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Top 10 Driving Jobs in road transport

  • 18 December 2012
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Somebody had to do it, so who better than driver Lucy Radley to come up with a list – including the various pros and cons – of the Top 10 trucking jobs in the UK (thanks to our sister title Truck Driver).

Our apologies in advance if you don’t agree with them, and please feel free to let us know if you have an alternative Top 10.

10: Car Transporters

A classic on the list of much-talked-about nice earners – even in these hard, cash-strapped times a driver based in the wage-poor North East can bring home £500-£650 a week with four nights out, which isn’t to be sniffed at. The much-talked-about and all-important bonuses for undamaged cars are obviously still there to be made, if not quite as vast as legend would have us believe.

It’s high-mileage work with tight schedules. On the plus side you’re pretty much guaranteed to work only Monday-Friday – you’ll have run out of hours by the end of the week – and you get to chat up some nice receptionists.

On the other hand, you’ll be working at heights, in poor weather, driving a low-spec, low-powered truck with a cab the size of a fish tank.

Apparently the best place to be is with a medium-to-large company with new car contracts (so no dodgy scrappers and insurance write-offs), because they pay the better money and will train you properly – and boy do we reckon you’ll need it.

9: Fuel Tankers

Long talked about as the potential pinnacle of the UK driver’s earning possibilities, we couldn’t possibly not mention this one. Surprise, surprise, the money’s not what it was but it’s still on the high side of competitive and your load effectively tips itself – it’s not even that likely to go bang these days, post-Buncefield and the extra ’elf and safety left in its wake.

ADR is, obviously, needed but that, after all, is what the extra money’s for.

On the downside, fuel tanker work is high pressure these days with drivers constantly checked on and, while you won’t have to do nights out, you will likely find yourself doing a mix of days and nights on a rolling shift pattern.

Still, you can’t have it all, so if you want to get in we’re told that the best thing to do is go on for a smaller firm and get some experience and a loading ticket, which in turn will make you attractive to the big boys. The little fish are easy to find; just sit outside your local refinery and take the numbers off the wagons that pass.

Remember, though, this isn’t a job for a smoker…

8: Continental General Haulage

Yeah, we know that’s a bit sweeping, but most people with a hankering after broader horizons don’t care what’s in the back. And who can blame them? You only have to spend a short time in the company of those who’ve been there and done it ‘over the water’ to know you’re in for a treat.

Quite apart from the fact you’ll be seeing Europe and getting paid for it – reason itself to have this one on the list – it’s apparently a far more civilised place to work. Drivers are respected instead of sneered at; the parking and facilities are better and often free, while those that do charge give you the entire ticket cost back as a meal; that meal is likely to be edible, enjoyable even; the roads are clearer; and your hours will probably be shorter, thanks to more days spent purely driving. What’s not to like?

Well, there’s the money. You’ll probably bring home more wedge tramping in the UK. Then there’s the time away – sure, you can ‘Channel hop’ and be home most weekends, but those jobs are thin on the ground, and even then you could be weekended unexpectedly if a backload falls through. But hey, it’s those weekends when you really get to explore, so we reckon if you can handle being out for a few weeks at a time, Continental haulage has to be worth a punt, if only so you can say you’ve done it.

7: Stage / Rock’n'Roll Touring

This is a bit more like it. Proper prestige stuff – and it sounds cool before you even start. So here’s the lowdown: you’ll probably have to start as a ‘double driver’ to get a foot in the door but once you’re in you’re laughing – so long as you don’t mind not coming back for up to three months. In that time you’ll be following an artiste or show all across Europe, and with free catering for the entire crew you can live off your night-out money and leave your wages mounting up in the bank for your return.

The wages themselves aren’t fabulous but you don’t do much physical unloading – just supervising the ‘pack’ to a set plan – and you can make a bit extra on the side selling T-shirts or manning a spotlight at gigs. The hours can be a bit bizarre – you might sit for a few days then suddenly have to drive through the night – and there are long, unpaid periods at home between tours. But if you budget right, that bit sounds like an extended holiday to us; in fact, the whole job does.

Go on, apply, you know you want to.

6: Fridges

If you’ve got a family you’ve got bills, lots of them, and you need something reliable to make sure they keep getting paid. Not easy to be sure of in these oft-quoted ‘tough economic times’, but wait a minute. If there’s one thing people always need to do it’s eat, so there will always be a need for fridges to cart the food around. In fact, we think this sector is about as recession-proof as they come, and there are plenty of ways to work within it – day runs, night runs, tramping, you name it.

We’re reliably informed that sleeping with a fridge soon becomes old hat, and seasoned reefer drivers generally wake up when things go too quiet rather than the other way around.

The hours can be long and there’s a lot of early starts – like 2am early – but the money’s competitive and you can be fairly sure you’ll still be in work this time next year, a valuable thing in our book.

5: Heavy Haulage

Ahh, a proper man’s job. Big machinery, chains, flashing lights, convoys, CB chat, legitimate traffic chaos… heavy haulage has it all. And there’s no more sitting in a layby on the county border for two days waiting for the coppers to turn up, because the law has been relaxed to allow private escort vehicles to be used instead.

Plenty of challenges, lots of variety; you’ll never get bored if you join the world of abnormal loads, and the respect you’ll earn from fellow drivers as you learn and gain skill will be second to none. Who hasn’t, after all, gazed admiringly at the really big stuff?

Sadly, the money doesn’t reflect this, hovering around the ‘average’ mark. There’s a lot of time spent away, too, but you’ll never be pushed – it’s simply impossible to race about when you’ve a load of 144ft-long pipes on your back with a 45ft overhang.

Those in the know say you should get your start on basic long and wide loads – portable cabins, steel, and so on – then work your way up.

4: Trunking

Back down to earth with a bump: the opposite end of the spectrum has to be trunking. Granted, it can get a bit boring when you’re driving the same run over and over and over again but there’s a lot to be said for predictability, especially for those with young families.

It’s mostly night work, although that gives you slightly better money – usually salaried, so no worries about ‘getting your hours in’ – and it means you’ll be back before the kids go to school and out of bed when they come home again.

They’re only young once, so fill your boots while you can. Before you know it they’ll be stroppy teenagers who can’t wait to see the back of you, so at least this way you get to store those good memories before swanning off into the sunset in a tramping job again when their hormones kick in.

3: Containers

‘What?’ we hear you cry. But yes, we really have put container work on our list of Top 10 jobs.

Think about it. It’s easy, clean work. All you really do is drive, with plenty of time to do your own thing in between – be that watch a film, play on the laptop, take an Open University degree or simply snooze. You can do it during the day or at night, you can be home every night or you can tramp. The latter is probably a better bet, though, as the spreadovers can be long and the end-of-shift rest breaks short.

The docks can be a bit notorious as well, and you’ll soon become obsessed by weather forecasts, sniffing for any possibility of wind. But if you do grind to a halt thanks to a slight breeze, that’s simply more time to doze… If you’d rather your hours were shorter and your evenings longer, you can always go to a firm that pulls short sea boxes – for example, PO, ECS, Samskip – where the loads tend to be palletised and the tips therefore shorter.

All in all, it’s pretty damn reasonable money for old rope. You can’t possibly lose.

2: Supermarket Trucks

While being a ‘trolley dolly’ is by no means glamorous, supermarket work is own-account, which means it doesn’t have to make a profit. Purely a means to an end, the result for the drivers is better money and job security, whilst a heavily unionised workforce means pretty decent conditions as well.

The work’s easy, the hours are short, and there are no unexpected nights out – in this game, in the unlikely event you run out of time, someone will soon be along to pick you up and fetch you home.

The shift pattern can be a bit wacky, with most supermarket work allocated to a rota, and you’ll often find yourself working weekends and bank holidays for no extra money – but if you average things out it still pays, as well as being another pretty recession-proof place to be. Definitely worthy of its place in this Top 10, we think.

1: Motorsport

We thought we’d save a bit of glitz until last, so the last job on our list is driving for the motorsport industry. But beware, all is not as it might seem.

For starters, Formula One work is usually contracted-in from the likes of Eddie Stobart, so the drivers aren’t in any way part of the team, simply making their drop and leaving. Lower down the league, where transport is done in-house, an awful lot of the work doesn’t involve driving, and it’s rare you’ll see a race at all – you’ll be too busy being a general dogsbody, humping and dumping whatever’s needed, polishing the truck to within an inch of its life, cleaning up in hospitality areas, you name it.

Sure, you get to travel, but you’ll be away for irregular periods and might well never get to go trackside.

It’s not all bad, though. Motorsport jobs are nothing if not a bit different, and age and experience are rarely a factor. Most teams like to train their drivers from fresh, so that being a complete trucking newbie might even give you an advantage.

If you’re struggling to get a foot in the transport industry door, there are definitely worse places to start – and just think, what will it look like on your CV when you’re moving on to one of the other nine suggestions?


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