28th November, 2014
Best Practice for hauliers and warehouse keepers
Pre-Christmas is the busiest time of year for hauliers and warehouse keepers, with high demand for storing and transporting goods. However, there are several factors to consider to ensure best practice is followed and no potentially costly legal issues arise.
Tim Culpin, Head of Transport Law, says: “For hauliers it’s mostly common sense – making sure you have enough grit for your yard, providing adequate lighting for drivers to do their daily checks and factoring in delays caused by adverse weather conditions, so that drivers aren’t going over their hours.”
Another problem hauliers face is drivers duplicating licences to avoid having to disclose points or even disqualifications to their employers.
Tim explains: “Drivers’ ability to hold a vocational licence is judged on their conduct in driving any vehicle so some may pretend they’ve lost their licence to keep a clean one to present at work. The company can get a mandate to include regular licence checks from the DVLA which means there are no opportunities to mislead the company and all driving offences are recorded.”
And it’s not just the drivers who must make sure their licences are up-to-date.
One of the most common mistakes hauliers make is not applying for a new operator’s licence in advance of a change in the legal entity which holds it (e.g. sole trader to company or a change in partners), then finding themselves paying high legal fees to try to solve the situation whilst losing income.
Tim says: “Almost always, it’s a genuine mistake, people simply don’t realise that by losing a partner the partnership becomes a new entity so requires a new licence, even if the majority of the partnership is intact. The same is true if the business incorporates”.
There are several reasons companies continue to operate under the wrong licence and often the error does not come to light until the licence is due to be renewed, which could be up to five years after the change and too late to salvage.
Tim said: “It could be a sudden change, such as the death of one of the partners, in which case a lawyer can help you get a continuation, but as a rule you should notify the traffic commissioner as soon as you’re aware of a change in the partnership or entity – a failure to do so can result in an inability to operate for months while a new licence is applied for.”
For warehousing, problems arise when the terms that will apply to the storage are not made clear at the outset of the relationship with the customer.
Nick Clarke, Head of Commercial Litigation, says: “You must make sure that the terms and conditions under which you are storing goods are notified to the customer before the storage commences. Standard industry terms include provisions limiting your liability and if you don’t ensure they are incorporated you will potentially face very significant liability if the goods are lost or damaged while in your care.
“Bigger customers may ask you to trade on their terms but these are likely to favour them. You should have a solicitor review the terms to ensure that you know what obligations and liabilities are imposed on you before agreeing to them. This initial cost could save you very large amounts in the long run.”
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