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5 years as a long distance LGV driver

Downie Howard, one of our LGV drivers, recently celebrated his 5-year anniversary so we asked him a bit more about his journey into trucking and how his five years have been.

Downie is an LGV Driver for one of our Scottish brands – Hayton Coulthard. He drives long haul – spending his 5-day shift in his HGV, driving to destinations across the UK and sleeping in his cab.

Downie is pictured in the centre with Stuart Murray and Duncan Coulthard.

What did you do before you worked at Gregory Group?
I started by career working on a farm and became a driver 9 years ago. My first driving job was European meat haulage which would mean being away for 2-3 weeks at a time.

Why did you choose driving as your career?
I got fed up with the mundane day-to-day life and wanted to see a bit more of the world.

Does the reality of driving meet the expectation you had before you passed your LGV licence?
I thought it would just be driving from A to B, but the deadlines make it more challenging. There are so many factors that influence how quickly you can get somewhere, so you definitely need more patience than I originally thought!

What does a typical day look like for you?
The time I start my day varies depending on the day before and the time I had to stop. If I had a choice I’d happily work until 2 or 3am and start later. But no matter what time of day it is, as soon as I wake up, I turn the key to make sure all is good with the truck. Then I get dressed, open the curtains and have breakfast – usually coffee and Weetabix but I am partial to a bacon roll too! Then I do the safety checks, make sure there are no defects, and check the address for my first drop before heading off. The rest of the day is dictated by my route, traffic, and all the other factors that might impact where I go and by when!

Tell us about your truck
I drive a Scania 450S. It’s like driving a big car – it has air con, Apple play music and is really easy to drive. The tech is great too. For example, the truck gives me a 30-minue reminder before my hours are up so I can concentrate on driving rather than constantly watching the clock.

What was it like when you first started driving?
Some drops were daunting if you haven’t been there before. I’d get the nerves a bit. You tend to stop a bit more and double check, but it soon become second nature.

The older drivers were also a great support. They have a solid work ethic and some of their advice sticks with me today. For example, “when you are out, you’re out to work” and “getting home safe is more important than anything else”.

What are the essential skills for a long-haul driver?
You have to be comfortable in your own company because you spend a lot of hours on your own. You need patience, particularly when in cities because you can’t be in a rush or get wound up by traffic. And you need to use your common sense – don’t rely on sat navs to get you everywhere, read the signs on the road too.

What are your favourite runs?
I actually like going to London. You can’t go any faster than the traffic, so you just do the job at your own pace.

I like seeing customers I am familiar with so it’s nice when I’m on a regular run. The building merchants are always welcoming so it is good to catch up with them.

When it comes to the loads, my favourite is when I transport 20ft tanks (which are used to hold food stuffs). They go on a flatbed trailer and have 8 twist locks to secure them which means I can load them on and off within 5 minutes!

What keeps you coming to work every day?
I like driving. I also like to provide for my family. I don’t just come to work for me, I come to work for my kids too.

From a day-to-day point of view, it’s great when you see truck photographers or kids waving on a bridge. That always makes my day.

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