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What is HGV Driving?

By Deborah Walker
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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HGV driving, or heavy goods vehicle driving, is the former European term applicable to a truck or lorry driver who is responsible for the over-the-road transport of chemicals, food, construction equipment, and other heavy goods. Today these truckers are called large goods vehicle, LGV, drivers. All HGV truckers, regardless of their home country, must take classes in driving commercial vehicles and pass an HGV driving test in order to earn one of four different categories of HGV licenses. Truckers who transport goods through multiple countries must be aware of the rules of the road and the regulations dictating driving and rest periods in those countries. Someone holding an HGV license most often works for a transport or shipping company.

In the European Union, there are four categories of HGV driving licenses, all of which can be obtained when one is at least 18 years old. The category C HGV license allows a driver to operate a truck weighing over 3,500 kilograms (about 7,716 pounds) pulling a trailer weighing up to 750 kilograms (about 1,653 pounds). The category C+E is the same as the category C license, except that the trailer can weigh over 750 kilograms (about 1,653 pounds).

The category C1 license permits a driver to drive a truck that is 3,500-7,500 kilograms (7,716-16,535 pounds) pulling a trailer weighing up to 750 kilograms (about 1,653 pounds). The category C1+E license is the same as the category C1 license, except that the trailer can weigh over 750 kilograms (about 1,653 pounds), but must not be heavier than the empty truck itself. The truck and trailer combined weight for a category C1+E HGV driving license cannot be over 12,000 kilograms (26,455 pounds).

The trucking industry is highly regulated in the European Union. Trucks are not allowed to go faster than 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour. In some countries large trucks are not allowed to pass. In most European countries, HGV driving on Sundays is prohibited. It is very important for a long-haul truckers to know the driving rules of any country that they pass through since the laws apply to all drivers regardless of their country of origin.

For improved safety, the European Union implemented more stringent HGV driving and resting laws in 2007. For every 4.5 hours of HGV driving, a driver must take a 45 minute break. Each 24-hour period requires 11 mandatory rest hours, nine of which must be consecutive. All HGV drivers are required by law to take breaks of 48 consecutive hours every two weeks. These are some of the minimum standards required by law throughout the European Union. Individual countries are free to enact stricter laws if they choose to do so.

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Discussion Comments

By KaBoom — On Jun 09, 2012

I think it's interesting that HGV drivers aren't allowed to operate their vehicles on Sundays. I feel like that could either be a religious thing (most Christians consider Sundays to be a day of rest and worship) or a sneaky way to get truck drivers to take a day off.

Think about it. If you absolutely have to take Sundays off, no exceptions, you can only drive 6 days in a row. Granted, that's still a lot, but it's better than driving 10 or 12 days in a row and then taking 2 off.

By Azuza — On Jun 08, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I believe we do have regulations like that here in the US, although maybe not as stringent as the HGV driving standards in the European Union. I'm pretty sure truck drivers here can drive 11 or so hours consecutively, and then they have a maximum number of hours they can drive during a two week period.

Anyway, it sounds like being a truck driver in the European Union is kind of similar to the United States. After all, the rules of the road vary by state here in this country, just like they vary by country in Europe. I hope driving training in both places includes some information about the different laws!

By JessicaLynn — On Jun 07, 2012

It sounds like the European Union has much more stringent regulations for HGV courier jobs than we have here in the United States. I know that large trucks in this country are allowed to go over 56 miles an hour, for sure! I assume they're supposed to follow the speed limit, but in reality I see large trucks going well over the posted speed all the time.

Also, I'm not sure if we have any kind of regulations in this country about taking a break every few hours and several days off every few weeks. We definitely should though, because driving while you're too tired can cause an accident.

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 07, 2012

I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to visit family last year, and I saw so many HGVs along the way. This is probably because I stuck to the major highways, which is what the big trucks have to use.

HGVs aren’t even allowed on some county roads, because their weight would be destructive to the inferior pavement. Most county roads have pavement that is made of more loosely packed rock than highway asphalt is, so big trucks would destroy them in no time.

It would be a bit of a pain to be an HGV driver, because they are always having to stop at weighing stations. That must really hamper their efficiency.

By cloudel — On Jun 06, 2012

@seag47 - In the same line of thinking, it’s a good thing that people with HGV driving jobs have to be off a certain number of days after a run. You can drive yourself silly if you stay on the road for too long.

My uncle ran his own trucking company for awhile, and he had not adopted this practice. He drove for four weeks without any days off, and he started hallucinating on the road.

He thought he was going crazy, but his doctor told him that he just needed to take breaks now and then. So, after that scary incident, he paid more attention to the practices of other trucking companies and adopted them as his own.

By seag47 — On Jun 06, 2012

I think it’s great that people holding HGV jobs must take a break after a few hours. Otherwise, some of the workaholics out there might try to drive straight on to their destinations and get into accidents because of sleepiness.

I have driven in a car by myself for several hours before, and it can get really hard to stay awake. It can be hard to make yourself pull over and take a short nap, especially if you are really ready to get home. I thought to myself that since I only had two hours left, I could make myself stay awake, but I wound up going off the road because I couldn’t hold my eyes open.

A person driving a huge truck would put several other drivers at risk if he didn’t take breaks. I think this is a good rule that they must follow.

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