How to become a tipper driver step by step (With skills)

Updated 6 October 2023

Construction sites and heavy industries use significant resources and produce waste products that are challenging to transport in conventional vehicles. Tipper drivers are professionals these industries employ to move material using specialist heavy goods vehicles, for which they need a special licence. Learning more about the role of a tipper drive can help you determine if you are suitable for this role. In this article, we explain how to become a tipper driver, review what a tipper driver is, explore the role's primary responsibilities and discover their essential skills.

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What is a tipper driver?

A tipper driver is a Class 2 HGV driver who collects loads, transports them between sites and delivers loads to waste sites. These loads usually comprise materials that sites require for construction and waste products such as rubble, rocks, sand, wood, refuse and heavy equipment. Drivers may travel with empty, partial and full loads alongside other heavy vehicles, so it's important that they are confident and proficient drivers. Tipper drivers work in many industries such as construction, mining, manufacturing and logistics.

Related: What are Class 1 drivers? (With FAQs)

How to become a tipper driver

Here's a list of of steps you can take if you are interested in learning how to become a tipper driver:

1. Get an apprenticeship

While an apprenticeship isn't always necessary for finding work as a tipper driver, it's a useful way of getting into appropriate industries and learning on the job. You can get a specific large goods vehicle (LGV) driver C and E intermediate apprenticeship that can lead directly to gaining experience and certification for tipper driver jobs. If you find joining the Armed Forces attractive, another common route is to take an Armed Forces apprenticeship role for drivers, which includes heavy goods vehicle certification. An intermediate apprenticeship usually requires GCSE qualifications in maths and English.

Related: Q&A: What is an intermediate apprenticeship?

2. Get your driver's licence and HGV licences

Either as part of your apprenticeship or externally, a further requirement for tipper drivers is to earn a full car driver's licence and a Class 2 HGV licence. After getting your car driver's licence, you can obtain a form from the DVLA to apply for a provisional Class 2 HGV driver's licence. To achieve the full HGV licence, you complete a theory test, hazard perception test, a driving test, and a practical demonstration with an accredited centre. When you pass these tests, you can acquire your digital tachograph card, allowing you to work as a tipper driver.

Related: What is a Class C licence and how to qualify for one

3. Get experience

Once you have the qualifications and appropriate licences, you can build experience for HGV work. Your apprenticeship already provides some practical experience, and some employers may support you in training for your HGV licence with a tipper driver placement available once you complete your apprenticeship. If you're looking to apply to a company other than your apprenticeship employer, gaining some job site or work experience in HGV driving may be beneficial for securing jobs. For example, you can gain relevant experience in driving, construction or logistics to help you later move to tipper driver roles when they become available.

Related: How to write a driver CV: a step-by-step guide

4. Apply for tipper driver roles

When you are fully qualified and have experience, you can apply for tipper driver roles. Unlike in other industries and lines of work, you are unlikely to start on a provisional or assistant basis due to the high demand for tipper drivers and the practical nature of job sites. Site managers are likely to require you to take up your driving role as soon as possible, although you may start with a training or probationary period while you learn the site's procedures.

Memorising regular routes, observing the protocols of the site and becoming familiar with the site team are beneficial for demonstrating your proficiency in the role.

Related: 10 of the best-paid driving jobs (with duties and salaries)

What are the primary duties of a tipper driver?

Tipper drivers drive heavy goods vehicles and help around the site with standard tasks and administrative duties. Here are some examples of the main responsibilities of tipper drivers:

  • Driving vehicles: The main duty of a tipper driver is to drive vehicles both around work sites and between work sites and waste management centres. This can involve long drives along public roads and short drives around crowded sites, so tipper drivers are proficient in driving professionally in different environments.

  • Loading and unloading: Tipper drivers load and unload their vehicles with material either alone or with the help of other team members. It's important to ensure that the vehicle only carries as much material as is safe for transport and unloads it safely without causing damage to people or their surroundings.

  • Parking and positioning: Tippers and other HGVs are vehicles with large turning circles that require a lot of room, so parking them safely and responsibly is an important skill. Heavy goods vehicles are often highly valuable, so tipper drivers are responsible for securely locking their vehicles and parking them in safe zones.

  • Identifying hazards: There can be many hazards on a work site that can damage the vehicles or that the tipper lorry can damage during transit. Identifying these hazards in advance and managing them when driving on a site is the responsibility of the tipper driver, as they may be accountable for the damage.

  • Inspecting and maintaining vehicles: Frequent use of vehicles causes regular wear and tear, which drivers log and report so that the company can arrange a maintenance schedule. Drivers sometimes replace parts and perform maintenance on their vehicles themselves in the absence of mechanics, especially if the tipper is a hire or part of a small fleet.

  • Planning routes: Drivers plan the best routes to and from sites to save fuel, avoid obstacles such as bridges and use the safest roads. They also monitor traffic to avoid busy roads and choose routes carefully to avoid urban centres, footpaths and other terrains that might be challenging for large vehicles.

  • Maintaining log books: Tipper drivers maintain a vehicle log book of journeys to keep accurate records of where the equipment has been and for how long. This is essential for recovering lost loads or other investigations into any matters involving the HGV.

Related: How much does a lorry driver make? (With different types)

What skills are useful for tipper drivers?

The skill set of a tipper driver enables them to drive safely, perceive hazards and respond to emergencies quickly to minimise damage. Here are some essential skills that help tipper drivers in their work roles:

  • Hazard perception: One of the most important attributes of a tipper driver is their ability to perceive hazards and avoid them. This applies both while on the road transporting loads and on a work site, being aware of personnel, stray equipment and mechanical failures.

  • Critical thinking: Tipper drivers think critically about the routes they plan, the materials they load, and the condition of their vehicle to ensure their working day goes smoothly. For example, if a client or supervisor makes an unrealistic or unsafe demand, it's the tipper driver's responsibility to promote safety in this situation and discuss the issue to facilitate a safe outcome.

  • Calm under pressure: Mechanical issues, spills and other accidents can occur in logistics work, so it's important that the tipper driver remains calm under pressure and responds quickly. De-escalating the situation and responding to ensure everyone's safety is more important than prioritising the process to fix the issue.

  • Mechanical knowledge: Some working knowledge of basic mechanics can allow tipper drivers to respond immediately to road and work site issues rather than relying on service mechanics. Basic engineering knowledge can help you fix issues on a vehicle or use tippers to solve problems before they cause an accident.

  • Communication skills: As construction and similar work sites can be noisy and tradespeople communicate loudly and instinctively, good verbal and non-verbal communication skills are important when working with others on the site. Drivers learn to respond quickly to verbal and non-verbal cues and effectively communicate when working with others to fix issues, load tippers and balance objects.

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