Advice for Owner Drivers
New owner drivers, experienced owner drivers and even people looking at becoming owner drivers – we are always getting phone calls asking our advice on various topics from vehicles, insurance and fuel cards, to sat navs and workwear. So we wanted to include a section that highlights some of the options available to owner driver sub-contractors. We have to stress though that these are just our opinions from our experience. We have also included some useful links to the companies that we feel may be able to help advise you further or who you may wish to purchase products and services from to help you on your way.
Using the experience we have acquired since setting up we have compiled some guidelines that we feel may be useful for owner drivers when choosing who to take work from and how to go about your business….
- Vehicle choice is entirely up to you the driver and preferences may depend on your personal circumstances. We would always recommend buying one from a reputable dealer with a full service history though. And bear in mind some companies, like us, have vehicle age limits so the newer you can afford the better. Your vehicle is a money making asset and reliability, therefore, is paramount.
- Make sure the insurance company you choose know that you are using your vehicle for haulage or courier work. The companies you will want to sub-contract from will ask to see your insurances to make sure that the use of the vehicle is stated on the policy as haulage, courier or similar.
- Always make sure that you have a hi-visibility vest or coat and steel toe cap work boots with you at all times – the last thing you want is to travel long distance only to be told you cannot enter the delivery site! Check out our useful links for reputable workwear companies with everything you need.
- Be cautious when transport or courier companies promise you that they will fill your week with work and that you are to work solely for them. You may find that this is not the case and that the work is not filling your week or earning you enough money. By this point you may be tied into them. We never promise to fill your week with work and always encourage owner drivers we use to sub-contract from similar companies to ourselves so as to maximise your potential for work.
- Similar to and following on from point 4, be aware of those companies that insist that to work for them you must put their company livery on your vehicle. Be very careful as other transport and courier companies that you may wish to work for will only use owner drivers vehicles with no livery.
- Contact companies in other major cities such as London, Birmingham, Glasgow etc so as to maximise your potential for backload work.
- We are always asked that classic question “How much can I earn per week?” Which to be honest is a fair question, but then again it is one that we cannot answer. All we can tell you is how much we can pay you per loaded mile for the jobs that we give you. There is no telling how many jobs we will have coming in each day, how many of those will be for your size vehicle and there is also the factor of whether you are free and want to take the job on. There are also other factors which come into the profit you make, such as whether you manage to obtain backload work which will increase your profit margins too.
- Always get confirmation of your ‘per loaded mile’ rate from companies you work for in writing before you start.
- Before you accept a job from a company confirm the price or just the mileage that the job pays. So many drivers take on work without knowing what they will get paid and then end up very disappointed.
- ALWAYS get a proof of delivery sheet signed and printed with the date and time the goods were delivered. The number of drivers who fail to do this is mind boggling – most companies will not pay you if you do not have this, which to be honest is only fair when you consider that they will not get paid by their customer if they cannot prove delivery was made. If you need a proof of delivery sheet then please feel free to print copies of the one we have created for owner drivers – download link.
- Before sending your proof of delivery to your customer, always take a photocopy for your records – things do go missing in the post!
- Never discuss work you have done for other companies or give details of collection and delivery points. To most companies this shows a lack of professionalism, even if you just let these things ‘slip’ out.
- We would recommend that the easiest and most cost effective way to keep your financial records like invoices is to buy a software package that will pretty much do the hard work for you. In the long run it will save you plenty of time. It will also be easier to keep track of the money you are owed and by whom. You will be able to print off or email statements to your clients which will not only keep your time spent on credit control to a minimum but it will also help your customer keep track for their records.
- Remember that whoever gives you work is your customer, whether it’s your local hardware store or a same day courier company you sub-contract from. Good customer service skills are therefore required. A lot of drivers make the mistake of treating companies they sub-contract from like an employer/employee relationship, and that is not the case. Whoever your customer, always be polite, respectful and flexible. The level of service you provide will never go unnoticed. Good service = More work. Bad service = No more work.
On our useful links page are some companies that we feel could offer you products and services that you may benefit from. There are fuel cards which will not only help you maintain a more consistent and in some cases cheaper price, but they will also help you keep administration to a minimum with one weekly or monthly invoices. Invoice finance or factoring facilities that will keep your cash flow flowing! Links for ferry tickets if you plan to travel abroad, links for in-vehicle technology such as satellite navigation and bluetooth and a link for workwear providers that can offer you package deals for the items you need.
What equipment and other items will be useful to start as an owner driver courier?
This useful list should provide you with what you need to start off:
- Hi-Vis vest or Jacket
- Steel Toe Cap Boots
- Satellite Navigation
- UK Road Map (as back up)
- Ratchet Straps (a must for securing loads)
- Blankets/Furniture Covers
- Clip Board
- Proof of Delivery Sheets
- Notepad & Pens
- Mobile Phone Holder
- Bluetooth/Hands-Free Kit
- First Aid Kit
- Breakdown Kit
- Most importantly….. An in-vehicle mascot!