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Driving an HGV in London: What You Need to Know

8 November 2022

Regardless of where you drive an HGV, you need to be armed with as much knowledge as possible. Having said that, it’s worth remembering that operating a heavy goods vehicle in London is quite different to driving anywhere else in the UK. It comes with its own set of unique circumstances, challenges, and various rules and regulations.

In this article, with the help of Steve Dethick, National Sales and Training Manager at Driver Hire, we’ve compiled together everything HGV drivers and transport managers need to know about driving in London.

Driving in London: Challenges


Congestion in London will be unlike any other road traffic you’ll experience as an HGV driver. You can often expect it to be far more severe than congestion elsewhere in the UK. In fact, Steve has researched the issue of congestion for a city driving seminar and his findings revealed:

“…drivers who drive in London a lot can waste up to about 140 hours per year just by sitting in traffic. And when you consider the average speed across London is only 10 miles an hour, you can understand why you lose so much time.”

With this in mind, it’s important for HGV drivers to factor additional time in for their deliveries in comparison to deliveries in other UK cities. Steve echoes this and how the planning of a journey in London is crucial for HGV drivers with strict delivery deadlines:

“…the time of a journey is so important, and a lot of HGV drivers have time-restricted deliveries and that could be a time slot at a shop or a distribution centre… otherwise they miss their offloading slot.”

As well as time constraints for deliveries at shops or distribution centres, Steve told us how factoring in extra time becomes even more important when delivering perishable goods:

“…the longer they’re in the back of a truck, the more chance there is of the goods going off and going rotten. And so, the planning of the journey is an essential part of driving in London.”

The congestion charge is also something that needs to be considered, as it’s contingent on the type of vehicle being driven as well as the emissions it produces. Of course, you only pay if you’re planning to drive your vehicle in the zone.

There is a silver lining, however, when it comes to congestion in London – you’re less likely to be involved in a high-speed collision with another vehicle, for instance. Though, you will find it trickier to find a place to stop for your break due to the number of vehicles parked on the road. If you’re due a break whilst you’re in central London you may find a safe roadside location, but it makes sense to plan your main daily break outside the city centre. Apps such as intruck can help you do this. It holds information on thousands of truck stops across the UK and Europe, including information on their opening times, contact and address details, on-site facilities and the number of spaces available in real-time.

Information overload

Awareness is important as an HGV driver, regardless of what city you’re driving in, but especially so in London. HGV drivers need to be extra vigilant. There are so many signs, cyclists, pedestrians, traffic lights and other road users, in London that there’s a danger for HGV drivers to tend to just focus on the vehicle in front and fail to see important elements within their peripheral vision.

Steve refers to this as “information overload” but tells us there is a silver lining that drivers must always utilise:

“…the saving grace is that because the average speed is only 10 miles an hour, you’ve normally got a bit of time to think and a bit of time to observe, since things don’t rush at you at great speed.”

Driving in London: Safety Considerations


 In London, you will see a lot of cyclists; more than in many other cities in the UK. The city has plenty of infrastructure in place for bicycles, but still, HGVs do pose a significant risk to cyclists in London. In 2019, 203 collisions took place between HGVs and cyclists:

  • 12 cyclists were killed
  • 65 were seriously injured
  • 127 injured

Therefore, it’s vital that HGV drivers are mindful and aware of cyclists when driving in the city. Driver Hire Training’s Safe Urban Driving course is an ideal way to prepare drivers for these specific challenges.

Steve also highlighted changes to the Highway Code earlier this year:

“…it kind of put a hierarchy of road users in place…in this case it’s HGV drivers that have a greater degree of responsibility for the safety of other vulnerable road users. So, in the event of an altercation between a lorry and a cyclist, for example, a lot of emphasis would be on what did the lorry driver do in this situation to try and decrease the risk of this happening.”

 Steve also told us what this means for HGV drivers:

“…what it means to the driver is that they have to have a much greater level of awareness. I mean it should be very high anyway, but they need to be aware of the vulnerable road users. And the changes in the Highway Code means that before a lorry driver turns left, for example, they need to be fully aware of anything coming down the left-hand side of their vehicle, like a cyclist.”

Of course, there will be situations out of the HGV driver’s hands and where they possibly couldn’t have done anything to prevent an accident from happening. In these circumstances, Steve discussed how dashcams can be particularly useful:

“…having that camera footage can protect the driver. Say, for example, there was nothing the driver could have done, a cyclist or pedestrian came out of the blue and just ran straight out in front of them… that sort of camera technology is fantastic…it doesn’t really prevent collisions from happening, but it can help prove fault.”

Driving in London: Things to be Aware of

Vehicle dimension limits

The roads in London have their fair share of restrictions that impact HGVs much more than they impact any other type of vehicle. You’ll find weight limits, height limits and width limits on many of the roads. London itself has a 7.5 tonnes gross weight limit on all the roads in its central areas.

Steve told us that height and weight are the key limitations around London, and he also gave us examples of where HGV drivers would find these:

“A lot of bridges have some sort of weight limit on them…. if you’re going over the Thames, you may well have a weight limit of 10 tonnes or less. So, drivers have to be aware of the limitations there. And the same with width restrictions… Tower Bridge in London has a width restriction on it so it wouldn’t be used by the largest of trucks…and there are also height restrictions going under railway bridges for example.”

Pollution charges

Like the congestion charge, you may also need to pay a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) (HGVs only pay this charge if they don’t meet LEZ requirements). But this is only if you’re going to be driving your vehicle in these zones. The LEZ covers most of London and anything inside the M25 whilst the ULEZ emission zone covers central London. Both these schemes aim to reduce the impact of exhaust gas emissions from diesel-fueled vehicles – you need to either meet the emissions requirements or pay a daily charge. For HGVs and lorries, the LEZ charge is generally around £100 a day. Most fleet managers will already have everything in place to deal with these charges, but it’s useful for HGV drivers to be aware of them regardless.

Steve told us there are also measures in places to monitor the LEZ and ULEZ zones:

There are emissions monitoring cameras, and they tie that in with the ANPR, the automatic number plate recognition systems. They will work out whether a vehicle has been registered as a low emission or low polluting vehicle. And if it complies, it can carry on its journey. But if it doesn’t, that’s when the fines can be issued automatically…it is monitored 24/7, 365 days a year.”

London Lorry Control Scheme

The London Lorry Control Scheme involves a set of measures that have been put in place to prevent HGVs weighing over 18 tonnes from causing issues in residential areas, and limiting noise and air pollution. The scheme limits the movement of HGVs over 18 tonnes during the evenings and weekends.

  • Evenings (Monday to Friday) – 9pm to 7am
  • Weekends (Saturday to Monday) – 1pm to 7am

 There will be some roads in London that will be completely off limits to HGVs during these times. You can view a map showing excluded road networks and restricted routes so you can plan your delivery routes accordingly before driving in London.

Steve told us there can be some exceptions when it comes to the London Lorry Control Scheme:

…the drivers can be granted access to certain areas that fall within that scheme, but they do have to submit an application beforehand that has to be granted before they can enter.”

Direct Vision Standard and HGV Safety Permit

Introduced in March 2021, the Direct Vision Standard and HGV safety permit aim to address challenges that impact road safety in London. The Direct Vision Standard regulates how much of the road a driver can see through their window, whilst the HGV safety permit is required by all HGVs weighing over 12 tonnes when travelling through central London.

It’s free to apply for the HGV safety permit. Make sure to double-check whether you require one before you plan to drive in London, as the penalties can be costly.

Driving in London: How can Driver Hire Help?

At Driver Hire Training, we offer an extensive range of training for HGV drivers. And what we look for with any sort of training that we do is to improve safety and reduce road risk. FORS training is just one of many, and it’s valuable when it comes to helping fleets for several reasons:

  • Drives continued professional development
  • Builds on professional knowledge
  • Builds competence
  • Widens skill set
  • Improves effectiveness within role
  • Helps to ensure compliance with local regulations

Steve explained to us the importance of being FORS accredited:

“…everything we deliver is all about trying to improve the efficiencies of fleets. And this is where FORS ties in quite nicely because any organisation that is FORS accredited has shown their commitment to monitoring vehicles, drivers, operational practices and the management of that fleet as well.”

As a FORS approved training provider, we provide a comprehensive package of training courses for both transport managers and HGV drivers (all are approved by the FORS Governance and Standards body). As discussed earlier, driving in London has specific challenges such as increased vehicle pollution due to the amount of congestion, as well as an increased number of vulnerable road users due to the urban landscape. And if you’re planning to drive your HGV in London, FORS training will be invaluable. Courses such as our Congested City Driving and Safe Urban Driving will arm HGV drivers with as much knowledge as possible, to help mitigate these challenges.

Steve continued to tell us how organisations will look for FORS accreditation in transport and logistics companies, particularly if they’re looking to operate in the London area:

“…they know that various policies will already be in place to help monitor the impact on air quality and noise pollution, two big ones in and around the London area…but also fuel use of emissions as well as safety of the drivers and other road users, particularly the vulnerable road users.”

Safe Urban Driving course

There are no specific courses that HGV drivers must complete by law to be able to drive in London. But there are voluntary courses that drivers are encouraged to do as best practice – one being the Safe Urban Driving course which we touched on above in the FORS package.

Steve explained to us what the Safe Urban Driving course involves and why it’s so beneficial when it comes to vulnerable road users:

“…it’s basically a two-part course. There’s a theory and a practical element to the course…it’s basically to get the drivers thinking about a cyclist’s point of view…it’s really to give the drivers a much better awareness of the challenges that might face cyclists and the blind spots that cyclists can hide in.”

 Whilst London has several challenges, restrictions, and considerations to be aware of as an HGV driver, there are still plenty of fantastic opportunities available for those who equip themselves well. All you need to is make sure you’re well versed with everything these is to know about driving an HGV in London. And Driver Hire Training can also support you with this, giving you the confidence you need to tackle driving in any environment, including London’s complex roads.

 If you’d like to talk to us about how we can support you and prepare you for driving your HGV in London, call us on 0808 178 9977 or chat to one of our agents right now.