Experienced commercial drivers will have accumulated a collection of essential items in their cab over time. This knowledge is invaluable for new truckers as knowing what to take on the road with you isn’t always as straightforward when you’re just starting out. Whilst the journey is important, so are those extra must-have items that will make all the difference.
With a wealth of service stations across the UK, you’d be inclined to believe that you’re never too far from something you may need. However, as an HGV driver, it’s essential to be prepared for any contingency. With long-haul drives and overnight stays being a high possibility in the line of work, knowing you have everything at hand, and enjoying some home comforts brings peace of mind.
The ideal go-to bag will have a masterfully packed mixture of essential items, emergency items, comfort items and nice to have items.
Using GOV data reporting 52,000 vacancies for posts in transport and storage in the three months ending September 2021, with demand for new drivers in 2022, we’ve created a list of the must-have essentials, to help newbies build their own personal bag, and refresh experienced drivers’ existing bags.
Your go-to bag should be portable, reliable, durable and spacious. And picking the right bag often comes down to the size most suitable for your job requirements – this will be contingent on how long you spend out on the road. Are you a long-distance driver who will need a few sets of clothing on route with them? Or are you a short-haul driver where additional clothing won’t be one of your main considerations?
Backpacks are usually measured in litres – for example 30L, 45L, 50L etc. However, keep in mind that many retailers often measure volume differently as bags can come in various shapes and configurations. Therefore, you shouldn’t decide on size based on litres alone. As a general rule of thumb – a truckers go-to bag should ideally be 30L or above to allow enough of space for all lorry driver essentials. Bags over 50L will of course be incredibly spacious, however, these can become difficult to carry around. Unless you’re going to be doing long-haul journeys, opt for a bag between 30L and 50L.
Our best picks include:
Depending on your personal preference, you’ll need to use Google Maps/any other Maps application on your smartphone, or a Sat Nav to navigate your journeys safely and on-time. However, there may be times where your smartphone or Sat Nav may stop working unexpectedly. For instance, you may be driving in an area with bad network connection and therefore your smartphone won’t be able to connect to data, or your Sat Nav may malfunction at random. For this reason, it’s essential that you also carry a paper A-Z Road Atlas in your cab with you – just in case the tech lets you down. Not only that, but they’re also good for checking out a route ahead of your trip.
If you’re looking for specific GPS apps – CoPilot (Apple Free, Android Free) is a fantastic option which can be trialled for free for 14 days. Unlike standard GPS navigation applications, this app understands and acknowledges that you’re driving an HGV. The routes utilised by the app assists drivers in avoiding truck-restricted or prohibited roads by automatically calculating the best routes most suitable for your vehicle’s size, weight, width and even load type. In addition to this, the app also works offline which means you’ll always be on the right route even if your network connection is weak. However, whilst you’re connected to mobile data, the app will also show live traffic for the route you’re on.
There’s nothing more important than staying hydrated whilst on the road. As a commercial driver, you’ll be taking your regular rest and breaks in any case, but of course you’ll need to take a drink between stops. So do take your own refillable water jug or flask. You’ll save money by replenishing it when possible, and it’ll keep your cab clear of dozens of empty plastic bottles!
You may choose to stop at a service station or truck stop for some of your main meals. However, the locations may not always be convenient, and besides, you can save money by having some of your favourites lined up before you set off. Therefore, make sure to pack your cab with a sufficient amount of food and snacks to eat whilst on the job. Try and avoid junk food and go for healthier options to maintain your energy such as:
Above all – safety is key. We’d recommend minimising your time on the phone as much as possible, since even a hands-free call can be distracting. But there may be times when you need to make a call, so in order to avoid fines, and maintain your own and other road users’ safety, ensure you have a totally hands-free, Bluetooth setup for your phone. If the vehicle doesn’t have a fully integrated system, make sure you have a fixed holder for your device.
When on the road, you’ll want to look after your personal hygiene – particularly on overnight journeys or long-haul trips. Whilst there are many wash and shower stations across the UK for HGV drivers, they don’t always provide everything you may need, so taking a shower bag or caddy is still advised. You should include the following:
Having these toiletries at hand means you’ll always be prepared for situations where they may not be available on your rest breaks or stops.
As we’re now living with Covid-19, hygiene has never been more important. Therefore, to help reduce the spread of the virus and ensure safety whilst on the road, make sure to pack plenty of face masks, disposable gloves and bottle of hand sanitiser too.
You never know when you may need to get out of your HGV at night to check the engine or tyres, signal for help or even just light up your cab to read more comfortably. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to carry a torch in case of an emergency. Consider a rechargeable multifunctional torch, or you can also opt for something a little smaller if you prefer.
Your cab will most likely have a first aid kit in it. However, it’s good practice to take your own first aid kit, and if it doesn’t contain the following, make sure to add them in:
Remember – if you have allergies, are insulin reliant or require lifesaving medications – make sure this information is clearly visible inside your cab/or on you so emergency services are aware should an unforeseen situation occur. Consider a medic-alert bracelet – a popular option for storing important medical information.
Every HGV driver, no matter how often or the distance they drive, will require a tool kit for unforeseen situations that may arise. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing what to do but not having the right tool for the job at that moment. Your basic toolkit could include:
All HGV drivers will most likely experience a vehicle breakdown at some point. Therefore, it’s essential to have the right road safety gear with you at all times to keep yourself and other road users safe, as well as be prepared any unforeseen circumstances. Make sure to pack the following:
For your comfort, make sure you pack plenty of clothing – and more than you’ll think you need – just in case you don’t come across any washing facilities at your truck stops. Remember – the clothes you pack should be comfortable and weather appropriate. Depending on the season, or whether you’re completing a job abroad, you’ll be spending long periods of time in your cab, so the last thing you’ll want is to be too hot or too cold. Remember – always pack some extra items for unforeseen situations e.g. if you get caught in heavy rain. And don’t forget a laundry bag for your dirty clothes!
Being a commercial driver means a variety of different working hours, as well as a mixture of short-haul and long-haul trips. Therefore, when working these longer hours or trips, having sources of entertainment can remind you of the comfort of home.
As all commercial drivers know, drivers’ hours are very tightly regulated, with specific requirements for rest and breaks. If you’re in need of a refresher on the rules, Driver Hire Training offers online Driver CPC training courses that cover all the details you need to know. But whether you’re on a short break, or winding down for the evening, the following can help pass the time:
Whilst your own personal hygiene is important – so is the cleanliness of your cab. For long-haul HGV drivers, your truck is practically a home away from home. Therefore, you’ll want to keep it clean, tidy and comfortable so that staying in your cab is more enjoyable. And if you’re working as an agency driver, you need to bear in mind the driver who uses the vehicle after you. So, consider taking along the following:
Any experienced HGV driver will tell you how crucial it is to have a warm pair of gloves whilst on the road. Not only are they practical but they’re handy for the colder months too! Always make sure to have safety gloves (PPE) in your cab as well, to keep your hands protected whilst working on your truck, adjusting loads or when having to touch something dirty.
Packing your bag effectively comes down to organisation and creating easy access to items without having to fumble about endlessly trying to find things. For this reason – packing cubes can be a game changer. This handy product allows you to pack all of your lorry driver essentials into individual cubes to increase the space available in your bag by utilising it wisely.
An insulated lunch bag or small to medium sized cooler can make life on the road easier – especially on long-haul journeys. With these nice to have items, whether you stop for food or bring your own, you’ll always have a place to keep it cool. This may even help you to eat healthier and stay fit as you can store snacks such as vegetables and fruit. You may even want to consider purchasing a plug-in mini fridge.
If you’re going to be doing jobs that require overnight stays, you may want to think about investing in portable cooking appliances such as a:
With these types of portable appliances, you’ll be able to maintain home comforts – making meals on overnight jobs or have a well-deserved cup of tea on rest breaks.
According to Men’s Health, even just 15 minutes of exercise each day can help HGV drivers to combat inactivity that can lead to chronic illness. For instance, pack a skipping rope, resistance bands and a small set of weights, and use these for a 15-minute high-intensity workout.
A good night’s sleep is essential for HGV drivers, particularly those doing long-haul trips. With this in mind, exercising on a daily basis can also assist in encouraging good sleeping habits.
Remember – your cab is your home away from home, and you have the power to make it feel like one with a little forward-planning. So, go ahead and make life on the road easier, safer and more comfortable with all the truck driver essentials listed above.
Data was sourced using GOV data on the number of HGV drivers who joined the logistics industry in 2021 to provide:
Data from both sources allowed us to not only offer insight to new HGV drivers building their personal bag, but to experienced HGV drivers who may need to refresh their go-to bag.