Being a Freight Driver: Self-Employed versus a Direct Contract
Many people who decide they want to work as a commercial vehicle driver ferrying goods to and from Europe do so because they believe it offers them a welcome level of job security, stability and continuity.
Certainly, this is true if they manage to prove themselves reliable workers for a haulage or courier company – and as many of these firms are themselves highly regarded in the sector. Being able to say that you are employed by one of these prestigious firms is undoubtedly a feather in your cap. versus
But in this field, the lines have become increasingly blurred in recent years, as many hauliers seek to build a workforce which still enables them to respond to the fluctuating demands of the market, yet absolves them of certain responsibilities on behalf of the individual drivers, such as paying their tax and national insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses.
Drivers, on the other hand, are often attracted by the prospect of getting 'the full whack' for the jobs they carry out straight in their hands, or more often, bank accounts, and then being able to offset many of the costs associated with operating their vehicle day-to-day against their liability for taxes.
Being a freelance driver
As a 'freelance' driver, you are at the mercy of the market for the type of goods which you have the vehicle and equipment to carry. So, for example, if you work carrying fruit and vegetables, you're likely to have plenty of work during the main harvest, but to then find that this slows down considerably once the main cultivating time is over. Many people find they can earn a good living this way – they carry goods which are in particular demand at certain times, and then switch to carrying something else once that peak passes, and they can even continue working throughout much of the year in this fashion.
Consider also UK economic recession - in the case of the EU, growth has been slow this year BUT the flip side of that is when economies are growing, the demand for goods and services increases which the self-employed haulier or courier can benefit from. Certainly UK ports such as Dover, Holyhead, and Folkstone see more and more van drivers transporting goods into freight ferries for crossings into other EU countries.
Advantages of being a 'Contracted Driver'
If you find work as a contracted driver, on the other hand, you will have added benefits of being able to call upon some important safeguards regarding your work, such as the right to claim for unfair dismissal if you feel the reasons for your employer dispensing with your services were unjust, as well as the right to statutory sick pay.
Another advantage of finding work with a company which pays its drivers through the pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE) and national insurance system is that such companies' operating and accounting procedures are regularly scrutinised closely by the official tax-collecting authorities, and so they will be at a competitive advantage when it comes to tendering for the most prestigious and lucrative driving contracts.
Advantages of 'working for yourself'
Yet it has to be acknowledged that there is a burgeoning black market in the logistics and freight ferry sectors – especially given that so many goods are shipped across borders, from, through and to countries in which different rules apply regarding the employment and tax status of drivers. Another important difference between contracted and self-employed drivers is that, in the case of the former, the employer is liable for providing a suitable contributory pension scheme, into which they can put contributions from drivers taken automatically from their wages. In the case of a self-employed driver, however, he or she must make their own arrangements for investing in a personal pension plan. This is not necessarily a disadvantage but an advantage in that it gives the driver more control over their own finances.
The point made about about economic growth is also a strong benefit to self-employed drivers whom are able to take advantage of the 'good times' and generate an income for themselves. This means it can be financially lucrative for the self-employed driver to operate in this type of period, and it also brings a degree of flexibility and control. Depending on the personal commitments of the driver (i.e. family commitments etc), they can pick and choose jobs from the more popular freight exchanges, and/or increase their own workload to maximise opportunity. This is something that may not be an option working out of a 'contract'. Needless to say, as mentioned above, the prospect of getting 'the full whack' for the jobs they carry out straight in their hands, self-employed drivers tend to earn more per 'job' than their counterparts working subject to an employer.
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3. Being a Freight Driver: Self-Employed versus a Direct Contract