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HGV Driver: Your Responsibilities

17 October 2022

As an HGV driver, you will oversee the safe transportation of goods for suppliers and customers, locally, nationally, and in some cases internationally. Therefore, you need to be equipped with the fundamentals, and that includes everything from information on drivers’ hours to vehicle checks, in order to ensure compliance with your legal responsibilities as an HGV driver.

In this article, we’ll outline some of the responsibilities of HGV drivers, so both new drivers become well-versed on their duties, and seasoned drivers receive a refresher on what’s expected of them.

Drivers’ Hours

If you drive a heavy goods vehicle, you must follow the regulations on how many hours you can legally drive and the breaks that you need to take. Failure to adhere to the drivers’ hours rules could have several consequences, including a fine or points on your licence, and in some cases even prosecution.

Any vehicle that exceeds 3.5 tonnes is considered an HGV by law (or LGV – the terms are essentially interchangeable), and drivers of these vehicles must adhere to the  EU rules for drivers’ hours.

Daily driving limits and rest

  • You must not drive for more than 9 hours – but twice a week you can extend this to 10 hours.
  • You must have a break or breaks amounting to at least 45 minutes after no more than 4.5 hours of driving.
  • You must have at least 11 hours rest – but three times a week you can reduce this to a minimum of 9 hours.

Weekly driving limits and rest

  • You must not drive for more than 56 hours.
  • You must not drive for more than 90 hours in a two-week period.
  • If you drive for 56 hours in one week, you must drive for only 34 hours the following week.
  • You must have an unbroken rest period of 45 hours – you can reduce this to 24 hours every other week.

To help you keep on top of the drivers’ hours regulations, the governments site provides a handy weekly timesheet which allows you to document things such as time spent driving, time spent on duty, and more. You could also use an online time sheet to help you calculate your weekly hours of driving.

Medical Requirements

According to UK law, all HGV drivers must be considered fit and healthy in order to operate commercial vehicles on public roads. Therefore, every new HGV driver, as well as those renewing their licence, must have an HGV medical examination. This involves two things:

  • Interview regarding physical and mental health
  • Physical examination

The medical examination is accompanied by D4 paperwork which is submitted to the DVLA by the doctor overseeing the assessment. It’s important to remember that it’s up to the DVLA to determine whether the HGV driver in question is fit to drive a commercial vehicle – not the physician.

The medical examination you undergo will cover (but is not limited to) the following:

  1. Mental health – the doctor will discuss a range of mental health matters with you, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and several other psychological issues you may have faced.
  2. Eyesight – vision requirements for HGV drivers are a little stricter than the requirements for those who drive cars. You must be able to adequately see enough without corrective lenses and your field of vision will also be examined.
  3. Diabetes – this medical condition doesn’t automatically exclude you from becoming an HGV driver, but you must be able to demonstrate to the DVLA that you’re able to manage it.
  4. Heart conditions – you’ll have to disclose to the doctor whether you’ve had any of the following: heart attacks, stroke, angina, coronary bypass surgery, pacemaker implant and implantable cardioverter defibrillator. If your heart condition is being treated appropriately, you won’t face any problems, but keep in mind there may be some exemptions.
  5. Sleep disorders – a sleep disorder doesn’t automatically mean you can’t drive commercially, but as lack of sleep plays a role in serious driving accidents, it’s important that a sleep disorder is identified and well-managed.
  6. Drugs and alcohol – the doctor will check for any signs of drug or alcohol abuse in your system, and it’s strictly prohibited to operate any vehicle under the influence of such substances.

 If you want to learn more about the HGV medical exam, we have put together an in-depth guide with all the information you need to know.

Vehicle Checks

HGV drivers (and the company they work for) are responsible for making sure their vehicle is safe to drive. With this in mind, the DVSA states that all HGV drivers must carry out a walk around check of their vehicle before their journey begins to make sure that it’s safe to drive and that it complies with regulations. Both police and DVSA officers can stop you to do checks on your vehicle, and they have the authority to stop you from driving until you fix any issues they identify, and in some cases, they can even issue you with a fine. Not only do vehicle checks ensure roadworthiness but at the same time it can also help improve fuel economy for lorries.

Vehicle interior

  1. Mirrors and glass

Check that your vehicle’s windscreen and front side windows are not excessively tinted. As well as this, check the windscreen doesn’t have:

  • Cracks
  • Scratches
  • Discolouration

Check that all mirrors are in place and not:

  • Damaged or missing glass
  • Obscured
  • Loose

If your vehicle uses a camera system instead of a mirror, check that it works, and that the view is accurate.

  1. Windscreen wipers and washers

Check that your vehicle’s windscreen wipers and washers work, and check that the windscreen wipers are not:

  • Missing
  • Damaged
  • Worn
  1. Front view
  • Check that there are no objects obscuring your front view.
  • As a general rule of thumb, there should be nothing in the swept area of the windscreen wipers.
  • Some official stickers and road safety items are permitted, providing they do not seriously block your view of the road (e.g. operator licence disc).
  1. Dashboard warning lights and gauges

Check all the following are working correctly:

  • Instruments
  • Gauges
  • Warning lights – including the engine warning, emissions system, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Braking System (EBS)
  1. Steering

Check that there’s no excessive lift or movement in the steering column, and check that your vehicle’s steering wheel:

  • Doesn’t jam
  • Has no excessive play
  • Moves properly and that the power-assisted steering works correctly
  1. Horn

Check that your vehicle’s horn works and is easily reachable from the driver’s seat.

  1. Brakes and air build-up

Check for the following:

  • Air builds up correctly and warning system works
  • No air leaks
  • Footwell is clear
  • Service brake pedal doesn’t have excessive side play or missing, loose, or partial anti-slip tread
  1. Height marker

 Check that the correct vehicle height is displayed on your vehicle height marker in your cab. Keep in mind that the height can change, for instance, if the HGV is loaded, unloaded, or reloaded.

  1. Seatbelts

Check that your vehicle’s seatbelts:

  • Have no cuts, damage or fraying that may stop them from working
  • Remain secure when you buckle them in
  • Retract against you when fitted, and fully retract when you take them off

Vehicle exterior

  1. Lights and indicators

Check for the following:

  • All lights and indicators work properly
  • All lenses are fitted, clean and the correct colour
  • Stop lamps turn on when you apply the service brake and go out when you release
  • Marker lights are fitted and work
  1. Fuel and oil leaks
  • Check that your vehicle’s fuel filler cap is fitted properly.
  • Turn on the engine and check underneath your vehicle for any fuel/oil leaks
  1. Battery security and conditions

Check that your vehicle’s battery is:

  • Secure
  • In good condition
  • Not leaking
  1. Diesel exhaust fluid (AdBlue)
  • Check that your diesel vehicle has enough AdBlue diesel exhaust fluid and top up if required.
  1. Excessive engine exhaust smoke
  • Check that your vehicle’s exhaust doesn’t produce an excessive amount of smoke.
  1. Security of body and wings

Check for the following:

  • All fastening devices work
  • Cab doors and trailer doors are secure when shut
  • Body panels on tractor or trailer are secure and unlikely to fall off
  • Landing legs (if mounted) are secure and unlikely to fall off whilst driving
  • Sideguards and rear under-run guards are fitted if needed, and they’re not loose or damaged
  1. Spray suppression

If spray suppression flaps are needed, check that they are:

  • Fitted
  • Secure
  • Undamaged
  • Clean from mud or debris
  1. Tyres and wheel fixing

Check for the following:

  • Tyres and wheels are secure
  • Tyres have a tread depth of at least 1mm
  • Tyres are inflated correctly
  • Tyre sidewalls are free from deep cuts
  • No visible cord anywhere on the tyre
  • All wheel nuts are tight enough – check this by seeing if the wheel nut indicators have moved
  • No objects or debris trapped between the twin wheels
  1. Brake lines and trailer parking brake

Check for the following:

  • Couplings are free from debris and are in the correct place
  • No leaks
  • No damage or wear to brake lines
  • The parking brake for the trailer works
  • After the preliminary brake test, leave the engine running so pressure can build up, as this will make it easier to hear any leaks whilst doing the rest of the walkaround check
  1. Electrical connections

Check each connection and make sure that all:

  • Visible wiring is insulated
  • Visible wiring isn’t likely to get caught or damaged
  • All electrical trailer couplings are connected securely
  • All electrical switches work correctly
  1. Coupling security

Check that your vehicle is securely attached to your trailer and that the:

  • Trailer is positioned correctly in the fifth wheel or coupling
  • Secondary locking devices are in the correct position
  1. Security of load
  • Check that the load doesn’t move and isn’t likely to move
  • Make sure to use the right type of load securing system for the load

If you have doubts about how the load is secured or how stable it is, ask a collegue to check too. You may have a specific person in charge of vehicle safety – but this doesn’t absolve you from your responsibility for the safety of your vehicle when you are out on the road:

  • Get an experienced individual to check it
  • Reload or re-secure if needed

If you want to know more about safely loading and unloading heavy goods vehicles, we have created a handy guide detailing everything you need to know.

  1. Number plate

Check that your vehicle’s number plate isn’t:

  • Damaged or incomplete
  • Incorrect or spaced incorrectly
  • Dirty
  • Faded
  • Covered by anything
  1. Reflectors

Check that your vehicle’s reflectors (and side reflectors) are not:

  • Missing
  • Broken
  • Loose
  • Fitted incorrectly
  • The wrong colour
  • Obscured by dirt or other objects
  1. Markings and warning plates

Check that your vehicle’s markings are:

  • The right colour
  • Noticeable
  • Securely fastened
  • Not obscured by dirt or other objects

If your vehicle is carrying dangerous goods, check that the hazard information panels:

  • Show the correct information for the load
  • Are visible
  • Are securely fastened
  • Are not obscured by dirt or other objects

All HGV drivers should fill out a form (on paper or using a specially designed app) that includes the list of checks above. If you don’t find anything wrong with your vehicle, make sure to still record ‘nil’ defects found. DVSA can ask for a record of your walkaround check at a roadside check so it’s crucial that every check is documented. GOV UK have created a handy template for HGV drivers to use to record their checks and any defects.

Vehicle problems on route

Sometimes, issues with your vehicle may arise whilst you’re on a job. If this is the case and you discover a defect whilst you’re driving, find a safe place to stop to assess and then report the problem.

If you find a dangerous fault, you must get it repaired immediately before carrying on your journey. Otherwise, you may face serious consequences from fines to even prosecution in some cases.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can kickstart your career as an HGV driver, call us on 0808 178 9977 or chat to one of our agents right now