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What's it really like?

Steven Beech is a 44 year old man who has been a distribution driver for over 22 years. He shares with us the ups and downs of his job.

Driver


I started this job 22 years ago, but before doing this I was in the army.

My job on a daily basis is to deliver and collect goods from businesses for my company. I work long hours and often start very early in the morning around 5am.

What I really like about this job is the freedom I have being on the road, there is no one there to tell me what to do and so I get to be my own boss, which I love.

However, there are downsides to this job. I am often asked to work unsociable hours and this can be quite tiring. You are also likely to be stuck in traffic jams every day which I find frustrating.

The advice that I would give to someone who is thinking of doing this job is to try it, but keep other job options available as the career may not be suitable for you due to the long and unsociable hours. Also, if you do decide to become a driver, try and drive for a well-known company because they tend to pay more and have better equipment.

After this role, I think I may try my hand at becoming a Driving instructor.

My salary is currently £22,000 a year.

Driver

Salary | Responsibilities | Qualifications and Job Requirements | Skills | Working Conditions | Experience | Employers | Career Progression

Driver

Also known as...

  • Lorry Driver
  • Distribution Driver
  • Delivery Driver

A driver is someone who drives a lorry for a company that provides a product or service. The driver transports the goods that the company provides to customers or businesses.

As a driver your job is to collect goods from your company and deliver them safely and on time to customers or clients. Drivers are expected to drive for long hours, possibly on the motorway.

What you deliver to customers and businesses varies hugely, however. You may be delivering anything from supermarket food orders to furniture.

You need to be reliable and trustworthy to be a driver, as you are likely to be working on your own and your employer is relying on you to deliver goods on time.

The working hours tend to be quite long and unsociable, therefore it may not be suitable for someone with young children etc. Weekend work is also expected, as are early morning starts. Night shifts may also be a requirement of the job.

The role is typically dominated by white males, although there are some female distribution drivers.

Salary

Full time drivers can earn anything from £11,000 to £18,000 a year, although this may increase with experience. Some large companies also offer bonuses for attendance or for meeting targets. An opportunity to earn more money through overtime and working bank holidays is also likely to be offered.


Responsibilities

As a delivery driver, you will have the following responsibilities:

  • collecting goods from a warehouse or other place of work
  • loading the vehicle to match the order of drop-off points on the delivery route
  • planning the route you will take to make sure deliveries are made on time to customers or businesses
  • unloading goods at the right addresses
  • collecting signatures on delivery and giving invoices to customers or clients
  • recording mileage and fuel payments
  • updating delivery records
  • returning undelivered items back to warehouse or other storage point

Qualifications and Job Requirements

Drivers need a full, clean, valid driving licence.

Drivers also need good basic ability in English and Maths.

It is also an advantage to the applicant to have the NVQs Carry and Deliver Goods at Level 2, and Driving Goods Vehicles Levels 2 and 3.

The weight and size of the van you can drive also depends on your driving qualifications. The law states that if you passed your car test after 1st January 1997, you can only drive vans that carry less than 3.5 tonnes.

If you wish to drive vehicles that carry between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, you need to pass the LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) medical, theory and practical tests to gain your C1 category licence. Employers may pay for you to train for and take this test, but if not, you can train for it privately at a specialist driving school.

If you want to drive even larger vehicles still, you need to pass further practical tests for categories C and C+E licences (large vehicles and trailers).

However, if you passed your car test before 1 January 1997, you are automatically entitled to the C1 licence and are able to drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.

Age is also an important factor on what lorry or van you can drive. The minimum age for driving small vehicles is 17, but for driving vans that require a C1 licence it is 18. For C and C+E licences, the age restriction is even higher, at 21.

There is, however, a Young Drivers Scheme which has been set up for people aged 16 to 21 by Skills for Logistics. This scheme funds employers so that they can provide a structured training programme for employees to allow them to gain an LGV licence early. However, due to insurance purposes, employers still tend to favour applicants over the age of 21.


Skills

Drivers need to demonstrate excellent driving skills and road safety awareness, especially if they are driving large trucks and are likely to drive on motorways often.

They also need good communication skills as they will be meeting customers and businesses on a daily basis.

Written communication skills are also required as drivers have to fill in paperwork such as record sheets and invoices.

An ability to stay calm under pressure and be patient is also paramount, as employees may have to make late deliveries due to traffic jams and road accidents.

An ability to enjoy driving for long hours and a good knowledge of the roads in the delivery areas are essential.

Finally, an ability to stay alert at all times of the day is needed, as drivers work on their own most of the time and therefore need to concentrate. A good attitude towards other road users is also needed.


Working Conditions

Working conditions may be dangerous as employees may be expected to lift and collect heavy goods.

Drivers are also likely to be expected to drive on motorways for long periods of time which can be quite hazardous.

Drivers are expected to work in all weather conditions, including snow and icy conditions, therefore they need to be alert and careful at all times.

Hours of work are likely to be between 40 and 48 hours a week.


Experience

Usually employers ask for one year’s experience of being a delivery driver or similar.

However, if you have no delivery driving experience, but have a full clean driving licence, you may be able to get the job through an Apprenticeship scheme with a local delivery company.

Training on the job is also provided, and training is most likely to include filling out paperwork and forms, the company’s rules and the type of goods they provide, as well as the common routes where deliveries are made, which is supervised by an experienced driver.


Employers

Major employers in this sector of work are mostly large companies like supermarkets such as Tesco’s or Morrison’s, which provide online shopping to their customers. Courier services for clothes retailers are also in demand, as are drivers for manufacturing companies.


Career Progression

From this job role, you may be able to apply to more well known companies that pay more. You may also be able to apply for supervisory or management jobs, or apply to train others starting the job.

Also, by taking further driving tests, such as the C+E category test, you could drive large goods vehicles for a haulage or distribution company.

You could also go into other jobs that involve lots of large vehicle driving, such as a bus or coach driver which may pay more. Alternatively, you could apply to become a driving instructor.