If you’ve just passed your HGV test, then you are well on your way to becoming a professional HGV driver. After all, you’ve got your qualification, which means you can go out there and get a job. But as a new driver, there are a lot of things you still have to learn. Some of those things will be specific to the type of driving you do, who you work for, or the vehicle you drive. But others are just down to experience – learning on the job and by making mistakes. But since large, heavy vehicles are involved, we want to help you minimise those mistakes with a few hints and tips.
Preparation Is Key
In almost anything in life, a little preparation will go a long way. When it comes to driving a HGV professionally, it’s vital. This isn’t a job that’s purely about hopping behind the wheel and getting from point A to point B. To succeed, there is a lot of planning involved from beginning to end, making sure you account for anything that could go wrong. Make sure you plan out the route you’re going to take, along with any alternatives in case you run into traffic, road closures or other issues that might need you to redirect your plans. You also need to plan out your timings, taking into account time for break, rest stops and refuelling time. The good news is this doesn’t have to be difficult – there are a number of apps you can use to help you plan your journeys, and doing so makes everything run much more smoothly.
No, not alcohol. Not even coffee. Water. Dehydration is a very real problem for people in general, but for HGV drivers in particular. When you aren’t drinking enough, your body will tell you about it in a number of ways. Some of those include tiredness, dizziness and loss of alertness. Not good news for a HV driver in charge of a multi-tonne vehicle. So HGV drivers need to make sure they are properly hydrated at all times. Our tip? Invest in a big, refillable water bottle, and keep it in your cab at all times. Take regular sips throughout the day (since your body will only tell you you’re thirsty when you are already dehydrated). Fill it up when you need to, and force yourself to stay hydrated.
Check Your Vehicle Height
You’ve probably seen photos of videos of HGV’s that have got stuck in narrow or low bridges, running the vehicle and effectively getting wedged. While these may seem funny at the time, they are a very real problem for new HGV drivers. It’s a big vehicle, and it can be difficult to judge the height or width of it when you’re inside. It’s even harder when it’s not a vehicle you normally drive, or if you change HGV’s a lot. Out best tip to avoid this embarrassing mishap is to check the height and width of your vehicle before you set out every day, and make a note of it (even if that’s just a post-it on your dashboard). It means you won’t panic when you see a lot bridge and it can avoid mangling your HGV at the same time.
Take Breaks Often
You will be frequently reminded by your employer that you are required to take a certain amount of breaks each shift, and those breaks have to be a set length of time. Pay attention and make sure you take them. We know how tempting it can be to just ‘work through it’, particularly if you’re running late or on a tight deadline. But the problem is, without breaks you will get tired, suffer from fatigue and not be able to do your job properly. You will also be opening up yourself and your employer to legal action, since those breaks are actually legal requirements. So when its time for your break, make sure you do actually stop the vehicle and take a break. Walk around, stretch your legs and grab a cup of coffee. And if you start feeling drowsy at any point while driving, don’t hesitate to take a break.
Communicate With your Team
No HGV driver works in a vacuum, even if it can be a bit lonely at times. There will be a team behind you organising what you’re transporting, when you use it and even planning your deadlines – from both your company and the client. As the effective ‘go-between’, you need to maintain clear and regular communication with these people. It might seem like a bit of an effort, but building up a relationship with your traffic managers can make things run smoothly for your day-to-day.