There is no better time to do it than now, says a HGV driver who has opened up about the benefits of life behind the wheel.

With the current driver shortage, there has been a lot of talk about lorry drivers - with implications already being felt around fuel supply and a lack of some products on supermarket shelves.

But what is it really like to be a HGV driver in 2021?

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There has historically been a generic stereotype around the role of a driver in which they spend no time with their loved ones and lead a lonely and typically unhealthy life.

But drivers at Suttons Tankers in Widnes have said this is not strictly true.

Lee Gibson has had his HGV license for 20 years, and after working away as a tramper driver for 15 years, he joined Suttons in 2014.

Lee wanted to spend more time with his family and so he went from five nights out a week, to two. He said: “Businesses are more understanding of the need for a work-life balance now, especially in the past couple of years with everything that’s gone on.”

Lee is just one driver that has progressed from driver trainer to site assessor where he looks after 650 sites, putting his 20 years of experience to the test.

Widnes-based HGV driver Lee Gibson
Widnes-based HGV driver Lee Gibson

Mike Priest, who has been a driver since 1974, also claims that the job has “got more flexible in terms of family life as time has gone on” and that “you can make being a driver fit in with your lifestyle”.

The trucking community remains 'very strong' and Mike regularly attends truck shows all over the UK.

He added: “We all think the same way and it’s nice to spend time with people who are passionate about the same things as you.”

HGV drivers who travel long distances and stay overnight, are more frequently known in the industry as ‘tramper’ drivers, traditionally used to ‘night out’ all week, leaving them minimal time to spend with their families at the weekends.

There is no getting away from the fact that these roles are still very prevalent and play a big role in the transportation industry, but staff at Suttons say there is ‘definitely more of a balance now’ and the working conditions have ‘changed significantly’.

New technology has played a part in ‘making life easier’, with Suttons implementing a fleet technology solution with a four-way camera system improving ‘visibility’ on the road. It has also been recognised that this has improved safety and protects drivers if, and when, accidents do occur.

Danny Burns, a 32-year-old chlorine tanker driver, works a four-on four-off shift pattern which is suited around his family needs.

He claims this is ‘perfect for childcare’, especially as he has two young children of his own. This shift pattern allows him to do the school run and spend time with his family.

Danny also claims that ‘the four days off gives you time to properly rest and recuperate which is crucial when carrying such a hazardous chemical, as you need to be vigilant and alert on the job at all times’.

Staff at Suttons say everyone benefits from the role of a lorry driver, from switching on the shower to fuel in the car, and drinking Coca Cola, all of which has been delivered by a HGV.

For those looking to get into the role of being a HGV driver, Danny claims ‘there couldn’t be a better time to do it than now’.

He recently recommended Suttons as a workplace to a friend who has since come onboard and been provided with ADR training and received great support from his peers and managers.

For more information on driver vacancies visit: careers.suttonsgroup.com

HGV driver shortage?

A Road Haulage Association (RHA) report on the driver shortage suggests that there is now a lack of 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK.

It says several factors have exacerbated the shortage which is ‘now at crisis point’, including drivers returning to their country of origin during Covid and uncertainty around Brexit.

A testing shortage also played a part with the complete shutdown of vocational driving tests resulting in a loss of 30,000 slots.

The UK Government has said it is introducing several measures to ease temporary pressures.

Of which includes Ministry of Defence examiners being brought in to increase the number of HGV driving tests and writing to one million drivers who hold a HGV license encouraging them to return to the industry.

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