A Class 1 Driver on the road conversing with a colleague

Driving Careers: What I have learned from being a Class 1 Truck Driver

Do you think you have what it takes to work in a Class 1 driving job? Driving jobs and driving careers are always sought after amongst qualified drivers but with a shortage of drivers and an abundance of driving work available, Class 1 driving job prospects are good.

Before you decide on a driving career, or any career for that matter, it is always a good idea to hear from the people already in the role and get a behind the scenes perspective. With this in mind we interviewed Class 1 Driver, Simon.

How long have you been a Class 1 Driver?

I have been driving on and off for around thirty years. It is not like I have been driving the whole time, sometimes I went back to work in construction, and I did a stint working on the vineyards and olive fields too, but I keep coming back to driving.

Who are you currently driving for? 

I am driving for IKEA, and the type of driving is known as shunting. My role is to move trailers between the warehouse and main store. 

In your thirty years experience was the majority of your driving local or long distance? 

It was mainly long distance. I have driven cross continental, UK based, short haul, long haul, weeks out, nights out, pretty much everything, you name it and I have most likely done it.

Why did you decide to become a driver? 

I sort of fell into it after leaving the military. When I came out of the forces, I started commercial driving using just my driving licence, back then it was OK to drive 7.5 tonne vehicles with just a standard licence. I then set out to get my bigger licences when I started to look to the future and a long-term career in driving.

Being a professional driver means you always have a fall back plan, you can always come back to driving even if you try something different for a while. 

How do you cope with other drivers being careless or dangerous around you?

You have to just breathe and draw on all of your patience. Let them just go on past. If they are in front of you, they are not a problem for you so just be calm, how they choose to drive is none of your business. Your main concern is staying safe and protecting your licence. 

What do you feel you have learned by being a Class 1 Driver?

Apart from the usual professional driving skills and some specialist driving skills from driving unusual loads in the past, I have learned to manage my own time effectively. 

Over many years of driving I have developed my patience levels and acceptance for other drivers on the road.

Spending so much time alone in a cab must be hard, how do you keep your mind occupied? 

I like to spend a lot of time thinking and daydreaming, watching the world go by. I listen to the radio quite a bit and audiobooks are great for when I get bored of music. I eat healthy food and I make sure I work out and swim after work.

This really helps with concentration while driving. It is important to stay mobile, it’s crucial to stretch and wind down, not thinking about work.

I make sure that I maximise the time when I am not driving, getting exercise, staying mobile and enjoying doing something different to driving. 

How do you keep a healthy diet when you drive all day? 

If I am away, I will take more food with me as there are some great facilities in the cab. I try to meal prep and take healthy food that is easy to cook or warm up so I can avoid the service stations and eat properly.

My go to foods would be potatoes, rice, pasta, vegetables and protein but if I am working locally like right now, I will only take a little bit of healthy food and snacks with me, there is always something local that provides a healthy option.

How do you combat tiredness? 

You have to sleep well and maximise your rest periods, a lot of people do not eat well, and they don't rest properly so that has a big effect on how they feel after driving for long periods. 

What are the best bits about being a Class 1 Driver?

When you drive for the bigger companies who allow you to take your time, driving is a great and enjoyable job. The industry is changing away from what it was in the 1970's and 1980's, now it’s more about working safe hours, not just pushing through as quickly and as far as possible.

Now there is a real shortage of drivers so if you have the licences and some good experience, you can pick and choose your work, there is lots available.

What is your favourite type of driving?

The best and most enjoyable for me is the awkward load. When you are carrying wide, convoy type loads, and interesting or unusual deliveries keep it interesting. 

What are the worst bits about being a driver?

It can be stressful at times but that is mostly down to bad management, the best managers are ex-drivers, they are more accepting of traffic and weather conditions affecting your run times. Small companies have smaller budgets, so their delivery times are more crucial, in this case it is important that companies adopt good management systems, that way it is much more enjoyable for everyone. 

Who would you most like to drive for? 

I would love to drive for King Cranes or someone like that. Anyone with whom I can work the usual and interesting loads. 

What would be your favourite truck to drive? 

Probably a Mercedes, they are not all that on the inside, but they are reliable, safe and comfortable to drive.

What are your thoughts about driverless trucks? 

I think they will be here eventually, but they are a long way off in the future.

I can see that there is still a lot of doubt over the insurance side of things, where the ultimate liability lies in the case of an accident. We will have to watch and see what happens, but I can't see that it will be anytime soon. 

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