. Many drivers spend a lot of time away from home, including overnight stays where necessary – although most Service-leavers will be well used to such irregular patterns.
According to a recent report published by Skills for Logistics, in recent years the UK and European transport sector has been suffering from a shortage of skilled professional drivers and the most recent estimates show that nearly 1,456 extra drivers were needed in the UK and nearly 75,000 across Europe.
This trend slowed with the economic downturn mitigating the problem somewhat, but as the economy begins to recover, there is compelling evidence which points to a likely driver shortage:
- 16% of LGV drivers are 60 or over.
- The number of individuals taking and passing their LGV test is declining year on year. The last four year period saw a decline of 31% down to 22,700 tests passed in 2010/11.
- There are substantially more vacancies than candidates seeking a LGV profession and as a result we are seeing wages growing faster for drivers than employees across the economy.
- There is a sub-optimal uptake of Driver CPC periodic training. It is predicted that there will be a shortfall of 1.7 million training hours or nearly 250,000 seven hour training courses by the end of this year.
- Currently only 8.2% of professional drivers have received their Driver Qualification Card after completing 35 hours of training.
Most people in the haulage industry start off as drivers for freight distribution companies, major retail chains, supermarkets, raw materials suppliers and manufacturers. On average, LGV Drivers should expect to start earning around £16,000 – £21,500 a year, rising to in excess of £28,000 per year for more experienced LGV drivers. Those with the specialist qualifications required to drive vehicles carrying dangerous goods and explosives can potentially earn over £40,000.
What’s more there are also possibilities to set up your own business after gaining experience with a haulier or distributor, operating your own vehicle and perhaps eventually building up a fleet. With further training, you may be able to move into distribution or haulage management, transport and logistics planning or a specialised area of driving.
There are substantially more vacancies than candidates seeking a LGV profession.
The sector offers careers well suited to numerous Service-leavers, given the central role of logistics in the Armed Forces and the variety of substantial vehicles they deploy.
To become a LGV driver you first need to apply for the correct provisional entitlements on your driving licence and include a medical report. You’ll then need to pass theory and hazard perception tests as well as the practical driving test itself. Moreover – courtesy of an EU Directive in 2009 – a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) is now required. These can all be gained through courses that last up to three weeks and cover driving skills, basic mechanics, loading and securing loads. The test includes vehicle safety questions, specific manoeuvres such as reversing into a bay, 25 miles of road driving and a theory test based on the Highway Code and LGV regulations.
Perhaps the best place to look for an appropriate training course is on the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training (JAUPT) website – although it primarily lists providers of refresher training for already-qualified LGV drivers, many of these will also offer initial LGV training.
Once you’ve qualified, most employers will then put you on a training programme. This allows the chance to work with more experienced colleagues, who will help to demonstrate the full range of tasks that the job requires – although trained drivers operate solo, there is plenty of interaction with other drivers, especially those from the same company, which is said to foster a sense of camaraderie that many Service-leavers will appreciate.
For further information on instruction providers and job vacancies visit: