HGV Trunking and HGV Tramping in the UK

The HGV industry has been at the forefront of the movement of goods and commodities across the UK and Europe for decades. This article looks at two key types of journey known as HGV trunking and HGV tramping in the UK.

The movement of goods

According to the Department for Transport 81% of all goods were transported around the UK by road in 2019. This equates to 1.44 billion tonnes and an increase of 2% on the previous year. This took place over a staggering 19.1 billion vehicle kilometres.

The majority of these journeys fall in to two key journey types recognised within the HGV industry: HGV trunking and HGV tramping. But what are these and how do they differ?

So what is HGV tramping?

HGV tramping is the commonly used term for the practice of making long-distance deliveries which may well take place over a number of days.

These deliveries may require a journey to take several days and longer where European travel is involved. In these instances, the driver will often sleep in the lorry cab. HGV tramping jobs tend to mean that a driver will actually live in their vehicle and be away from their home for extended periods of time. These journeys involve very high mileage and can make for a rather solitary lifestyle.

In general, HGV tramping journeys across the UK and Europe tend to be fulfilled by articulated lorries, which can have a gross vehicle weight of up to 44 tonnes. These vehicles are longer, larger and heavier and can therefore carry more freight.

And what about HGV trunking?

Where a driver uses the same route to make deliveries regularly it is referred to within the industry as HGV trunking. The name is taken from the fact that most journeys are made on trunk roads such as motorways and dual carriageways.

Typical characteristics of an HGV trunking journey can include multi drop or single drop, long and short haul and night driving. These journeys generally take place daily rather than involving an overnight stay and tend to be made between the same locations.

Rigid vehicles are more suited to trunking jobs, which may include multi-drop courier-style delivery journeys.

In many cases trunking journeys will use a relay of drivers with onward destinations of goods which can affect shift patterns.

Volume of freight

In 2018 articulated vehicles carried 889 million tonnes (63%) of freight whilst rigid vehicles carried 517 million tonnes (37%). Source: Department for Transport Domestic Road Freight Statistics United Kingdom 2019.

With such high volumes of freight being transported around the country by HGVs, it is perhaps no surprise that the road freight sector contributed £13 billion to the UK economy in 2018 – 6% more than the previous year.

HGV freight types

There are many different types of HGV which are used for a wide variety of job types, particularly when it comes to trunking journeys.

In 2019 the three most coming goods transported by GB registered HGVs in the UK were:

  1. 1. Food products 261 million tonnes goods lifted 18%
  2. 2. Groupage* 230 million tonnes goods lifted 16%
  3. 3. Waste related products 183 million tonnes goods lifted 13%

*Groupage is classified as mixed consignments where no single commodity accounts for 75% or more of the consignment weight.

MHF (UK) Ltd is proud to supply HGVs to the waste management sector and recognise the importance of our role in the transportation of waste related products around the UK. It is a growth sector which saw an increase of 2% on the previous year.

The state of the HGV industry

The HGV industry has seen a shortage of drivers both in the UK and in Europe in recent years but it is not known whether this shortage is in the tramping or trunking sectors –drivers of rigid or articulated vehicles, multi-drop, day or night drivers (typically trunking jobs) or long-distance articulated HGV drivers (trampers) who are away from home for extended periods.

Working conditions and the demands of the job for trampers can be off-putting to many. Certainly, the implications for the family of a tramper driver are that a partner can run the home and family commitments whilst the driver is away.

Trampers may also come from an older demographic, whose family has flown the nest or are possibly divorced. However the nature of the job does appeal to some, especially those who enjoy travelling around the continent – the call of the open road is powerful to those seeking European HGV tramping jobs.

More attractive to younger distribution drivers is a job driving in a trunking role which enables them to be home every night and able to contribute more to family and home commitments.

In recent years the industry has seen a decline in the number of pan-European trunking journeys, primarily led by the high cost of fuel prices in the UK. A more common practice nowadays is the onward transportation of goods from the UK by European drivers as the cost of fuel is much cheaper on the continent.

Whatever the type of HGV journey a driver follows as a career, those journeys must be successfully fulfilled whilst ensuring that the strict regulations contained within the driver hours and working time directives are adhered to.


Domestic Road Freight Statistics United Kingdom 2019https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/898747/domestic-road-freight-statistics-2019.pdf