A Day in the Life of an HGV Driver

07-11-2018

The only time I ever get up at three in the morning is when I’ve got a holiday flight booked. In the aid of science and reporting, however, I recently decided to write about a day in the life of an HGV driver which meant getting to the depot and out on the road before the sun came up.

HGV Drivers generally start very early in the day. It’s also not unusual for someone to be working for 15 hours, delivering everything from building supplies to supermarket produce both here in the UK and abroad. Despite that, HGV drivers generally love their work.

As the owner of an HGV driver agency, I find it helps to get on the ‘shop floor’ so to speak and remind myself what our intrepid truckers need to face each day. Today I’m with Damian who as a co-owner, also drives for us when we need an extra cover.

I find the first big challenge is actually getting into the truck in the first place. It’s high up and my immediate thought is that I’m not going to be able to get in there without some help. This is where the three-point rule comes in – where you need to keep three points of contact (two hands and a foot, for example) with the vehicle as you climb in. It’s a useful health and safety measure that helps prevent falls and slips but is not always as easy as it looks.

What I do know is that you have to be fit to climb in and out of that cab numerous times a day. Once inside, Damian has a quick check around the cab. At our agency, we have strict rules for keeping the cabs clean, with everyone responsible for their own mess. “Some agencies are better than others,” says Damian, “which is why I always have wet wipes in my bag and some other cleaning stuff so I can run them over the dash and steering wheel or seats.”

 

Today, we’re heading to Leeds with produce for a supermarket, a common route for Damian and his fellow HGV drivers. As we’re delivering food, I begin by asking about how he stays healthy working as a driver. The motorway stop-offs tend to be full of fast food chains and it’s easier to get a bag of crisps than a healthy meal. That’s one of the reasons perhaps why obesity and blood pressure levels are so high among drivers.

Damian brings his own food and will only usually park at a stop-off for a rest and a coffee. “I find that’s the easiest way to avoid getting into junk food. With it being quite a boring job at times your mind can turn to food and maybe a few chocolate bars or packet of biscuits to help you get through the day.”

One thing I do notice as we drive onto the motorway is the way cars interact with a large vehicle such as this. HGV speed is restricted by law and plenty of companies nowadays install electronic safety measures that prevent a cab from exceeding their limit. Ours is restricted to 56 mph but you still find plenty of cars driving a lot slower than this on the motorway.

The general rule on any road is that you should drive to the speed limit where safely possible. On motorways that means 70mph and staying persistently below this can be just as dangerous as speeding. It causes traffic to get backed up and can lead to frustration on the part of drivers who are trying to get somewhere.

Another issue I notice on the journey is how close car drivers get to the truck. Damian says that you need to be a lot more attentive when it comes to other road users. But car drivers and motorcyclists, even cyclists, need to take part of the responsibility when it comes to safety.

Lorry drivers have a specific time to complete a delivery and slow motorists can delay them which can be frustrating, Damian explains. Deliveries are often late in getting started for various logistic reasons and the company handling the transportation can be fined if the HGV arrives late. While many people complain that HGV drivers don’t follow the rules of the road or ignore other cars and bikes, it’s perhaps equally important to understand the world from their point of view.

While we’re driving along, we get back to what’s in Damian’s driving bag or ‘buddy’. First there’s a good quality HGV sat nav which he can set up in the cab. There’s a high vis jacket and safety boots, a blanket in case he’s caught out at night, kitchen paper to wipe the windscreen, antibacterial wipes, pen and clipboard.

There are also snacks (healthy in this case) and a lunch box as well as a book in case there’s a long wait at the depot or other delay. Damian says his bag is quite conservative. Some drivers carry suitcases!

Driving an HGV can mean long boring hours heading from one end of the country to the other but most drivers love the freedom of being out on the road. Our journey to Leeds was relatively uneventful but gave me an insight into the daily challenges that our HGV drivers face.

These are the people that help keep our supermarket shelves stocked 24/7, who deliver parts for manufacturing and raw materials for industry and a whole host of other transportation and logistic needs. They travel not just across the UK but to Europe as well.

Finally, while we’re on the point of visibility and HGV drivers, here are some very useful pointers that we all might like to take notice of:

  • Take care not to cut off in front of a truck.
  • Make sure that you maintain a safe distance from a lorry.
  • Where possible drive to the speed limit so that a lorry doesn’t have to overtake you.
  • Avoid tailgating a lorry and realise that, if you can’t see their wing mirrors, the driver can’t see you.

 

 

 

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