HGV stands for heavy goods vehicle and relates to mainly transportation vehicles such as lorries, trucks and large vans. To legally drive an HGV vehicle, you must first complete 7.5-tonne training to gain the C1 category on your driving licence. The role of an HGV driver will require more than just long-haul journies; you must also be prepared to take on delivery coordination, completing accurate paperwork, regular communication between customers and dispatchers and a considerable amount of route preparation before each journey. It is vital to remain safe at all times during each trip, taking into consideration both your safety and all others road users surrounding you. For full information on how to become an HGV driver including daily responsibilities and the personal skills required, take a look at this useful Telegraph article.
If you are approaching your first journey as an HGV driver or are experienced but merely looking to improve your skills, we have devised a list of the main simple safety tips to take into consideration.
7 Simple Safety Tips
One of the most significant risks you will be faced with as an HGV driver is the quick-changing weather conditions often experienced in the UK. You must always be prepared for all driving conditions from ice and snow to hot summer weather. All weather conditions cause potential threats meaning staying alert and aware of your surrounding at all times is critical. Many safety tips for driving a larger vehicle are simply the same as you would be advised when driving a car, just a little more exaggerated to meet the increase in risks that come alongside, for example, a lorry or truck.
1. Ensure Your Load Is Safe
Although it is more than likely that a warehouse team would have packed your transportation goods, it is your responsibility, as the driver, to double check that the load is safe. If in the worst case scenario, products move or fall from the back of your vehicle, it will not be the warehouse team who are held accountable; it will be you.
Before heading off, always spend at least 10 minutes manually checking all items are entirely secure, never take another individuals word for it, even if they are trustworthy. People make mistakes, and in the rush of packing a large load, they could have easily forgotten to secure straps, so always ensure that all straps are pulled tight with no slack. It is also vital to revisit your load to make sure that your vehicle is not overloaded causing items to become unstable.
2. Take Breaks
It is recommended to ideally take a short break every two hours of driving, however on a long haul journey; it is understandable that this can be tricky. The maximum number of hours HGV drivers can drive in one day is nine hours; you must legally take a 45-minute break every 4.5 hours. During your break, do not sit in the driver’s seat scrolling through your phone, get out, move around and stretch your legs. Try to stop off at a service station, garage or shop as it gives you a chance to go for a wander, grab a cup of tea and a snack and recuperate before you get back on the roads.
There is no set maximum amount of breaks you should take; safety comes first so as soon as you start to feel tired, pull over in a safe destination and take a break. One of the biggest killers on busy roads and motorways is long-haul drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Incorporate break times into your schedule, if the journey takes 4 hours, give yourself 5 hours just in case.
3. Reduce Blind Spots
As we all know, HGV vehicles do not have rear windows or interior mirrors meaning blind spots are accentuated. Almost all HGV drivers fit additional mirrors to their vehicle to ensure that they are able to see their surroundings from all angles and if you do not have some, we strongly recommend blind spot mirrors are your next purchase.
Always check all mirrors regularly, particularly to keep an eye out for any vulnerable road users such as cyclists or pedestrians.
4. Do Not Tailgating
Tailgating is a huge ‘no-no’ for any driver, not only does it make the driver in front of you feel intimidated, but also dramatically increases the risk of a collision. The ‘two second time rule’ is a habit you must aim to always stick to, this will give you time to react in the case of an emergency. In icy or wet weather conditions, this must be doubled to at least four seconds.
5. Watch Your Speed
Heavy vehicles take longer to brake because more weight on the road decreases the amount of tyre friction. You must always slow down in advance, particularly when turning corners and in busy traffic. Stick to the speed limit at all times, taking extra care when there is a substantial change in speed, for example from a 60 to a 30 zone.
6. Essential Vehicle Checks
Before any long distance journey, necessary maintenance checks must be completed to ensure that your vehicle is safe. If you are caught by the police driving a vehicle in an unsafe state, you may be faced with a hefty fine. Always double check aspects such as your tyre pressure, tire tread, engine oil levels, brakes and lights before setting off.
7. Eliminate Distractions
As a long haul driver, it is understandable if you would like to bring things such as pillow to increase your comfort, but try to keep additional objects at a minimum. Try to keep any objects that may cause distractions at a minimum and always opt for using hands-free devices. You may sometimes be tasked with a job in an unknown destination meaning a sat nav is required, make sure that this is all set up pre-journey. Alternatively, if you are using your mobile navigation or want to stream music from your phone, purchase a good quality mobile phone holder.
Become A Safer Driver
Confidence and feeling comfortable as an HGV driver does come with time, the more journies you do, the less you will worry about the fear of the unknown. However, no matter how new you are to the role, maintaining full safety at all times is critical and you cannot afford to cut corners to save time or make your journey easier through running risks. Follow our top tips, and we can guarantee that you will be on track to becoming an excellent HGV driver!