So you want to drive your own HGV?

Truck parking

Most HGV drivers don’t start out with the aim of working for themselves, or ‘going freelance’. They usually go through their training, sometimes self-funded, sometimes sponsored, and then go on to employment. For a long time, it was preferable to have an established company behind you. That way, you just turned up for work and you did what was asked of you. You didn’t need to worry about finding work, insurance, bookkeeping and a million other things.

Changes in the economy are mostly responsible for the changes we’ve seen in the industry. Many companies can’t give drivers the amount of work they need. Meanwhile, whereas most employees in other jobs are seeing an increase in their wages (albeit a slight one), drivers are actually seeing their rates go down. Companies can’t afford to pay the rates they used to. Fewer hours and more competition is also dragging wages further down. Agency work is available as an alternative, but it’s frequently even worse. There are no company perks or benefits. Plus, the bigger the agency is, the less likely they are to give you work as they have to share out equally all the work that comes in.

By going ‘freelance’, you can have more control over the money you take home, as well as the amount of work you do. You can become a freelancer if the only vehicle you have is your own car or motorbike. You sell your driving skills and time to any number of different companies, to drive their trucks, HGVs or coaches wherever they require. A lot of the time you’ll be covering for company employees who are on leave or sick. Sometimes you’ll find a company that regularly works with freelancers and you’ll be able to negotiate contracts which suit you in terms of length, hours and remuneration. Not only that, but you’ll be able to enjoy a degree of flexibility which is unheard of when working for a company. You’ll be free to book your holidays when it suits you. If your child has a parents’ evening or a nativity play, you can just keep that evening free.

For someone who has always worked as an employee, it can be a bit daunting deciding to become a freelancer. There are lots of things to deal with that you might never have given much thought to. However, most people who do take the plunge, do so when they realise they won’t have to put up with a boss or crazy schedules anymore. You’ll be the boss now, and the schedules will be up to you. That’s what makes it worth learning a little more to be in that position.

First of all, you’ll need the help of an accountant. This means you’ll spend some cash up front, but it’s definitely worth it. The accountant will help you come up with a viable business plan – helping you to figure out what your total income target should be, how much you can pay yourself, how much to set aside etc. They will help you to register as self-employed or as a limited company. They’ll also be able to do your bookkeeping for you, make sure you don’t overpay your taxes. Plus, they have inside knowledge of all the ways you can save money, what you can and can’t put on expenses and so on. If you want to register as self-employed in the UK it is free. If you’re setting up a limited company it will cost more, but also brings more benefits. You’ll also need to make sure you get insured with a provider that is good for hgv insurance.

Once you’re all set up on the legal side, you can start talking to companies for work. In some cases, you can draw up a formal contract between yourself and the company, stipulating any conditions you require. This might happen for regular or specialist work. In reality, most contracts you make will simply be verbal. This means you’ll agree your rate on the phone, along with the job that needs to be done, the times and so on. The more regularly you work with companies, the better relationship you’ll have in this regard. The best part of it all is getting paid. Make sure you invoice the company with your rate and VAT.