Driver Job Description - Requirements, Duties, Skills and Career
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What Does a Professional Driver Do?
A driver is a person whose occupation is to transport passengers or goods by motor vehicle.
The generic term “driver” encompasses a variety of transportation professions, which can be distinguished by the type of vehicle driven (e.g. light and heavy duty vehicles, such as cars, vans, lorries, motorcycles, buses, limousines, LHVs, tankers, ambulances, agricultural vehicles, heavy equipment vehicles and many others) and its function, i.e. the transport of passengers or goods.
In addition to being responsible for their vehicle, drivers transporting people have additional responsibilities connected with the presence on board of passengers, whose well-being and safety they are obliged to protect.
Bus drivers and other public transport drivers, for example, are responsible for ensuring passengers are able to board and alight from a vehicle safely at the stops provided, for providing information on routes and timetables and, in some cases, for selling and checking tickets. Drivers of public transport follow designated itineraries, with stops at precise times and locations, and are therefore required to have a thorough knowledge of the route assigned to them.
With the obvious exception of also being responsible for the safety and well-being of the passengers they transport, the above does not apply to taxi drivers, private drivers and company drivers.
When transporting goods, in addition to driving their vehicles, commercial drivers are also responsible for supervising goods loading and unloading operations and for ensuring the safe carriage of the goods from the point of departure to the point of arrival. In the logistics sector in particular, there is high demand for drivers who, in addition to goods transport and delivery using a van or lorry, are also capable of carrying out manual or forklift truck loading and unloading operations, goods handling and warehouse organization, without requiring supervision.
The ability to drive a vehicle is the number one requirement for all professional drivers. Drivers need to be capable of driving their vehicle safely and accurately, have a knowledge of its weight and dimensions and also be familiar with its workings, so that they can carry out repairs and minor maintenance tasks. In addition, drivers require a thorough knowledge of the highway code and road transport regulations. Drivers transporting special cargo, such as dangerous goods (e.g. chemical substances), perishable goods (food that needs to be transported under controlled temperature conditions), live animals or abnormal loads may need to hold specific qualifications and permits.
Regardless of the specific type of work they do, the workplace of a professional driver is the driving seat of their vehicle. Working hours, on the other hand, vary depending on the type of transport. Public transport drivers tend to have regular fixed hours, for example, while goods vehicle drivers, such as couriers and lorry drivers, have much more flexible working hours, especially long-haul drivers, who may frequently be required to make national or international journeys.
Job vacancies for drivers are mainly published by transport and haulage companies, shipping and logistics businesses, local public transport companies, private firms providing passenger transport services and businesses in the tourism sector (which may require coach, minibus and car drivers for transporting tourists). A driver may also choose to operate on a self-employed basis, for example as a taxi driver or as an owner-driver available for delivery jobs.
Professional Driver: Duties and Responsibilities
The main duties of a driver include:
- Driving safely and efficiently
- Maintaining a high level of concentration while driving
- Complying with the highway code and regulations on passenger and goods transport
- Ensuring the safety of passengers and goods
- Following the designated route and meeting delivery deadlines
How to Become a Driver - Requirements and Qualifications
The main requirement for a professional driver is to hold a driving licence. There are range of different licenses corresponding to the various categories of vehicle (e.g. car, bus, van, truck, HGV, LHV, etc.), so anybody wishing to become a driver needs to be familiar with the licensing categories and requirements. A good knowledge of roads and geography is also essential. Satellite navigation technology may have improved immensely in recent years, but being able to map out and follow a route quickly, efficiently and with minimum fuss nevertheless remains an essential skill for a driver.
In addition, some mechanical knowledge is useful for a driver to have, in case they need to carry out ordinary or extraordinary maintenance on a vehicle, or make minor repairs in an emergency situation.
Drivers working in logistics may need to hold a forklift operator license. Some transport companies, meanwhile, may require their drivers to use a tachograph - an electronic device that records the activity of goods and passenger vehicles.
Some types of freight - for example, oversize loads and chemical substances - require drivers to hold special permits. Finally, drivers of passenger vehicles may need to have a knowledge of foreign languages to enable them to communicate with international clients.
What Professional Skills Are Needed to Work as a Driver?
In addition to an appropriate driving licence, job adverts for drivers often require the following skills:
- Driving ability
- Loading and unloading skills
- Availability for long distance journeys/overnight stays
Driver Career Path
There are a variety of career paths open to a professional driver. Much depends on whether a driver specialises in passenger or goods transportation and on the licences they hold. For instance, there are licences, some of which can be very expensive to obtain, entitling drivers to provide specialist transport services, such as transporting special cargoes, or to use heavy-duty work vehicles.
Alternatively, with sufficient experience, a driver may choose to become a driving school teacher or driving instructor and teach others how to drive vehicles, such as cars, motorbikes, lorries and buses.
Top Reasons to Work as a Professional Driver
Working as a professional driver is ideal for anybody who loves to drive. But beyond a passion for driving, there are any number of circumstances or reasons that may lead somebody to embark on a career in transportation. For example, drivers of passenger vehicles tend to enjoy having contact with the public, while drivers working for public transport services may appreciate the fixed working hours. Reasons for going into haulage may include the relative freedom the job offers and the chance to travel for a living and see a variety of different locations, particularly in the case of long-haul drivers.