As an HGV driver you rely on the reports and information and word of your customer when it comes to what freight you’ll be transporting. Once loaded and signed for, you’re on your way, happily assuming that your cargo is exactly as stated and all is well and good.
But how certain are you that this is case?
The Law on Cargo for HGV Drivers
HGV drivers are, in the eyes of the law, responsible for the goods which they transport in their vehicles. It’s their legal duty to ensure that they are not carrying anything, or for that matter, anyone, which may be constituted as illegal cargo. At the very least, a driver needs to be able to demonstrate that all measures possible have been taken to ensure that nothing illegal is on board.
Which can be something of a problem, with regard to shipment of certain types of freight.
For instance, how can a driver be certain that the pre-packed and contained dry goods that their customer is loading onto the lorry, is what they say it is? Free from any contraband.
Driver’s have to rely on the honesty of their customer when it comes to loading cargo. In a logistics industry which is so measured against time, there’s really little practical possibility that a driver would be able to physically open and inspect every container and package. In such instances, what then happens to a driver who has unknowingly taken on board illegal items, based on the dishonest, or downright fraudulent shipping documents of their shippers?
Food for thought, isn’t it?
Of course, this is not a cause for overwhelming panic. At the end of the day, the vast, vast majority of customers and shippers are completely above board and honest, loading exactly what is reported in a legal, safe manner.
Unfortunately, there still remains a very small minority of incidents where freight transport is targeted for illegal movement of goods, often with an unsuspecting HGV driver dragged into the mire, put into a position in which they may feel completely defenceless.
So how do we protect ourselves?
Well, the first thing you need to do is to get to know the law as it stands in relation to your work. The reality of the situation is indeed that you’re the responsible party for what is on board your vehicle. In practice this means that you need to be able to demonstrate that, in the course of loading and transporting the goods, you the driver have taken all possible means to ensure the validity of the cargo you are transporting.
As a driver, your first port of call on this issue should be your bosses and the legal representatives of the business with whom you work. Have it made abundantly clear what constitutes reasonable actions to demonstrate you have tried to accurately ascertain your cargo is legitimate. If investigators are satisfied that you have taken these measures then no further action is likely. So understand what you need to do, do it and keep records to back this up.
As we say, such occurrences are, thankfully, very rare. But as in all cases and all industries, there are times when somebody will try to take advantage and forewarned is forearmed. So seek support and get to understand your own responsibilities in ensuring you know what is contained in your HGV cargo.