How much do HGV drivers earn? Lorry driver salary, training costs, and job market explained - amid UK shortage

With the UK’s lorry driver shortage showing no sign of abating, what does it take to become an HGV driver and what could you expect from the job?

The shortage of HGV drivers has been a key cause behind the disruption to petrol station fuel availability (image: Shutterstock)

The UK is currently in the midst of an HGV driver shortage, with tens of thousands of lorry driver jobs currently unfilled due to issues including Brexit, Covid-19 and an ageing workforce.

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According to analysis by independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact, in the year to March 2021 there were 30,000 fewer HGV drivers than there had been in the previous 12 month period.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents the industry, puts the current figure at 100,000 driver vacancies.

So, what do you need to know if you were thinking about becoming a lorry driver?

How do you get an HGV licence?

To become a lorry driver, you have to have first passed your car driving test.

Once you have a full driving licence you must then get a professional driving qualification called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

It is made up of four tests:

  • theory 
  • a case studies exam that looks at typical situations a lorry driver might face
  • driving ability, which sees candidates drive examiners around and demonstrate their ability to perform manoeuvres 
  • practical demonstration, in which candidates have to show how they would perform tasks such as safety checks and safely loading their vehicle

Drivers must also go through a medical examination.

Training up to be a lorry driver costs between £4,000 to £7,000, according to the Road Haulage Association (image: Shutterstock)

Training provider HGVT said the process typically takes in the region of eight to 10 weeks. However, the RHA suggested there is a major backlog of tests due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a typical year, the trade body said 72,000 people go through HGV driver training with around 40,000 succeeding.

But with testing halted for much of 2020, it said more than 30,000 test slots had been lost and just 15,000 drivers had managed to pass.

It means it might take longer than usual to get a test slot, although the government has attempted to speed the process up by bringing in examiners from the armed forces for a 12-week period.

The Department for Education has also pledged investment of up to £10m for free, intensive “skills bootcamps” it said would train up around 3,000 people to become HGV drivers.

Another 1,000 are to be trained through courses funded by the adult education budget.

Those training up without this government support will find a hefty price tag. The RHA has put the cost at between £4,000 to £7,000.

How much do lorry drivers earn?

If you fork out for your HGV driver training, you will be making “an investment in your future”, according to HGVT.

It’s easy to understand why, when you see what some drivers stand to earn at the moment.

The recent spate of driver shortages has pushed salaries up, with some reporting rises of as much as 40%.

Meanwhile, businesses like Tesco have offered golden handshakes to attract new workers.

While those starting out might earn as low as £19k, recruiter TotalJobs said annual salaries are currently averaging £32,500 with the top end salaries on its website sitting at £37,500.

HGVT said drivers could currently stand to rake in up to £45k.

How much a lorry driver stands to earn depends on what type of HGV they are licenced drive, what they are carrying and the distance they travel with it.

Those with Category C+E licences (otherwise known as Class 1 licences) for the largest lorries allowed on UK roads, typically earn the most.

What is working as a lorry driver like?

While the money may be attractive, the job can entail long hours.

Last month, NationalWorld’s sister title the Doncaster Free Press spoke to driver Paul Sykes who said it was routine for drivers to work 60-hour weeks.

These workers often spent much of their week living in their lorries, Mr Sykes said.

According to HGVT, while much of the job involves travelling from A to B, drivers also have to complete paperwork for the loads they’re transporting as well as carry out safety checks for their vehicles and loads.

But one perk of the job is you get to travel, with many drivers taking loads across to continental Europe.

Whether that and a higher wage will be enough to convince more people into the industry remains to be seen.

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