The ultimate step-by-step guide to becoming a lorry driver in the UK

The ultimate step-by-step guide to becoming a lorry driver in the UK

Lorry drivers play an essential role in running the economy and society. What’s more, there is currently demand for approximately 50,000 HGV drivers in the UK currently. Although there are certainly downsides to being a driver, many truckers still get a lot of satisfaction from the job and would recommend it to others. In this detailed guide, you’ll find everything you need to become a lorry driver in the UK.

Firstly, before embarking on your career as a  lorry driver, you’ll need to decide what kind of vehicle you would like to drive. The type of driving licence you need depends on the weight of the vehicle.

Once you have made up your mind, you need to fulfil the following requirements to become a professional driver:

  • have a relevant lorry driving licence (you need to pass a theory and a practical driving test + medical exam)
  • be over 18 – but there are some exceptions
  • get a professional driving qualification called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

Driving licence

To be able to get a driving licence for any kind of light or heavy goods vehicle, you need to have a full B category driving licence. This table shows the full licence you need before you can apply for provisional entitlement in the higher categories.

Provisional entitlement required Full licence needed
B+E*, G*, H*, C1, C, D1, D B
C1+E C1
C+E C
D1+E D1
D+E D

You automatically get provisional entitlement to these categories with a full B (car) licence.

This means if you aim to get a C+E driving licence, you need to have a full manual car (cat B) driving licence, then first pass the test for a C1 or C licence and later you should take the next exam for the C+E licence.

Which licence qualifies you to drive which vehicles?

C1 – for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes

Category C1 is the very first, a basic level of HGV training and licensing that you can achieve. This licence is essentially a step up from a regular UK driver’s licence and allows you to drive a vehicle of 3,500 kilograms, as long as that vehicle is under 7.5 tonnes in gross weight. There are very few limits to what the form of that vehicle can be – it can be set up as a lorry, truck or a tractor-trailer in which you tow a trailer. Anyone who passed their drivers test before 1997 automatically has a C1 licence as well, so it’s worth checking to see if this applies to you.

C1 + E – for vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes + a trailer

This licence is also commonly known as a 7.5 tonne + trailer licence, and pretty much does what it says on that tin.

It allows the driver to operate a vehicle with a gross weight of up to 7,500kg, with an attached trailer of over 750kg authorised mass. This is provided that the maximum authorised mass of the trailer is not more than the unladen weight of the vehicle being driven and that the combined maximum authorised mass of both the vehicle and the trailer doesn’t exceed 12,000kg.

Not complicated at all, right? It’s basically an upgrade on the standard C1 licence, which means it can only be taken once the driver has already completed their C1 test and got the licence.

C – for vehicles up to 32 tonnes

A category C licence allows drivers to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, but must not exceed 32 tonnes.

Category C (or Class 2 as they are otherwise known) licences typically cover a vehicle with a cab and trailer fixed permanently together. In other words, what we would consider a ‘standard lorry’. While you have this licence your vehicle weight must not exceed 750kg.

This licence is a stepping stone within HGV training – a way to move on to the category C and E licence. You must be over 18 to have this licence.

C + E (=Class 1) – for any large vehicles

A category C + E licence is the most comprehensive HGV licence you can hold.

With this licence, drivers can drive and handle a drawbar or articulated vehicle. The E part of the category C and E licence stands for entitlement and means that the bearer can go up to or over 750kg in weight. This particular licence is also known as Class 1, allowing the driver to drive any large goods style vehicle needed, including a double trailer.

How much does the test cost?

While the driving licence for a heavy good vehicle is not the same as a CPC card, the available training and tests are the same for the two documents.

The difference is that the CPC card makes you eligible to drive a lorry professionally, while the driving licence doesn’t.

Those who want to work as professional lorry drivers must pass 4 tests; those who don’t, must pass two tests (the theory test and the driving ability test).

If you book your test using the official service, this is how much it costs in 2021:

 
Weekday
Evening, weekend and bank holiday
Driver CPC part 1 –
theory – (multiple-choice)
£26 £26
Driver CPC part 1 –
theory – (hazard perception)
£11 £11
Driver CPC part 2 –
case studies
£23 £23
Driver CPC part 3 –
driving ability
£115 £141
Driver CPC part 4 –
practical demonstration
£55 £63
TOTAL  £230 £264

The costs are the same for all categories of lorry and bus, eg C1, C, D1, and D.

How can one apply for or a provisional lorry or bus licence?

  1. To get a provisional lorry driving licence, applicants need to order forms D2 and D4 from DVLA.

The D4 form relates to the medical examination. Therefore, it has to be filled in by a doctor. This could be either:

  • your GP – but an optician might need to fill in the section about your eyesight
  • a private firm specialising in drivers’ medical exams

The doctor, optician or a private firm can charge you.

You can only apply for a provisional trailer (+E) licence when you’ve got the full licence for the vehicle you’ll be driving.

  1. Once the documents are filled in, they should be sent together with your photocard driving licence to DVLA.

There’s no application fee.

The address is:

DVLA
Swansea
SA99 1BR

How long does it take to learn to drive a lorry?

Generally, it takes around 6-7 weeks to qualify for your LGV licence. This includes the initial medical exam to make sure you’re fit to drive professionally, studying and taking your theory tests, and then your practical driver training and tests.

Medical examination

Depending on the driving licence you plan to get, you shall take a medical examination either before starting the training for the licence or once you pass the practical test.

C1 Vehicles weighing between 3,500kg-7,500kg MAM with a trailer limit of 750kg MAM.

Drivers who passed their car test up until the end of 1996 normally have the C1 category as acquired rights and must have a medical every 3 years with the first at 70.|

From January 1997 drivers must have a medical when applying for a provisional licence for the C1 category and must renew their medical every 5 years from 45 up to 65, then annually from 65.

C1E/C1+E: Vehicles weighing between 3,500kg-7500kg with a trailer over 750kg.

Drivers who passed their car test up until the end of 1996 normally have the C1+E category as acquired rights and must have a medical every 3 years with the first at 70.

Drivers who passed their C1 practical test from 1st January 1997 onwards automatically receive C1+E category provisional licence. If a driver gains the full entitlement a medical must be renewed every 5 years from 45 up to 65, then annually from 65.

C: Vehicles over 3,500kg (trailer limit of 750kg) Drivers must have a medical when applying for a provisional licence for the C category and must renew their medical every 5 years from 45 up to 65, then annually from 65.
C+E: Vehicles over 3,500kg with a trailer over 750kg. Drivers who pass their category C practical test and then apply for category C+E provisional licence will not need another medical. If a driver gains the full entitlement a medical must be renewed every 5 years from 45 up to 65, then annually from 65.

Everything about the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

You must carry your Driver CPC card while driving a lorry, bus or coach professionally.

Every 5 years you must:

  • take 35 hours of Driver CPC training to keep driving professionally
  • renew your lorry or bus driving licence

If you’re 65 or over you must renew your lorry or bus driving licence every year.

You can get a £50 fixed penalty for driving professionally without your Driver CPC card.

Who needs the full Driver CPC

You must have the full Driver CPC if you drive a lorry, bus or coach as the main part of your job.

You usually need to pass 4 tests to get it, unless you have ‘acquired rights’ because of your existing driving experience.

Who does not need the full Driver CPC

You do not need the full Driver CPC if you:

  • do not want to drive for a living
  • drive among certain other situations, such as taking your vehicle for a pre-booked annual test (MOT)

You still need to pass part 1 (theory) and part 3 (driving ability) tests of the qualification.

How can one get (and keep) a full Driver CPC?

  • Have at least a provisional lorry or bus licence.
  • Pass the 4 tests that make up Driver CPC to qualify.
  • Take 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years to stay qualified.

Parts of the CPC test

Driver CPC part 1 test: theory

You can book the part 1 theory test of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) as soon as you’ve got your provisional licence.

The test is made up of 2 parts – multiple choice and hazard perception. You have to book both parts separately, but you can take them on the same day. It does not matter which one you take first but you need to pass both within 2 years of each other to get your theory test certificate.

Multiple-choice questions part

The multiple-choice questions part lasts for 1 hour and 55 minutes, and the pass mark is 85 out of 100 questions.

Hazard perception part

You’ll watch 19 videos, and there are 20 developing hazards to spot. The pass mark is 67 out of 100. You cannot review your answers.

Your test result

You’ll be given a letter at the test centre with the results for the part of the theory test you’ve just taken. When you’ve passed both parts, your theory test certificate will be posted to you. You need this when you book your Driver CPC part 3 driving test.

Your theory test certificate is valid for 2 years from when you passed the first part of the test.

You need to pass the Driver CPC part 3 driving test within 2 years, otherwise, you’ll have to pass the part 1 theory test again.

Driver CPC part 2 test: case studies

You can book the part 2 case studies test of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) as soon as you’ve got your provisional licence. You do not need to have passed the Driver CPC part 1 theory test.

The test is made up of 7 case studies you work through on a computer. The case studies are short stories based on situations that you’re likely to come across in your working life.

You’ll be asked between 6 and 8 multiple-choice questions on each case study.

The test lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and the pass mark is 40 out of 50.

Your test result

You’ll get a letter with the results at the test centre.

You need the test pass reference number when you book your Driver CPC part 4 practical demonstration test.

The pass letter is valid for 2 years.

Driver CPC part 3 test: driving ability

You must have passed the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) part 1 theory test before you can book the Driver CPC part 3 test.

Your practical test will last about 1 hour and 30 minutes and includes:

  • vehicle safety questions
  • practical road driving
  • off-road exercises

After you’ve taken the practical test your examiner will tell you if you’ve passed and explain how you did.

You’ll pass your test if you make:

  • 15 or fewer driving faults
  • no serious or dangerous faults

Driver CPC part 4 test: practical demonstration

You must have passed the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) part 2 test before you can book the Driver CPC part 4 test.

You’re tested on being able to:

  • load the vehicle following safety rules and to keep it secure
  • stop trafficking in illegal immigrants
  • assess emergency situations
  • reduce physical risks to yourself or others
  • do a walkaround 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 topic.

To pass you have to score at least 15 out of 20 in each topic area and have an overall score of at least 80 out of 100.

Test result

At the end of your test, the examiner will tell you if you’ve passed.

How much do the CPC tests cost?

The CPC test is the same as the C category driving tests. Therefore, these need to paid once.

 
Weekday
Evening, weekend and bank holiday
Driver CPC part 1 –
theory – (multiple-choice)
£26 £26
Driver CPC part 1 –
theory – (hazard perception)
£11 £11
Driver CPC part 2 –
case studies
£23 £23
Driver CPC part 3 –
driving ability
£115 £141
Driver CPC part 4 –
practical demonstration
£55 £63
TOTAL  £230 £264

The costs are the same for all categories of lorry and bus, eg C1, C, D1, and D.

How much does a CPC card cost?

Driver CPC card (non-UK driving licences only) £25
Replacement for lost, stolen or damaged card £25

How much does it cost to become a HGV driver?

As the price of lorry driving/ CPC training is carried out by private companies, it is hard to give an exact number of the cost.

Aside from the cost of the tests and the CPC card, applicants need to take part in an HGV driving training, which usually costs around £50 per hour.

+1 Digital tachograph card

A tachograph is a device fitted to a vehicle that automatically records its speed and distance, together with the driver’s activity selected from a choice of modes.

Drivers and their employers are legally required to accurately record their activities, retain the records (files from internal memory and from driver cards must both be retained) and produce them on demand to transport authorities who are in charge of enforcing regulations governing drivers’ working hours.

The fleet operator should inform you about the tachograph the company uses in their vehicles – whether they are analogue or digital devices.

If the company uses digital tachograps, you will need a tachograph card. To get such a card, you need to fill in the following form: Application for a digital tachograph driver card for GB photocard driving licences.

Your first card costs £32.

HGV training schools

Before paying any money, check out at least three local training schools.

Besides prices, try to find out where the training and the test take place; what the pass rates are and how long the course is. A driving assessment is also worth the effort to see how many hours of training you need. If you can estimate the hours, it is easier to calculate the final cost of the whole training.

Insurance

As a professional HGV driver, you don’t need to pay an insurance for driving a lorry. That’s the lorry operator’s business.

If you are a new driver, becoming a lorry driver won’t help to reduce the cost of your insurance for your private car in the short run. The price of your insurance is calculated just like for anybody else – based on where you live (and the crime rate in that area), the kind of car you drive, where you normally park your car when you aren’t driving it, your driving record, the size of your No Claims Discount, the level of coverage you’d like to take out and size of your voluntary excess.

However, in the long run, being a professional driver might affect the insurance rate for your private car. In theory, professional drivers like HGV drivers, bus drivers and taxi drivers should be better drivers, because they get so much practice behind the wheel, which suggests professional drivers should be at a lower insurance risk, on average, than many other professions.

But note, that a good no-claims bonus (or NCD) on your HGV insurance would have no effect on your own private insurance. The HGV insurance is a commercial vehicle insurance policy; the car insurance policy for your own car is a private vehicle insurance policy. This means the NCD usually can’t be transferred from one to the other nor can it be mirrored across the two policies.

What’s the difference a HGV Class 1 and Class 2 driver?

An HGV Class 1 driver is someone who has a C+E category driving license – so allowed to drive an articulated lorry.

A Class 2 driver has a C category driving license – this enables you to drive a large vehicle over 3,500kg, with a trailer up to 750kg in weight.

How much can a lorry driver earn?

According to a popular job search website, the average salary for a HGV Class 1 Driver is £31,787.

However, this is not that simple: the salary of professional drivers depends on their job experience; the licence they hold; if they carry out national or international transportation and if they have any special skills like driving a refrigerated lorry or a tanker.

For example, a typical Eddie Stobart Hgv Driver monthly salary is £1,784. Hgv Driver salaries at Eddie Stobart can range from £1,587 – £3,782, according to Glassdoor.


Photo credits @ Trans.INFO

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