image of vehicles boarding freight ferry at calais

Setting up as an Owner-Driver – and where to go from there

Much as with any other field of business in which self-employment is common, you will have to decide what level of involvement you wish to keep with the hands-on aspect of the freight driver business. If you are going into the owner-driver field simply because you enjoy being on the road, essentially driving, and all the implications of the lifestyle that brings, then you will no doubt wish to retain some opportunities to get behind the wheel.

A common factor that many UK SME's face when they soon begin to establish themselves is that the owner has a particular dilemma to consider - managing personal responsibility. For example, if your freight transport or courier business grows to a level where you have to employ extra drivers, and managing them takes up the bulk of your time and efforts, you will have a possibly difficult decision to make: whether to devote all your energy to running your freight operations, (again whether that is transporting goods via freight ferries or running a small or medium sized courier business) or split your time to allow yourself to still be able to hit the road from time to time.

However, as an owner-driver, one essential is a so-called O-licence. Granted by the government-appointed Traffic Commissioners, these entitle a holder to operate a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) as a business, and are only granted once you can satisfy its officials that you are in a sound financial position, and you understand the obligations on you to maintain the road worthiness of the vehicle or vehicles you operate – including your obligation to carry out six-weekly checks on all vehicles registered in your name and used for the business, and to have them maintained to the standards to enable them to pass the annual MoT test (Ministry of Transport), if they are three years old or more.

Freight Drivers - Important Consideration

An important consideration to make as an owner-driver is that you must also have a suitable base from which to operate. There are strict rules governing the operation of a business from a home address, and your neighbours are certain to be unhappy if you repeatedly park a large van or truck outside your house, which could lead to you being barred from operating that business. So be aware of these pitfalls.

A further requirement, in most cases, is a driver's Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). This is designed to provide the people whose goods you carry with an assurance that you have undergone the necessary training to drive your class of vehicle. Driver CPCs are granted on a five-year basis, and anyone who wishes to renew after expiry needs to have undertaken 35 hours of periodic training during the preceding five years, in order to stay up-to-date with the legal requirements for the granted of a CPC, which do change according to other laws.

The initial Driver CPC qualification is along similar lines to the standard driving test, but in addition to driving and theory tests, it also involves a test based on case studies of certain common driving situations, and a practical test in which a driver is required to show that they can load their vehicle safely, and keep all their cargo secure.

Read More About Freight Drivers:

1. Flexibility the Key Word in the New Logistics Landscape

2. What's Good about being a Freight Driver?

3. Being a Freight Driver: Self-Employed versus a Direct Contract

4. Should you lease or buy your truck?

5. Setting up as an Owner-Driver – and where to go from there

6. Top Tips for Freight Operators Abroad

7. Freight Driving Licence Requirements

8. Freight Drivers Working Internationally

15 September 2014

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