Vehicle breakdown and roadside recovery is big business for the motor trades sector in the UK. The RAC alone attends over 2.5 million roadside assistance call-outs each year, which equates to almost 7000 breakdowns in the UK every single day.
In a poll by the RAC of 2,200 drivers, as many as 46 percent have had a breakdown that couldn’t be fixed at the side of the road. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they relied on recovery services to collect their vehicle, and 77 percent of those were taken wherever they were going by the recovery, be that home or otherwise.
For those looking to start up in business offering a breakdown and recovery service, it is worth noting the myriad of rules and regulations that affect those operating within the sector and the possible penalties that could be incurred if you don’t comply. It’s certainly worth contacting your insurer to get the most appropriate cover for your business.
UK Rules and Regulations
The definitions in the current UK legislation include:
• recovery vehicles
• breakdown vehicles
• road recovery vehicles
• specialised recovery vehicles
According to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, a recovery truck is “a vehicle which is constructed or permanently adapted primarily for any one or more of the purposes of lifting, towing and transporting a disabled vehicle”.
In reality, this means that a recovery vehicle could be anything from a heavy recovery lorry to a flatbed truck with ramps and winch, to a transit van and tow dolly.
You’ll need an operator’s licence if you use a vehicle of more than 3,500kg gross vehicle weight (GVW) ¬- the maximum combined weight of vehicle and load ¬- for carrying any kind of goods or weight in connection with your recovery business. This is designed to ensure that operators maintain their vehicles to a specified minimum standard, operate within the constraints laid down by the relevant transport legislation, and abide by environmental rules and regulations.
Recovery Drivers and Breakdown Vehicles
Like all long-distance drivers, there are strict guidelines on driving hours and the use of tachographs, the implications of the 100km radius, stringent driver record keeping, weekly rest schedules, relay operations and drivers’ working time rules. The EU rules require a driver to take a weekly rest period of at least 45 hours – that is an uninterrupted period which is legally referred to as a ‘regular weekly rest period’.
Vehicle roadworthiness includes annual testing, walkaround checks and braking requirements. Vehicle weights and load security are of paramount importance, especially when transporting large or unstable loads
Finally, the law says you can be fined up to £5,000 and be sent to prison for two years if Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) prosecutes you for some offences.
It’s therefore important that those involved in breakdown assistance and recovery get the most comprehensive insurance coverage available. You should get cover for your own vehicles and also for movement of other vehicles whilst they’re being worked on, towed and transported.
Getting the right breakdown recovery insurance
Your insurance company could cover small individual breakdown freelancers as well as garages and even fleet operators. Your activities need not just be limited to breakdown and recovery; you can include storage, premises cover (including stock, fixtures & fittings, tools and mobile equipment), movement of own and customers’ vehicles, sale of vehicles and much else besides. Left-hand drive and imported vehicles can also be covered as can modifications to your truck and extra equipment such as winches.
There could be available cover for customers’ vehicles, own business vehicles, family/employee cars and full or part-time occupation of business premises. As this type of business often involves hazardous environs, your breakdown and recovery insurance policy could also include public and employer’s liability cover.
Don't be put off by what can seem a minefield of rules and regulations. Here at Tradex, we can offer you all the help and support you need to steer your motor trade business through the miles of red tape. Give us a call on 01708 678 400.