How to become a truck driver in 10 steps (plus skills)
Updated 18 September 2023
If you enjoy driving and spending time on the road, a career as a truck driver may suit you. Their routes can be regional or countrywide, depending on the goods transported and the company they work with. Learning how to become a lorry driver can give you an idea of what to expect on the journey and the requirements to become one. In this article, we define what a lorry driver does, list steps on how to become one, describe the skills they require and discuss their work environment.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What does a lorry driver do?
A lorry driver is an individual who earns a living from driving a lorry, or truck, transporting goods and materials from one place to another over land. They typically transport materials to and from manufacturing plants and retail and distribution centres, and they work various hours of the day or night. The job can have challenges and may require drivers to spend days away from home on the road. Some deliver goods to the same places daily, while others deliver goods to different places. Every day lorry driver duties can include:
driving long distances to deliver goods to customers
loading and unloading cargo
obeying traffic laws
communicating with a dispatcher while on the road
performing basic lorry maintenance
inspecting the vehicle
planning routes using maps and GPS
following accident procedures
How to become a lorry driver
When learning how to become a lorry driver, the qualifications required may vary depending on your location. You can follow the steps below to learn how to become one:
1. Meet the minimum requirements
Driving schools may set out qualifications for you to meet before joining them. These can include a minimum age and legal eyesight standards. The legal driving age may vary depending on your location, so it can be helpful to research the age limit in your area. Most hiring managers ask you to present a high school diploma, but some may waive this requirement depending on your experience and certifications.
2. Apply for a provisional driving licence
Once you've attained the minimum requirements, you can work towards obtaining a driving licence. You can start by looking for a driving school that's conveniently located for you and within your budget. Consider applying for a provisional driving licence, which allows you to drive on all roads with supervision. You can apply for your provisional online or physically at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) offices. They may require you to share your basic identity details, contact information and addresses for the past three years.
3. Learn how to drive
You can choose a friend or a family member to be your supervisor if they're aged 21 years or older and have the qualification to drive the type of car you want to learn in and own a full driver's licence. Alternatively, you can find a driving instructor approved by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). You can drive on motorways with a DVSA-approved instructor if their car has dual controls. Learning how to drive also entails studying traffic laws and learning how to interpret road signs.
4. Pass your driving test
After sufficient training and practice, you can consider taking a driving test so you can get your licence. The test includes theoretical and practical parts. The theoretical aspect tests your knowledge of traffic laws and road signs. The practical component involves getting into a car with an examiner and demonstrating your driving skills. You can book the test online and follow the instructions on how to take it.
5. Apply for your full driving licence
You can apply for your full driving licence once you've passed your practical driving test. The examiner can send your provisional driving licence and your driving test pass certificate to the DVLA for them to process your licence. Send your driving test pass certificate and documents to the DVLA within two years of receiving them to avoid retaking the test.
6. Get a lorry driving certificate
A Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) is a set of standards developed to ensure that all professional lorry drivers are competent and adhere to their ongoing training and education. A Driver CPC can allow you to use a lorry for commercial purposes and pursue lucrative opportunities. To qualify for a Driver CPC, the licensing agency may require you to pass four tests to judge your capabilities. These tests may include a theoretical assessment, case study, driving ability assessment and practical demonstration. Consider completing a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) training course to help you get a CPC.
7. Prepare application materials
The application materials you may require often include a CV and cover letter. You can use these documents to highlight your skills, qualifications and work experience. Consider researching the job description to understand what the hiring manager wants in an ideal candidate. This can allow you to prepare documents that apply to the company's requirements, which may impress the hiring manager.
8. Apply for jobs
After passing all your exams and receiving the documentation, you can start applying for jobs. Many lorry driving schools include job placement programmes that connect you with transportation companies. Consider researching companies to understand what they want, including examining any job descriptions and the products they transport. You can also review job advertisements online or directly reach out to companies to enquire about job vacancies.
9. Complete your job orientation
A potential employer may invite you to a lorry driving orientation when considering you for a job. This orientation is a type of pre-interview that many companies use during a driver recruitment process. The orientation typically allows you to meet your employer and find out about the company and the job description. It may include learning the company policies, your salary and other employment benefits. Orientation usually takes a few days and some employers may put you through a medical examination during this process.
10. Pass the company's road test
The company may require you to pass its driving exam at the end of the training period. The exam is usually a road test in which you're in the lorry with an examiner who assesses your driving skills and obedience to traffic laws. After passing this test, you may get a lorry assigned to you and can begin working.
Lorry driver skills
If becoming a lorry driver interests you, consider developing the following skills:
A lorry driver often has deadlines to meet when delivering goods and materials to customers. Managing your time and prioritising your tasks can help you complete your job in good time. This may involve considering traffic, accidents and other road conditions that could delay you.
Road conditions and traffic are vulnerable to sudden changes and critical thinking abilities can help you overcome such challenges. Sometimes an accident on the road may require you to use a different route to reach your destination in time. Critical thinking skills can help you efficiently adapt your plans and select an alternative route.
Good communication can help build trust between yourself and your clients. While on the road, you can communicate with the dispatcher or your clients to provide updates on the journey and time estimates. Depending on the setting, it's often best to use professional language when conveying your messages.
Lorry drivers often make trips to areas around the country in which they're not familiar. Navigation skills can help you read maps and interpret navigation systems, such as GPS, to help you find your way. Learning basic compass and map skills, practising estimating distances and experience can help you develop your navigation skills. You could also consider gaining basic computer literacy to help you operate navigation software and applications.
The work environment of a lorry driver
Lorry drivers typically work inside an enclosed vehicle while driving and outside when loading and unloading cargo. Depending on the goods you're transporting, it may be essential to wear protective attire when handling consignments to protect you from contaminants. Lorry drivers may sometimes drive for long hours, spending days and sometimes weeks, away from home and their families. Many employers allow their drivers some time off between trips to enable them to spend time with their families.
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