Waitrose HGV Driver Academy – Alannah’s Story

“Hi, I’m Alannah, a qualified HGV Driver working at our Bracknell Regional Distribution site for Waitrose. I am progressing from the first intake of trainees that successfully completed the HGV Academy here.

I joined the Partnership in November 2021 as a Dot Com driver (smaller B-category vehicles) in our Coulsdon Customer Fulfilment Centre. I loved the job but when I saw the HGV lorries delivering to the depot, I knew that I wanted to progress my career as a driver.

I should probably start by telling you how nervous I was being a young woman going into a predominantly male profession. I thought it would be difficult. However, my nerves were quickly settled when I met a Partner named Paul. He was so kind, showed me where to go and wished me the best of luck for my interview. And he’s not been the only one to look out for me here; there are so many that have helped me along the way.

When we first started the HGV Academy, we had a few days in the classroom learning about what the course would entail and the theory behind lorry driving. Many of us had never coupled or uncoupled a trailer before. We were starting from scratch and were taught all the key subjects including tachograph manual entries, safety checks and precautions to take.

“I should probably start by telling you how nervous I was being a young woman going into a predominantly male profession. I thought it would be difficult.”

When we moved into the training yard we got started straight away. The correct method of coupling and uncoupling was engraved into my mind, then a short while later a colleague of mine, Ross, and I were out driving, venturing into Newbury and learning the test routes. Over the course of the month, I had passed all our Class 1 tests and was partnered with a buddy. This is when we began to make our first store deliveries, becoming a professional Waitrose HGV Driver!

Up first was a delivery and collection to one of our shops in Wales. This really was an educational day from start to finish. Starting with the Operations Desk to receive keys, the store/collection and to download our driver cards, then onto vehicle safety checks. Afterward, you receive your trailer where you complete further safety checks and couple up.

Within this job you are constantly learning and improving.  All the stores are different, so being able to adapt is key. It is so important that each manoeuvre carried out is safe; for you, your surroundings and any pedestrians nearby. We are taught to stop, get out and check if you have the slightest bit of doubt in the manoeuvre or surroundings. There is no shame in checking many times over, as every driver here knows, it’s not worth the chance!

“From the very first day I was being pushed to be the best driver I could be”.

Before long I was doing my restricted list assessment (these are stores deemed safe for you to visit independently whilst still building your confidence). Then after another assessment I was ‘set free’ to deliver to any store and visit any collection site.

From the very first day I was being pushed to be the best driver I could be. Socialising in the drivers rest room has been really beneficial. It really is like having an extended family! My confidence has been built through their advice with routes, stores, working and driving time directives and always being there to put a smile on my face after a not-so-good day, which does occasionally happen… it’s inevitable!

It is important to remember that the Transport Operators and Driver Mentors are only a call away, if you are in need of help. Along with maps provided with step-by-step instructions to the destination, pictures of the yard/key things to remember and a diagram of how to manoeuvre in the yard. Sometimes, even how to get out.

I have gained so much experience navigating a wide range of stores, reversing tight angles and learning the trailer fridge changes from diesel to electric. I am lucky enough to have been trained to use our double deck trailers after only a few months of driving. This allows me to take out the largest trailers we have on site independently, requiring more forward planning and consideration.

There are many drivers joining the Waitrose Partnership as HGV drivers through the Academy, and it is amazing to see their progression and confidence build. I am so thankful for the opportunities that have been provided and I have really enjoyed my time with Waitrose and my journey through the Academy.

I can’t wait to see where my career with Waitrose will lead to!”

At the John Lewis Partnership, we want every one of our Partners (employees) to find their happier way of working, like Alannah. Find out more about driving careers at Waitrose & Partners and the incredible benefits of being a Partner in the Partnership by exploring our careers website JLPjobs.com. 

Back to all posts

Comments are closed.