HGV stands for heavy goods vehicle and relates to those who drive vehicles such as lorries, trucks and large vans. To legally drive a HGV vehicle, you must first complete 7.5-tonne training course to gain the C1 category on your driving licence. The role of an HGV driver will require more than just long-haul journeys; 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 other road users. For full information on how to become a HGV driver, including daily responsibilities and the personal skills required, take a look at CV Library’s handy article.
If you are approaching your first journey as an HGV driver or are looking to improve your skills, we have pieced together a guide to some of the best tips for new HGV drivers!
Tips For New HGV Drivers: Staying Safe On The Roads
Much like driving a domestic vehicle for the first time after passing your driving test, taking a HGV vehicle onto the roads can prove daunting. However, it is important to remember that as long as you keep your training in mind and stay aware of your surroundings, you can easily, and safely, arrive at your destination. The most logical thing to consider before setting off on your first journey is to take every danager into account. For example, potholes, adverse weather conditions and more can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, so keeping this in mind and remember the tips and tricks below can ensure that you feel confident and remain safe throughout your journey:
- Ensure Your Load Is Safe
- Take Regular Breaks
- Minimise Your Blind Spots
- Avoid Tailgating
- Keep An Eye On Your Speed
- Keep Up With Essential Vehicle Checks
- Eliminate Distractions
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. The consequence of not checking your load could result in it falling onto the vehicle behind you or create an obstruction on the road. This is extremely dangerous and can cause a threat to other road users and potentially causing a collision.
Before heading off, always spend at least 10 minutes manually checking all items are entirely secure, never take another individuals word for it, and ensure that you feel fully confident in the safety of your vehicle. People make mistakes, and in the rush of packing a large load in a short timeframe, things could have easily been missed or forgotten, such as securing 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. If you require further guidance on how to load a vehicle and check that it has been done to the correct level of health and safety, please take a look at the government website.
According to EHS Today, around 20 per cent of all vehicle collisions are as a result of tiredness, whether that be physically closing eyes or a lowered brain function that causes you to drift or not see a car coming up beside you as you change lanes. For this reason, it is extremely important to make sure that you remain vigilant and alert while on the roads. You can do this by taking regular breaks from driving and keeping your energy levels as high as possible; this may include drinking coffee or eating a healthy snack, try to avoid drinking energy drinks.
Lazy Trips recommends that you should take a short break of 15 minutes every two hours of driving. The maximum number of hours HGV drivers can drive in one day is nine hours, and you must legally take a 45-minute break every 4.5 hours. During your break, try to avoid sitting in the driver’s seat scrolling through your phone, and instead, get out of the vehicle, move around and stretch your legs. Try to stop off at a service station, garage or shop where possible and safe to do so, 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. To ensure that you remain on schedule and arrive at your destination on time incorporate break times into your timings; this is where planning out your journey or using a live satnav such as the Waze app will come in handy.
As we all know, HGV vehicles do not have rear windows or interior mirrors, meaning blind spots are accentuated compared with domestic vehicles. While you will be taught how to use your mirrors during your C1 licence training, you may want to consider ways in which you can minimise your blind spots. Almost all HGV drivers fit additional mirrors to their vehicle to ensure that they are able to see their surroundings from all angles. These are placed onto the wing mirrors to extend the mirror breadth for better visibility. You can easily purchase these from most hardware stores or online.
To ensure that you are constantly informed of what is on the road and dangers that may be in the midst, regularly check your mirrors. In addition to this, it’s always good to indicate in good time, as it ensures any cars that are not in sight can make themselves visible or move out of the way in time.
Tailgating, whether this is in a large vehicle or a small domestic car, is extremely dangerous for many reasons. While you may feel confident in your driving ability, that does not mean that the driver in front is the same and tailgating may cause them to panic or intimated them. Additionally to this, if the driver in front suddenly hits on their brakes, or you do not notice them slowly braking, you can easily cause a serious collision in a matter of seconds. Always stay a minimum of two car lengths or 4 seconds behind the driver in front.
On the other hand, if the vehicle behind you is tailgating, then try not to panic and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front in case the vehicle behind is not paying attention when you’re braking.
Going a few miles over the speed limit may not seem dangerous, but in some scenarios, it can mean the difference between injuries and death. For example, a road which has a speed limit of 30 is often near schools or housing estates, and the limit is set to reduce the risk of serious injuries should a vehicle collide with a pedestrian.
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 heavy 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.
Much like you would check the vehicle during loading, you should also complete regular checks on the entire vehicle to ensure that it is safe to drive. When a vehicle is on the road for long periods of time, then damage or problems are likely to worsen significantly during your journey. This may cause you to either obstruct the road or create danger for yourself and other road users, and you may be risking the dreaded roadside breakdown while on the job.
Before any long-distance journey, necessary maintenance must be completed through safety checks that can be found on the government website. Additionally to potentially causing danger on the road, if you are caught by the police driving a vehicle in an unsafe state, you could 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.
As a long haul driver, you will need to keep your eyes on the road at all times, so distractions can become a safety hazard when driving to your destination. Try to keep any objects that may cause distractions at a minimum or out of sight, 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, but 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.
Stay Safe On The Roads
Confidence and feeling comfortable as a HGV driver comes with time, as the more journeys you do, the less you will worry about the fear of the unknown. However, no matter how new or old 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 quicker by neglecting checks and safety measures. If you have not yet completed your C1 training and are interested in doing so, then please feel free to contact the Pure Driving team to find out more about our C1 training in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas.