A commercial driver is someone who has been trained and certified to drive a commercial vehicle professionally. 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?
The definition of a commercial licence depends on the legal jurisdiction. In most countries, a commercial vehicle is one that is used to execute the duties of a business or public service.
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.
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There are several types of vehicle operating in the UK today, including:
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.
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.
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.
This open-back truck has movable sides that can be dropped to make loading and unloading quicker and safer.
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.
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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How to Become a Commercial Driver
In the UK, people who want to become a commercial driver must have a full driving licence (to drive cars). They must also be over 18. Trainees must then take commercial driving lessons with a view to acquiring the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).
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.
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.
Common Types of Commercial Vehicle
Most countries classify commercial vehicles depending on their size and weight. In the UK, the classes are:
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.
A large passenger-carrying vehicle, such as a bus or coach.
Read more: How to navigate HGV driving hours
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 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.
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