Road Safety Week: Essential Safety Tips for HGV Drivers

Everyone can be a road safety hero. Road Safety Week 2021 celebrates the professionals who are working to make roads safer for everyone – from designing safer roads to caring for people after a crash. It also enables everyone who uses roads to understand how they can take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others.

The consequences of not driving safely range from the inconvenient to the catastrophic. Over 7,500 van and truck drivers and passengers are injured in road accidents each year - and over 100 of these are killed. As a professional driver you have a special responsibility­ not just to yourself but also to other road users. You can meet that responsibility and set a good example by driving safely.

The following comprehensive guide of essential road safety tips will ensure you have the correct information to keep yourself and other road users safe each time you get behind the wheel. Use the navigation tool below to read through the information:

Part 1: Your Safety as a HGV Driver

i. Medical Requirements

ii. Drivers' Hours

iii. Sleepiness

iv: Alcohol

v: Drugs

Part 2: Know Your Vehicle

i. Planning Ahead

ii. Speed Limits

iii. Loading & Unloading

iv. Load & Vehicle Height

v. Load Restraint

vi. Inside the Cab

Part 3: Make the Right Moves

i. Observation

ii. Overtaking

iii. Parking

iv. Lane Discipline

Part 4: Drive with Respect

Your Safety as a HGV Driver

Your employer should ensure that the vehicles you use are safe and properly maintained. However, a well-maintained vehicle is not in itself enough to ensure safety. It’s up to you as a driver to:

  • Check your vehicle daily

  • Know your route

  • Be aware of weather forecasts

  • Drive safely

Medical Requirements

We have previously discussed the medical requirements to become a HGV driver and what the medical exam entails.

A renewed medical will be required every 5 years after the age of 45 and annually from the age of 65. You must inform the DVLA if you suffer any medical condition or disability that may affect your driving. You also must tell them if you develop a new condition or disability, or one that has become worse since your licence was issued.

Drivers’ Hours

Your hours of work are restricted for reasons of road safety, working conditions and fair competition. There are maximum limits on driving time and minimum requirements for breaks and rest periods. Various exemptions exist, some of which apply on UK journeys only. If you operate under the European Union (EU) drivers’ hours and tachograph rules, you will also be subject to the working time provisions of the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations.

If you do not fall under EU drivers’ hours and 3 tachograph rules, you will normally fall within the scope of separate UK legislation on these areas but will still be subject to certain aspects of the working time regulations.

Find out which rules and regulations apply to you and make sure you keep proper records. For further information on drivers’ hours, visit:


Professional driving can be hard work. If you start to feel sleepy while driving, find a safe place to stop (not the hard shoulder of a motorway) as soon as possible and get some sleep. Modern commercial vehicles are often comfortable but don’t be tempted to relax too much! To combat the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, you should:

  • Plan adequate rest break

  • Get adequate sleep before starting out

  • Not start a journey if already tired

  • Avoid driving if you are not 100% fit

  • Never drive if affected by alcohol or drugs

  • Avoid heavy meals before driving

  • Remember that you will feel sleepier between 2pm and 4pm and early in the morning

  • Keep fresh air circulating in the cab - but remember that cold air, in itself, will do little to stop you falling asleep.

If you feel sleepy at any stage when driving, stop immediately and take a short break to assess whether you can safely continue driving. Never be tempted to ‘power through’ your tiredness - turning up the radio and opening your windows will do little to keep you going. Contact your employer for guidance if you feel you cannot safely meet your deadline.


In the UK, more than 200 people die every year in a drink-drive related crash. It is illegal to drive with more than:

  • A breath alcohol level in excess of 35 micrograms per 100ml

  • A blood alcohol level in excess of 80 milligrams per 100m

  • A urine alcohol level in excess of 107 milligrams per 100ml

The only safe option is NOT to drink if you plan to drive. Any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive safely, not least because your reaction times and ability to judge speed and distances are impaired. Even a small amount of alcohol may increase the risk of falling asleep at the wheel as well as decreasing your awareness of falling asleep.

Remember that alcohol can remain in your system for around 24 hours and any drinks you consume throughout the evening can potentially affect your fitness to drive the next morning. If you’re convicted of a drink-driving offence, you will lose your HGV entitlement - and with it your livelihood.


Driving while unfit through drugs - whether prescribed medication or illegal substances - is against the law and is just as dangerous as driving when drunk. Many companies have introduced random drug testing and registering positive for drugs in such tests can result in instant dismissal.

Some drugs reduce concentration, encourage risk-taking or distort perception and many cause excessive sleepiness the following day. This goes for prescription or off-the-shelf medicines, as well as illegal substances. Everyday cold or flu medicine can have side effects, for example drowsiness. Make sure you always read the labels of prescription or off-the-shelf medicines carefully. Remember - If you don’t feel well, don’t drive.

Know Your Vehicle

Know how your vehicle works and spot any problems before you set off. Defects or problems should always be recorded and reported as the DVSA undertakes regular checks on vehicle maintenance and defect reporting arrangements. They also have the right to stop vehicles on the road, carry out spot checks and issue prohibition notices if necessary.

You should do a walk-round check of your vehicle before each journey because as a driver you are legally responsible for:

  • Checking the vehicle is roadworthy

  • Ensuring that any equipment, fittings, and fixtures required are present and serviceable

  • Not driving the vehicle if faults are present

You should also conduct an in-cab safety check. This helps ensure your own safety as well as that of passengers and other road users. Never begin a journey with a defective warning device or when a warning is showing. If a warning light shows while you are driving, stop immediately and seek professional help.

We can provide copies of a daily walk-round and cab checklist for drivers to use, contact us for more information.

Plan Ahead

Before starting a journey, plan your route, including rest breaks, and identify any potential hazards. This minimises the risk of suddenly encountering dangerous situations.

Planning your journey helps you choose the safest and most efficient route. Always plan an alternative route to allow for accidents or bad weather. Try to avoid congestion at peak times. The length, width, weight and height of your vehicle will sometimes dictate the route you take. Be aware of the dangers of unauthorised parking - if you need to rest overnight make sure you choose a safe and secure site to avoid falling victim to crime.

Speed Limits