What is a Commercial Driver? How do you become one?

A commercial driver is someone who has been trained and certified to drive a commercial vehicle professionally. How do you qualify? Read the “How To Become A Commercial Driver“.

A commercial driver driving his van

Commercial drivers require a higher level of competency than other drivers. They are also required to comply with a raft of legislation and additional rules of the road.

In countries such as Germany, the UK and the USA, commercial drivers are required to take a test in order to acquire the necessary licence. This licence usually gives the holder permission to drive a particular class and size of company vehicle without supervision.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?

A UK commercial vehicle is one that:

  • Wighs at least 3.5 tonnes
  • Or capable of moving a payload of more than 1 tonne
  • Is used only for business purposes

Some vehicles are used to transport goods and materials, while others are used to transport people. Buses and coaches might be considered as commercial vehicles, but in most cases, the term is used to describe vans, trucks and lorries.

How Do You Become a Commercial Driver?

What licences do you need to have?

In the UK people need to:

  • Have a full driving licence
  • Have a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)
  • Be over the age of 18
lorry truck commercial vehicle full of appliances

Anyone who wants to drive large commercial vehicles (large trucks and lorries), buses and coaches for a living must have a CPC certificate. Some drivers have ‘acquired rights’ if they have specific driving experience. However, the vast majority of drivers will need to pass four tests to get the certificate.

Once someone has a CPC certificate, they must renew it every five years. For drivers over 65, the certificate must be renewed annually. In order to stay qualified, drivers are required to take 35 hours of training over the course of each five-year period.

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Common Types of Commercial Vehicle

Most countries classify commercial vehicles depending on their size and weight. In the UK, the classes are:

Cat C1

Different vans commercial drivers can use

A goods vehicle between 3.5 tons and 7.5 tons. Ambulances and supermarket delivery vehicles fall into this category.

HGV/LGV Cat ‘C’

A rigid-body vehicle that is heavier than 7.5 tons. Fire engines, refuse trucks and smaller HGV lorries fall into this category.

HGV/LGV at ‘C+E’

Vehicles over 7.5 tons that have a detachable trailer. The largest HGVs seen on UK roads fall into this category.

PCV/Cat D

A large passenger-carrying vehicle, such as a bus or coach.

Read more: How to navigate HGV driving hours

Types of Commercial Van

Panel van

The most common type of commercial vehicle in the UK, the panel van is easy to drive yet capable of carrying a significant cargo. Boxy and rigid, these vans are typically used by builders, maintenance workers, plumbers, electricians and other similar manual workers.

Double-cab van

The double-van cab has become very popular in recent years. This is because it provides the same storage capacity as the average panel van, yet offers ample space for up to five passengers.

Pick-up truck

construction job site from over with commercial vehicles

The pick-up truck was developed in America as an easy-access alternative to the panel van. The open-back storage compartment is perfect for transporting heavy building tools and supplies. Most pick-up trucks come with a lockable cover to keep their cargos secure. Depending on the model, this type of vehicle can seat up to five passengers.

Dropside van

This open-back truck has movable sides that can be dropped to make loading and unloading quicker and safer.

Tipper truck/van

Tipper trucks and vans can seat between one and five passengers. They’re fitted with a hydraulic ram which can tip the contents of the vehicle onto the ground. This type of commercial van is perfect for delivering building materials such as gravel, sand and aggregate.

Chassis cab

The chassis cab is designed to pull large cargo containers. This gives the driver the freedom to carry shipping containers filled with cargo without having to load and unload. This is often classed as the classic heavy good vehicle (HGV) in the UK.

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A commercial driver climbing into vehicle

Note: People taking an approved National Vocational Training course can drive commercial vehicles for up to 12 months before having to take parts two and four of the CPC test.

Hiring Commercial Drivers

Finding ambitious, fully-qualified commercial drivers is proving to be more difficult than ever. A lack of entrants into the profession has, for whatever reason, become a serious problem in developed countries. More and more companies are choosing to train their own drivers as a result.

When hiring experienced drivers, companies should check that the applicant has a CPC certificate and the relevant driving categories on their licence. When hiring trainees, the only mandatory requirements are a full driving licence and being over the age of 18. Depending on the nature of the goods being transported, a criminal record check and extensive reference gathering might also be necessary.

commercial driver and large commercial vehicle transporting wood logs

Commercial driving isn’t as popular as it once was with young people. This has, over the years, led to a chronic labour shortage in the sector. However, rising wages, improving conditions and a raft of additional benefits should help to improve the situation in the future. To attract the best and brightest drivers available, companies need to be proactive and offer the most favourable conditions possible.

To make your commercial truck drivers’ life easier, and your operational work more efficient, take a look at our truck GPS tracking brochure below!

Read more: How To Have Happy Drivers In Your Company

Using fleet tracking to improve commercial driving

Even the smallest commercial driving operation requires complex management in order to succeed and remain lucrative. GPS fleet tracking solutions are therefore a must for any commercial driving enterprise. The best systems on the market will allow business owners and managers to precisely pinpoint vehicle locations and constantly communicate with active drivers.

GPS tracking also makes compliance within the commercial driving sector far easier, providing automated reporting and negating the need for paperwork to be completed manually. Furthermore, the perks of efficient route planning, improved productivity levels and considerable cost-saving benefits will prove advantageous to commercial driving companies of any size.

Here are 6 ways commercial driving can be improved with fleet tracking

1. Refine Routes And Boost Driver Productivity

Boosting productivity with fleet tracking

Commercial driving systems are an invaluable asset for businesses looking to boost productivity and improve driver performance. The best fleet tracking solutions should be user-friendly, allowing every driver within your organisation to install and utilise them with ease. Once installed, commercial driving tracker devices and associated software will allow you to always ensure your drivers are using the most efficient routes possible for every journey.

Premium commercial driving solutions will not only provide you with up-to-the-minute guidance on the best available routes but also allow you to evaluate previously taken journeys. You’ll be able to explore useful metrics like traffic trends, allowing you to make manual adjustments to future driving routes for maximum efficiency.

2. Improve Driver Performance

Many businesses struggle to instil good driving behaviour in their employees. Commercial driving fleet tracking systems are an effective way of monitoring drivers on the road, while also providing you with an invaluable data record for later reference. GPS tracking systems can generate automatic scorecard reporting that can be used to assess driver performance, highlighting problem areas that can quickly be addressed. Some tracking systems also feature integrated dashcam recording that can be used in the event of an accident, or as visual aids for future training of drivers.

3. Commercial Driving Compliance Made Simple

When selecting a GPS tracking system for your fleet, you need something that will deliver more than a pinpoint location of where an individual vehicle is at any given time. When choosing a fleet tracking solution to support commercial driving operations, make sure you select one that provides thorough electronic logging of all activity. An automated system will save you having to dedicate countless hours to filling out paperwork, while also negating the chance of manual errors in reporting.

4. Guaranteed Customer Satisfaction

Ensuring customers are consistently satisfied is of paramount importance in the commercial driving sector. Fleet tracking systems are therefore essential. In the case of small to medium-sized fleets, it can be tempting to underestimate journey times and encourage risky driving to meet deadlines. This is never a good idea.

GPS tracking will ensure your drivers are provided with the most efficient routes to meet estimated times of arrival, but also factor in sufficient leeway to compensate for any unforeseen circumstances. This means your drivers are always travelling safely on the roads, while also ensuring your customers are never left waiting around for a late delivery.

Should the worst happen and your drivers encounter a slight delay, you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact location of an individual vehicle in real-time and provide your customers with a revised delivery time to avoid disappointment and maintain your reputation.

5. Sustainable Journeys And Eco-Friendly Enterprise

Carbon footprint getting smaller because of better commercial driving

If you’re looking to improve the green credentials of your operation, commercial driving solutions can help. By providing you with the quickest and most efficient route to a destination, fleet tracking systems allow you to minimise fuel consumption and significantly reduce your carbon footprint. This not only makes for a more eco-friendly business model but also ensures you’re saving considerable money when it comes to fuel expenditure and other running costs.

Commercial driving enterprises looking to drastically slash their carbon emissions can make effective use of fleet tracking solutions and route planning software. Fleet telematics brings you a wide range of critical data points that you can use to refine your fleet management activities.

You can utilise such data to avoid particularly busy periods of the day, ensuring time-sensitive journeys aren’t impacted by congestion. If certain vehicles within your fleet exceed emission standards, you can also make use of fleet telematics to ensure your routes don’t navigate through clean air zones.

6. Overhaul Your Commercial Driving Operation

With reliable GPS tracking systems and route planning software at your disposal, commercial driving enterprises of any size can thrive. Not only can you ensure every journey is as economical and efficient as possible, but you can also commit to a sustainable future. What’s more, the best commercial driving tracker solutions will allow you to constantly review your regular routes, allowing you to make cost and time-saving adjustments with relatively little effort.


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