Truck Driver Job Description - Skills, Responsibilities and Career
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What Does a Truck Driver Do?
A truck driver (also known as a lorry driver or HGV driver) is a person who drives trucks and other heavy goods vehicles (e.g. curtain-sided semi-trailers, LHVs, tankers, articulated trucks) for a living. Truck drivers transport goods by road for national and international hauliers, freight forwarders, express couriers and transport companies. The job is typically done by men, but there are also a growing number of female truck drivers.
Truck drivers supervise the loading of goods onto their vehicle to ensure it is carried out correctly, and in some cases may assist with the process. Once all the goods or pallets have been loaded, a truck driver can set off for his or her destination.
For safety reasons, truck drivers are required to take regular breaks from driving. A typical working day will therefore consist of time at the wheel, broken up by a series of mandatory stops, normally made at roadside services, cafes or restaurants, to eat, use the bathroom facilities, wash, rest, have a stretch and chat with fellow drivers. Truck drivers may not legally drive for more than a certain number of hours per day. To help enforce this law, it is mandatory for HGVs to be fitted with a device called a tachograph, which records driving times and rest periods, speed and distance travelled. In addition, to ensure greater safety on roads and motorways, truck drivers are banned from overtaking almost everywhere and are obliged to observe specific speed limits.
Once they have arrived at the final destination, a truck driver will position their vehicle for unloading, pull back the side curtains and/or open the end doors, deploy the ramp or tail lift and supervise the goods unloading operations.
The work assignments carried out by truck drivers can vary in distance, from short to very long. It is not uncommon for a driver to cover hundreds and even thousands of kilometres to complete a job, crossing several states, regions or countries in the process. Routes and schedules are planned in advance to ensure that goods are delivered on time. Planning takes into account a range of variables, including traffic intensity and congestion, accidents, breakdowns, as well as the maximum allowed consecutive number of driver hours, while for international deliveries, customs checks at borders need to be factored in, too. Despite this, truck drivers will typically know what time they will be leaving on an assignment, but not what time they will be getting back.
For drivers who carry out short haul work in their own area of residence, the disruption caused by these variables is likely to be minimal and they are usually able to return home for the night. International truck drivers, on the other hand, are frequently required to sleep in their vehicle at a service or rest area and be away from their families for days or weeks at a time.
A truck driver may be an employee of a transport or haulage company or, alternatively, work as a self-employed owner-driver. Truck drivers transport a vast variety of goods, including industrial products, building materials, consumer goods, perishable food products that require refrigerated transport, cars, animals, fuels etc.
A truck driver’s salary will vary significantly based on experience, the size of the transport firm he or or she is employed by and contract type.
Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of a truck driver include:
- Supervising loading of goods onto truck
- Checking condition of goods and preparing transport documents
- Planning transport operations (route, delivery schedule)
- Checking the vehicle is in good, safe working order before setting off
- Transporting goods to their final destination
- Checking fuel and oil levels, oil filters and tyres
- Supervising unloading and delivery operations
Additional duties of a truck driver include cleaning and washing the vehicle, refueling and ordinary maintenance (such as replacing worn tyres and checking the correct functioning of all relevant equipment).
How to Become a Truck Driver: Training and Requirements
An essential requirement to become a truck driver is to hold a driving license that entitles the holder to drive heavy goods vehicles. Aspiring truck drivers can acquire the relevant license by taking driving lessons at an accredited driving school and then passing a driving test.
It is very important for truck drivers to have a thorough understanding of and to observe the regulations set out in the highway code or rules of the road, as well as an awareness of the weight and size regulations applying to their vehicle. In addition, while there is no formal requirement for truck drivers to possess the expertise of a professional mechanic, having some basic mechanical knowledge may help them identify the cause of a breakdown or other fault and decide the best course of action to take in order to ensure they can complete their assignment safely and on time.
Truck drivers who carry out assignments involving the transport of dangerous goods need a special license and are required to observe a series of specific regulations.
Job advertisements often require drivers to have previous experience of HGV driving, the use of tachographs and goods loading and unloading using mechanical handling equipment (e.g. forklift trucks).
Truck Driver Skills
A truck driver needs to have the following skills:
- Ability to drive safely
- High level of concentration and rapid reflexes
- Strong sense of orientation
- Problem-solving skills (i.e. dealing with accidents and unforeseen issues)
- Organizational and time-management skills
- Patience and resistance to stress
Truck Driver Career Path
Transporting goods by truck for a living is an extremely demanding job, requiring determination, dedication and a willingness to put in long hours at the wheel. Although career advancements are not easily come by, drivers who have shown themselves to be careful, reliable and punctual are sought after by the major transport and logistics firms, who offer higher salaries and better contractual conditions.
Top Reasons to Work as a Truck Driver
Aspiring truck drivers are often motivated by a real passion for the world of trucks and trucking and a fascination with the idea of “life on the road” - and in fact these behemoths of the highway, with their custom graphics, decals and show plates, are often treated by their owners as a genuine “home-from-home on wheels”.
The profession of truck driver offers no shortage of attractions, not least of which is the absence of a supervisor - meaning drivers are free to decide - within certain limits - the conditions in which they work.
Finally, drivers working for an international company can enjoy the added attraction of foreign travel to a variety of destinations.