Working in the transport and logistics industry as an HGV driver offers a range of fantastic opportunities in a rewarding career. If you’re considering getting an HGV licence but you have diabetes, you may be asking yourself ‘can diabetics drive HGVs?’ and whether it precludes you from working in the industry.
Safety on the road is above all, and the most common risk amongst individuals with diabetes is very low blood sugar, also known as severe hypoglycaemia. However, when it comes to driving, how the condition impacts this depends on a number of factors. These include the medication you use, how well monitored your diabetes is and whether you have other health conditions or problems that could impair your ability to drive.
If you’ve been endlessly searching for answers to questions like ‘can you drive an HGV with type 1 diabetes?’ or ‘can you drive an HGV with type 2 diabetes?’ – you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll provide clarity on the situation, as well as everything you need to know about diabetes and driving, so that you know where you stand.
In order to drive heavy goods and passenger vehicles, a vocational licence is required. There are three primary vehicle categories for both goods and passenger vehicles and you will need the relevant licence to drive each type of vehicle. The categories are:
According to UK law surrounding fitness to drive, commercial drivers must be considered fit and healthy, to be able to legally drive on public roads. Therefore, the process of getting your vocational licence involves three different elements, one being an HGV medical exam:
If you’d like to learn more, we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know about taking the HGV medical examination, from what’s involved to HGV medical requirements.
Before 2011, any insulin-treated diabetics were legally not allowed to acquire a licence to drive heavy goods vehicles or buses. However, the medical treatment of diabetes has come a long way since the 2000s, thanks to advancements in blood sugar management and medication, which help prevent hypoglycaemic (hypo) attacks.
According to Diabetes UK, you can apply for an HGV licence as long as you can show that:
Remember – you can be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to tell the DVLA about a medical condition that impacts your driving. In some cases, you could even be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result of this.
By law, you’re required to inform the DVLA if you have a medical condition that could impact your driving. There are exceptions though. For example, if you’re keeping your diabetes under control by staying fit and healthy on the road through diet only, then you won’t need to tell the DVLA. But, if you’re taking medication to manage your condition, you need to inform them if the following applies to you:
If you’re a qualified commercial driver, you should stop driving and contact the DVLA as soon as you find out that you have to take insulin on a long-term basis, or if you start to develop complications. If you fail to do so, you’re breaking the law.
Below, we’ve broken down the DVLA rules for driving an HGV based on how you treat your diabetes:
In addition to this, every time you plan on driving, you need to check your blood sugars no more than two hours before you drive, and then every two hours of the journey.
With insulin, when you have your yearly licence review, you have to be able to supply 6 weeks of continuous evidence of your blood sugar readings. On the other hand, with temporary insulin and other medication that can risk hypos, you have to supply 3 months.
Diabetes can cause some external complications that may impact your ability to drive. These can include (but are not limited to) eye, nerve (neuropathy) or circulation problems. For example, changes in blood sugar management can impact vision. And since it’s a basic requirement that you’re able to read a vehicle number plate from 20 metres (with glasses or contact lenses if required), you must be able to meet this prerequisite each time you drive.
If you’re unsure whether a complication of diabetes, or another health condition, affects your diabetes, it’s always best to double check with your doctor.
Closely monitoring your condition is always advised if you’re driving an HGV. You can also take the following precautions so that you’re practicing safe driving whilst on the road:
• Take a blood sugar test around every 2 hours whilst driving
• Make sure you have treatment on hand whilst on every job in case of a hypoglycaemic attack
• Monitor your blood sugar to make sure it’s above 4 mmol/1 when driving (and check it has been for the last 45 minutes before starting a journey)
• Keep your blood glucose level above 5 mmol/l whilst driving
Whilst diabetes is a condition that needs to be monitored closely, it doesn’t have to stop you from applying for a vocational licence. You can still enjoy all the benefits of a career as an HGV driver. All that’s required is that depending on your type of treatment, you make the DVLA aware of your circumstances, and take the necessary actions to ensure you always remain in full control of your vehicle.