To find out first-hand what it’s like to drive a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV), also known as a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV), we spoke to a contract Driver working with Blue Arrow:
How long have you been in this driving role?
I’ve been driving an HGV for 21 years.
Why did you choose to be an HGV Driver?
When I was a teenager, my dad was a Driver, so it's all I knew. I’m a solitary person and I like to be on my own a lot of the time, so it suits me.
I always wanted to be a lorry Driver, but I couldn’t afford to pay for the training until I was 34. If I could have, I would have done it when I was 21.
What qualities do you need for this job?
I’m not better than anyone else at driving, but where I shine above the rest is my personality. Everything I do, I do with a smile, and for that reason they want me back. It’s not all about driving, it’s also about attitude.
What has been your experience with recruitment agencies like Blue Arrow?
I’ve never been self-employed as it doesn’t appeal to me. I like to come home and forget about work. I’ve done a lot of agency work over the years and I’m happy where I am now. The good thing about this industry is, if you’re not happy with the job you can always move somewhere else.
I will always be loyal to Blue Arrow because they’re honest. They even paid me holiday pay that I was owed but knew nothing about.
What was your application and interview process like?
There’s an application process and you need to list your relevant licences. The agency will photocopy them and go through extensive checks.
Can you talk us through a typical day as an HGV Driver?
It’s typically a long day, doing a 14-hour shift. In the Burton-on-Trent depot, the warehouse guys will bring the goods with their forklift truck and put the load into the back of my vehicle. I will sort the pallets out in the lorry myself, putting them in the fridge if needed. I’ll leave Burton-on-Trent at about half past three in the afternoon and drive up to West Yorkshire.
Loading your own truck is a rarity nowadays. In lots of jobs, they just drop the whole trailer, and you don’t load the goods yourself. But then you don’t get any interaction with the people who are loading your lorry! On this job you do get that interaction, and 99% of the people I’m working with are great.
Once the lorry is reloaded in West Yorkshire, I’ll drive up to Featherstone. I’ll unload it myself with the pallet truck, reload it and drive back to Burton. We will reload my lorry again and I’ll drive to Southampton before returning home. I’m not frightened of hard work; it doesn’t bother me.
What kind of vehicle do you drive to do your job, and what type of goods do you transport?
I drive a Class 2 rigid lorry delivering chemotherapy medication. They have cameras in the cabs, which took me some time to get used to. I’ve been there for three months, so I’m used to the cameras now. If you have an accident and you’re not doing anything wrong, the footage can save your job.
What are the best bits about being an HGV Driver with Blue Arrow?
It’s the people you work with. I’m happy in the job and when you find somewhere where you’re happy, it’s fantastic. I’ve got no complaints about the guys in the Blue Arrow office, they’re brilliant and always get your pay right.
What are the least enjoyable bits about being an HGV Driver?
I’m not one to complain, but the only thing in this industry that really gets to me is the way Drivers are occasionally treated. We’re not stupid people. I’ve worked with people from all backgrounds who choose to be Drivers, such as Teachers and Estate Agents, they do this job because it’s what they want to do.
What skills do you think you have developed by being an HGV Driver that you wouldn't have gained elsewhere?
I’ve learnt to use my own initiative. You come across all sorts of different situations where you have to make decisions. As a Driver, you’re on your own, often in the middle of nowhere, and there might be a problem. The issue might be with the vehicle, the load, you don’t know where to deliver to, or when you get there, there’s no one there. I’ve been through all of these scenarios in my 21 years as a Driver and you have to use your own initiative and make those decisions.
What is the most important skill you need to succeed in your role?
Reversing! Driving an HGV is easy, but the difficulties lie in reversing. I struggled to get it at first, but now I do it without even thinking.
Also, having a sense of humour and making people laugh. People can get stressed in this job and making them laugh can help.
Are you part of a wider team?
There are only three Drivers on this job, but I rarely see them. When you get to a delivery depot, there are usually supervisors there to instruct you on where to go, and people to help you unload.
Are there any extra safety precautions in place within your role as a result of the pandemic?
Because my wife works in A&E and she sees the effects of COVID all the time, I make sure I always wear a mask. Other than that, it’s not made any difference to my routine because I have always been obsessed with cleanliness. Any surface that other people might have touched in my cab, I will wipe clean. I’m known for my cleanliness wherever I work. It’s nice getting into your own cab knowing that no one else has been in there.
Do you have any plans for additional qualifications or career progression?
I’ve been to several CPC courses through Blue Arrow, and they asked me if I’d like to be an instructor. But I’ve done that before and it wasn’t for me. I prefer being a Driver.
What advice would you give to newcomers or those considering this job?
Ask questions! Every single time you don’t know something, ask. If you don’t ask when you start out, you might go six months down the line and still not know something because you didn’t ask. There will always be somebody there to help you, as we’ve all been there. If in doubt, ask.
Also, if you’re driving somewhere and you’re struggling to reverse your lorry, get out of your vehicle and have a look. Get out ten times if you have to. When you first drive artic lorries, you like to try and get into places in one go, because it looks good. But it doesn’t always work. You’ve got to get over that, accept that you’re not perfect and you won’t always get it right first time.
Would you recommend your job to a friend?
Absolutely! I’m extremely happy in the job I’m doing. It’s a good job, you will always have work and it’s good money.