You're a delivery driver, and you know that hire-and-reward insurance is a must-have. But what if your own vehicle breaks down, or you need an extra one, and you're using a rented vehicle for your deliveries? How do you stand, insurance wise?
This is an area that you need to think about very carefully. Yes, you probably have the right cover on your own vehicle, but you need to know exactly what insurance cover is on the hired one; and (thanks to the complexity of delivery driver insurance) that it covers the type of work that you do.
Can you hire a van that already has courier insurance?
There are some vehicle rental companies that do offer this; you could probably find some with a quick online search. However: you have to be absolutely certain that the insurance cover they provide is suffient for the type of work you do, and the goods you carry.
How do I make sure that I am legally insured?
It is your own responsibility to make sure that you are properly insured so you must read their insurance policy carefully. It is not sufficient to believe that that you are covered just because a salesperson told you so; if the worst happened a court would not consider this to be a valid defence against a charge of driving whilst uninsured, and the consequences of that could be disastrous for both your pocket and your livelihood. Plus the cost of insurance in the future could rocket up; insurers can be very wary of applicants with that type of conviction.
What are the actual penalties if I am technically driving without insurance?
Unfortunately; 'technically' is a word that cannot be used because driving without insurance is what is known as an 'absolute offence'; in other words you are either insured, or you are not. There are no grey areas.
A uniformed policeman who stops you can very quickly check your insurance status because they have fast access to a database of every vehicle insurance policy in the UK. You may be offered an on-the-spot fine of £300 plus six penalty points on your licence; accepting that may be a good idea because if the case goes to a magistrate's court the fine could go up to £5,000. That would not be your only problem though. You would be unable to drive the vehicle any further, so you could not complete your deliveries; and it would be your own responsibility (unless you was disabled or otherwise vulnerable) to find your own way home.
What happens to my van and cargo if I'm stopped for driving without insurance?
The vehicle is likely to be impounded. A truck would take it away and you will be responsible for the costs of that, as well as storage fees for the time it spends in the pound. You may (repeat MAY) be allowed to unload it beforehand if you can arrange for someone to come for the goods you are carrying at short notice, but otherwise you will have to collect them from the pound, or arrange for the hire company to collect the vehicle on your behalf; provided that they are the registered keepers of the vehicle (sometimes they are owned by finance companies, which could complicate matters).
What if I have an accident but I don't have the right delivery driver insurance?
If the hire company's insurers are made aware that, at the the time of the accident, you was carrying goods that you was not insured for they could refuse to pay out on claims; you would then be responsible for both third party claims and the costs that the hire company suffer as a result of the accident. In practice the insurer may well settle some claims and then chase you to reimburse them.
You may have damage waiver insurance but this may not necessarily be valid if you are using the vehicle for a purpose it is not insured for (another reason for checking the insurance details carefully).
You may well also find yourself in trouble with the rental company itself for a possible breach of their terms and conditions.
So what's the bottom line?
If you hire a vehicle then use it for delivering goods that belong to other people, and which you are paid for delivering, the insurance policy that covers the vehicle must specify that you are indemnified for this kind of work. You are solely responsible for making certain that this cover is in place, by reading the insurance policy carefully.
If in any doubt you should contact a broker who is an experienced specialist in delivery driver insurance. If you are hiring long term you may wish (or need) to arrange your own insurance cover anyway.