Transport professionals, are you always happy with the way the job is presented to new or potential colleagues, particularly at the point of recruitment? To be certain that they truly understand everything about it, it may be useful to summarise the essential qualities for being a good driver.
Of course, the main job of a truck driver is to carry freight and goods and to offer services going from one point to another. Yet professionals within the sector know that this only represents part of the tasks required. Depending on their skills or their line of business, the driver may also be responsible for loading their truck, keeping a logbook and ensuring proper vehicle maintenance. As well as this, they may also attend to administrative aspects concerning them and manage commercial, technical and administrative matters. The importance of these auxiliary tasks may vary depending on the driver’s profile. For this, there are as many opportunities as there are sectors of activity.
In all these cases, five major qualities are required.
1. Know the environment and its constraints
Working long hours on the road can prove exhausting. In theory, European law dictates that drivers should take a 45-minute break after driving 4 hours 30 minutes. They can drive up to 10 hours a day only twice a week, and 9 hours maximum on other days. Driving time cannot exceed 56 hours a week, and 90 hours across two weeks. In reality, this regulation is adhered to for the most part, yet exceptions can lead to working longer hours, such as weather and difficulty finding a place to rest. Furthermore, the driving conditions that may arise can tire out professionals – icy roads and traffic jams are just some of the factors that need to be taken into account. Even following legal provisions, the job is therefore physically demanding.
This is why a good driver must adhere to a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. Physical exercise, rest and nutrition are decisive factors in the good performance of a driver in the medium or long term. Drivers who want to be professional must be aware of the full commitment required by the profession and be prepared to adhere to it so they can face the environment’s constraints. Moreover, they shouldn’t expect to “just” drive, which is already an important task in itself – the technical and administrative aspects are an important part of the job. Filling out delivery and incident reports and slips, checking traffic authorisations, characteristics of the product transported, etc. is just as essential as ensuring the load is compliant (weight, load distribution, etc.) or making sure the vehicle is in good condition (service, technical inspection, inspection, etc.). To summarise, it’s a complete career where you need to be multi-skilled and also able to adapt to the digital tools that are appearing and playing an increasingly important role. It is essential to simultaneously feel at ease using devices (smartphone, tablet, computer), be able to understand the information that is sent and that one sends and know how to interpret it. These are the type of interactions “digital natives” are perfectly comfortable with, but that are much less natural for older generations.
2. Have the required qualifications and licences
Many training routes exist for truck drivers. After obtaining their category C licence (HGV licence), the driver should turn towards one of the following:
- Initial obligatory minimal training (FIMO): obligatory for vehicles with a load heavier than 3.5 tonnes,
- CAP qualification for freight truck drivers,
- Professional baccalaureate for freight truck drivers,
- Professional title of All-Vehicle Freight Driver (CTRMV),
- Professional title of Transporter Freight Driver (CTRMP),
- Professional title of Light Utility Vehicle Delivery Driver (CLVUL),
- Special training in transportation of dangerous goods.
Training isn’t just an option, it’s a requirement, and the route selected to achieve it should be the right one for each driver’s goals.
3. Be organised, disciplined and independent
Because truck drivers play an intermediary role between the sender and the receiver, they have to meet many expectations regarding deadlines and quality of service. On the road, they are responsible for their driving and their goods in a contract of confidence between employer and client. The driver must therefore rigorously adhere to delivery deadlines. Yet this is only the beginning of the relationship with the client – drivers who drive well give a positive image of their company. In this way, they contribute to their reputation in the area they cover, be it local, national or international. On their travels, drivers are the main ambassadors for their company.
4. Be vigilant, careful and responsible
Working long hours on the road with deadlines to meet can become tiring and decrease alertness and even lead to risky behaviour. Driving heavy loads with freight weighing several tonnes poses both a risk to others and to oneself if care isn’t taken. This is why it’s always better to be a prudent driver rather than a hasty driver. The application of safety rules is a skill regularly expected in job offers in the sector.
5. Adapt to tools and situations
Drivers must stand out by being multi-skilled. They must therefore be capable of adapting to very different types of road, from country roads to border-crossing motorways in conditions that are also ever changing. Whether it’s rain, ice, snow or drought, they must be able to deal with all kinds of weather.
This is vital know-how that has to keep on growing, as drivers must also be able to deal with digital tools – telematics in particular – that are used on a daily basis, and which will become increasingly common in years to come. There will therefore be a growing requirement, both for adaptability to the conditions and to the tools at their disposal.
To conclude, with all these qualities listed, you will have set out the roadmap of what makes a good driver for those who have just joined your business or aspire to do so. It’s worth being clear about, in part perhaps to limit casting errors with candidates who may not have fully understood the reality of the job.