If you’ve just taken the leap and joined the ranks of the UK’s ‘man and van’ courier work brigade, you probably already know that it’s not simply a matter of getting out there, doing a bit of fast talking and hoping for the best. There are quite a few legal and logistical hoops you need to navigate before you can start working successfully as a self-employed driver.
Aside from ensuring you have all the relevant licences and insurances in place, you need to be very sure of your legal obligations when it comes to what you can and cannot carry in the course of your courier work.
While every carrier will lay down their own set of rules in terms of what they’re prepared (or are able) to carry, there are certain things that absolutely cannot be transported without special skills, vehicles or licences.
Must Say No, Just Say No
The list of goods you’re prohibited from carrying will differ, of course, depending on your equipment and training. However, if you’re a newbie to courier work, you should consider the following items a no-go zone.
Hazardous goods: The transportation of chemicals, waste products and any other hazardous goods is a highly specialised job and there are stringent rules surrounding this. (This also includes lithium batteries and fireworks.) Do not accept a job that involves these kinds of materials without first checking with the relevant authorities.
Flammable liquids and solids: This includes, but is not limited to, solvent-based paints, petrol products, model fuels, adhesives, glues, paint thinners, perfumes, resins, inks, ammonia based fertilisers, magnesium, fire lighters and matches.
Toxic substances: Without special skills and training you cannot carry pesticides, poisons, medical waste, infectious materials, radioactive materials or biological samples.
Live animals: In general courier work you are not permitted to transfer livestock of any kind, domestic pets, birds, fish or insects.
Animal parts: You are also prohibited from transporting any animal parts, including fur, skin, organs, ivory or ivory products.
Firearms and ammunition: You are not allowed to transport firearms, explosives, knives, swords or ammunition of any kind.
Pornographic material: This includes any kind of electronic recordings or images.
Illegal goods: This really should go without saying, but you risk serious legal ramifications if you are found to be transporting any illegal goods – and ignorance is never an excuse. This means anything from counterfeit currency or art forgeries to pirated products or narcotics.
Pharmaceuticals: Even legal drugs are a no-no unless you have a special licence to carry them.
Compliant Courier Work
When you’re just starting out it can be tempting to accept every job that comes your way, but it’s imperative that you familiarise yourself with the rules of what you can and can’t legally transport. On the flip side, however, there is plenty of money to be made in specialised areas of delivery, such as medical samples and hazardous goods. If you are interested in diversifying once you have some miles and experience under your belt, there are lots of opportunities for training so you can be skilled and licenced to capitalise on these niche markets.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Numerous transport exchange businesses are networked together on their website, trading jobs and capacity through what is now the fastest growing Freight Exchange in the UK.
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