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OKRead

If you’re driving an HGV the chances are you’re going to find yourself on an international mission at some point, taking goods from the UK to Europe, or vice versa.

Although much of the job is the same, wherever you are there are still going to be some things you need to navigate that makes a world of difference between doing a job in the UK and doing an international job that requires you to go to Europe.

The crossing

The first and most obvious is getting off our little island and reaching the mainland of Europe. There are two ways you can do this, so we’ll explain the main principles of making this trip with an HGV.

Ferry

The first and most traditional method is to take the ferry. There are regular ferries from the UK to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain as well as further afield. As an HGV driver you can find yourself on either a regular passenger ferry or a specialist freight ferry.

Taking the ferry with a HGV is slightly different than taking the ferry as a car passenger, but not an incredible amount, so you might be pleasantly surprised if you’ve travelled as a foot or car passenger in the past.

The first thing your company will need to do is book your journey online. There are several places they can do this, either at the ferry company’s website (if they know the name of the ferry company) or on specialist booking sites which monitor and facilitate bookings from multiple operators and ports.

As part of the booking process, ferry operators will need to specify the size and weight of your vehicle, as well as provide some information about the contents and particularly whether or not they’re hazardous materials.

On arriving at the ferry port, you’ll be able to check in at a specific area of the site with other freight vehicles using your booking documentation and passport. You drive your vehicle onto the ferry when instructed and you can then leave it during the journey, when you’ll be free to relax and enjoy the journey with the other passengers on the passenger decks, or sleep in your cabin if you have one.

The Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel is the other way to reach the continent, and again it’s a very straightforward process. After booking your journey online, you simply drive to the Tunnel where you’ll be directed to the freight area.

A simple touch-screen checking in process plus registration recognition gets you through the checkpoint, and then you can show your passport to officials. You’ll drive to a freight container platform, leave your vehicle there, and go to a club car where you can relax during the journey until it’s time to get back to your vehicle and drive away.

Documentation

Along with your booking documentation, you should also have the following items with you. Some are vital and some are just ‘good to have’, so try and get the full list if you can to be best prepared.

Passport

This must be an in-date and valid personal passport. You should also be aware that in some countries you need to have a minimum amount of time left on your passport before you enter – for example 6 months must be left on your passport if you’re driving into Turkey – so bear this in mind well before your departure date, and check the policy of each country you intend to drive through.

Visa – maybe

Depending on your ultimate destination, you might need a Visa, although you won’t need one if you have a UK or EU passport and intend to stay within Europe.

License

You need to have the correct license for the type of vehicle you’re driving, so make sure you’ve picked up the correct one because your regular license won’t do.

International Driving Permit

This piece of documentation is the key to getting through checkpoints and borders in foreign countries, because it explains your license and identity in different languages so that border control officials can verify that the UK license details you give them are correct. You need to present this with your license whenever you’re asked for it.

‘Standard Tank’ Documentation

You may need to prove that your vehicle has a ‘standard tank’ to avoid extra charges on the fuel you’re carrying when you enter some countries. If your vehicle has a ‘belly tank’ or a ‘catwalk tank’ you may need to be prepared to be charged extra duty if you don’t have some form of documentation that proves it’s fitted as standard to your type of vehicle.

Drivers’ Hours Documentation

You might need to produce evidence of your hours to comply with EU regulations, so be prepared with your tachograph charts and records for the previous 28 days, plus any evidence from your employer if you were out of work for any of that time. You may also need your driver’s digital smart card if you have one.

Cabotage Documentation

This is only needed if you’re driving internally in a country you’re not registered in, but it means you need all the details of the sender and receiver of your goods, as well as all the dates and locations involved, and details of what you’re carrying.

Insurance And Medical Information

Any and all documentation relating to your medical insurance and insurance is a good idea to have with you because you never know when you might need it. The different laws in different countries relating to drivers and their cargo makes it a good idea to have all of this information to hand.

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