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How to Become a European HGV Driver

A quick guide to get you started in European Lorry Driving

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If you have always wanted to be a European HGV Lorry driver, but don’t have a clue where to start, this guide is for you. Getting qualified is the same regardless of whether you are driving in the UK or the rest of Europe, but if your ultimate goal is to drive on the continent, there are a few extra things to bear in mind. Read on to find out more….

Jessie Lee


How to Become a European Lorry Driver.

With the national shortage of HGV Class 1 and 2 drivers hitting an all-time high, the time has never been better to become a professional lorry driver and choose where you want to work, whether it be in the UK or in Europe.

This article can point you in the right direction to getting started, and tell you everything you need to become a European HGV driver. 

Your first step to becoming a European Lorry Driver, is of course, to get qualified. The process itself can seem a little daunting at first, however, our guide breaks it down into the areas you need to know about, and we can also put you in touch with training partners should you want to find out more.

Becoming a lorry driver is not for everyone, particularly if you want to be away for periods of time working as an HGV driver in Europe. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you love driving?
  2. Are you safety conscious?
  3. Are you reasonably fit?
  4. Are you patient?
  5. Are you happy with your own company?
  6. Are you well organised?
  7. Are you motivated?
  8. Are you happy to be away from home for lengths of time?

Earnings expectations for European HGV drivers.

If you can answer yes to most of these, lorry driving may be for you. As a professional driver, you can expect to earn from £18,000 as a starter, up to £36,000 as a well-experienced driver. If you gain specialist experience, such as gaining your licence to transport hazardous materials (as an ADR Lorry driver), you could earn even more.

What does the job involve?

Working hours per week are usually around 40 to 42 hours, but you will be strictly governed by the European Union rules for drivers’ hours, which dictate how much rest you are entitled to and must take. For more information on these regulations, click here.

All HGV driving work involves spending most of your time on the roads as you would expect. Hours vary and in a world of ‘just in time’ deliveries, assignments can be at any hour of the day. Transport is an essential part of any economy, and happens 365 days a year, in all weathers and seasons.

Because of the nature of truck driving work, and the fact that you can only legally work for a maximum of 15 hours without a rest, there will be occasions where you will have to spend the night out. Many vehicles have sleeping quarters for this purpose, and many drivers enjoy these opportunities and this way of life. This can be especially true for European HGV driving jobs, on assignments on the continent, where you may be away from home for 2 weeks or more. It is a fantastic way to see other countries and can make a very rewarding career.

Getting Qualified.

To be able to drive in Europe, you first need to qualify as an HGV driver, and before you can do that, you must have the following:

  • Have a full licence to drive a car.
  • Be over 18.

Once you meet these criteria, you then need to:

  • Apply for your PROVISIONAL licence to drive a lorry.
    • You first must decide which type of vehicle you want to drive. Although most drivers aspire to drive ‘Class 1’ vehicles (C+E licence), it can sometimes be easier to start with a smaller vehicle and gain experience that way.
      • Category C1 are those vehicles between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes.
      • Category C1E are just C1 vehicles  but with a trailer of over 750kg.
      • Category C (Class 2) is the most common class of lorry driving licence in the UK. It allows you to drive a vehicle over 3.5 tonnes with no upper limit on weight. The main stipulation is that the vehicle is not articulated. They are often referred to as a rigid.
      • Category C+E (Class 1) is the top licence for goods vehicles. You can drive category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg. You can drive oversized articulated lorries and heavy construction equipment.
    • Get your Driver CPC qualification, which means passing 4 different tests.
      • Part 1 – Theory Test
        • You can book this part as soon as you have your provisional licence.
        • There are 2 parts to the test – multiple choice and hazard perception.
        • You can take them in any order.
        • You must bring your photocard licence, or paper licence and passport, to the test or you will loose your test fee.
        • Take a practice test here
        • Watch a hazard perception video here
        • If you pass, you can book part 3 of the CPC (the driving test) within 2 years of passing part 1.
        • If you fail, you will be given feedback, and can re-book another test after 3 working days.
      • Part 2 – Case Studies
        • You can book this part as soon as you have your provisional licence.
        • You must bring your photocard licence, or paper licence and passport, to the test or you will loose your test fee.
        • You will work through 7 case studies on a computer, and asked6-8 questions on each case study.
        • The test lasts 1 hour 15 minutes, and the pass mark is 40 out of 50.
        • You need to pass this part to be able to book part 4 – the practical demonstration.
        • If you fail, you will be given feedback, and can re-book another test after 3 working days.
      • Part 3 – Driving Ability
        • You must have part 1 to take this test.
        • You must bring your photocard licence, or paper licence and passport, to the test or you will loose your test fee.
        • You must bring the vehicle with the appropriate class for the licence type you want to take.
        • The test lasts for about 1 ½ hours
        • The test covers:
          • Vehicle safety.
          • Practical driving on the road.
            • Using vehicle controls.
            • Moving away at an angle uphill and downhill.
            • Performing a controlled stop.
            • Correct use of mirrors.
            • Giving appropriate signals.
            • Showing awareness and anticipation of other road users intentions.
            • Managing progress and controlling vehicle speed.
            • Dealing appropriately with hazards.
            • Selecting a safe place to stop.
            • 10 minutes of independent driving to assess the overall ability to drive safely whilst making independent decisions.
          • Off-road exercises:
            • S-shaped reversing into a bay.
            • Uncoupling and recoupling a vehicle correctly if you are taking the test with a trailer.
          • You will pass if you make fewer than 15 driving faults, but none must be serious or dangerous.
          • If you fail you can book another test immediately, but cannot take it for 3 working days.
        • Part 4 – Practical Demonstration.
          • You must have passed part 2 before you can book part 4.
          • You must bring a lorry to the test that meets the rules.
          • You must bring your photocard licence, or paper licence and passport, to the test or you will lose your test fee.
          • The test covers:
            • Loading a vehicle securely and securing it.
            • Preventing trafficking of illegal immigrants.
            • Assessing emergency situations.
            • Reducing physical risks to yourself and others.
            • Carry out a walkaround vehicle safety check.
          • The test comprises 5 topics from the Driver CPC syllabus – click here
          • You must score at least 15 out of 20 in each topic, and have an overall score of at least 80 out of 100.
          • If you fail, you can book another test immediately, but you cannot take it for 3 working days.
        • After you pass all four parts, you will be sent a driver CPC card (also known as a driver qualification card (DQC).
        • You must then always carry your CPC card with you whilst driving professionally.
        • You must replace your card if it is lost, damaged or stolen (click here )

Test Costs.

These are the prices to book your tests with DVSA using the official service.
Your part 3a test may cost up to £40 if you choose to take it with an approved test provider instead of with DVSA.

Test costs

Staying qualified.

Once you are qualified, you need to take 35 hours of training, known as ‘periodic training’ every 5 years to stay fully qualified.

All parts of the Driver CPC must be taken, with the exception of drivers who are taking an approved National Vocational Course (NVT )– for more information click here .

Driving a lorry in Europe and abroad.

Before you should consider driving professionally in Europe, you should be comfortable driving generally in Europe. Educate yourself on different standards and practices, as well as different road signs in other countries, as well as the obvious question of which side of the road to drive on.

Although many driving assignments take place in vehicles that belong to operators within the country you are driving in, you may also be required to take vehicles registered in the UK overseas.

Prepare for driving jobs in Europe with this helpful checklist:

  • Documents and essentials to carry:
    • Your FULL driving licence.
    • A copy of your DVLA driver record and a licence check code if required.
    • In some countries, you will require an International Driving Permit (IDP). The AA or RAC can advise you on where you might need a permit for.
    • Insurance documents – your motor insurance certificate and your travel insurance documents.
    • Your passport.
    • Where applicable, a visa.
    • If you are driving professionally, you will need authorisation from the owner of the vehicle, as well as the vehicle V5c (registration document) or VE103 for-hire vehicles.
    • Registration for low emission zones in some countries.
    • Travel insurance documents.
    • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
    • Credit cards – check if your particular card will be accepted in the country you are going to.
  • Preparing your vehicle.
    • Before taking your HGV to Europe, check the rules of cabotage for the country you are going to. Cabotage is the haulage of goods for reward in one EU member state by a vehicle registered in another EU member state. For more information click here – .
    • If your vehicle originates in the UK, it should have a GB sticker, or Euro number plates which include the GB symbol. You can be fined if you do not.
    • In the vehicle, you should have hi-vis clothing – vests and jackets.
    • Headlights need to meet the requirements for the country you are going to, they may need adjusting for driving on the right.
    • Always carry a warning triangle wherever you are travelling.
    • Rearview mirrors may need modification for driving on the right.
    • The usual road and safety checks will apply to driving in Europe.
    • Consider whether you will require snow chains.
    • A fire extinguisher in your cab.
    • Sat navs that warn about speed cameras are not permitted in some countries.

A European HGV driving assignment – what to expect.

As you can imagine, assignments vary enormously. However, there are certain things that make European continental driving work different to driving a lorry in the UK:

  • Crossing the channel
    • Crossing by ferry.
      • There are regular vehicle ferries from the UK to France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany to name a few countries.
      • You can take a normal passenger ferry or a dedicated freight ferry.
      • Taking a lorry across the channel is similar, though not identical, to taking a car.
      • When your company books a ferry for your HGV, you will need to specify weight and size, and also describe your freight, particularly if it involves hazardous materials.
      • Check out any guides to the port you are going to in advance, for example, see our guide to the Port of Felixstowe here.
    • The Channel Tunnel.
      • Taking the Channel Tunnel is a straightforward process.
      • After booking, you will follow directions to the freight area.
    • Documentation – a lot of the documents require are common to taking a car to Europe, but there are as you would expect some additional ones:
      • Licence and IDP (International Driving Permit)
      • ‘Standard Tank’ documentation – you may be required to prove that your HGV has a ‘standard’ fuel tank, as some countries will require that extra duty on surplus fuel you may be carrying is paid if you are using a ‘belly’ tank.
      • Driver hours evidence – you should carry your driver’s hours records for the last 28 days, including your digital tachograph card.
      • Cabotage documents – see above.
      • Insurance and medical information.

Life on the road.

In an upcoming video article, we will be chatting to some drivers who enjoy driving HGV vehicles in Europe. In the meantime, here are a few quotes to give you a flavour.

“I enjoy pulling back the curtains after arriving the night before, not quite knowing what the view will be. Must be the big kid in me – it still feels like camping!”

“I have had the opportunity to see more of Europe than most people get to see in a lifetime, in the 3 years I have been doing continental driving.”

“I drive in Europe every year on the Formula 1 circuit. It is a tight schedule, but how many people get to sit and soak up the atmosphere in Monaco while the Grand Prix is in town, and get paid for it?”