What does haulage insurance mean?

According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary, a haulage contractor is: “a person or company whose business is transporting goods for others by road or railway”. This is a handily succinct definition worth bearing in mind when thinking about haulage insurance. Probably at the heart of the definition is the phrase: “transporting goods for others”.

There are similar definitions. Take, for example, the following used by the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which is certainly wordier – but may make rather less sense: “The term “Haulage Vehicle” means a vehicle constructed and used on public roads solely for haulage and not for the purpose of carrying or having superimposed upon it any load except such as is necessary for its propulsion or equipment” (page 5).

Within the industry itself you might also find a distinction drawn between the general carriage of goods for hire or reward, where a contractor might transport and deliver goods to a wide variety of destinations to the order of different clients, and haulage contractors who tend to follow the same fixed routes between the same locations on a regular basis.

Although insurers typically require information about the nature of a contractor’s business, haulage insurance generally embraces both kinds of activity, in providing cover for the vehicle, the driver and claims from other road users.


Insurance is required for any motor vehicle used on the public highway and this naturally includes those heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) over 3 tonnes in gross plated weight used by haulage contractors.

Although the law requires a minimum level of third party insurance, the kind of insurance arranged by many haulage contractors is much more extensive in scope. In addition to providing third party cover, accidental damage to the vehicle and personal injury to the driver, it may also extend to professional liability on the part of the contractor, public liability indemnity against loss or damage to property or the personal injury of members of the public, employer’s liability cover (a legal requirement if the contractor employs drivers or any other staff) and insurance cover for goods in transit.

Other requirements

In addition to insurance cover, a haulage contractor has further legal obligations.

If you are operating a goods vehicle in excess of 3.5 tonnes of gross plated weight for “hire or reward” or “in connection with a trade or business” – i.e. if you are a professional haulage contractor – you also need to hold an operator’s licence. There are three classes of such a licence:

  • restricted – this licence lets you carry, within the UK or abroad, only those goods that you actually own. It does not allow you to carry goods for hire or reward;
  • standard national – with this class of operator’s licence you may carry goods that you own either at home or abroad and can transport goods owned by other people for hire or reward in the UK only;
  • standard international – both your own goods and those you are carrying for hire or reward may be transported both at home and abroad.

The professional haulage contractor must also make sure to comply with the regulations on drivers’ working hours and their monitoring by a tachograph fitted in the cab – details about these and other regulations may be found on the government website.


Clearly, it is important to be aware of these and other regulations governing haulage operations, not only to ensure that you are operating within the law, but also to maintain valid insurance cover.

About the Author:

Eddie Johnson is an insurance industry veteran and HGV insurance expert who founded Isis Insurance – specialist commercial insurance brokers who are based in Cheshire, providing a bespoke service to growing businesses around the UK. Their insurance portfolio includes a wide range of insurance products, particularly those for businesses that operate heavy goods vehicles, such as HGV Insurance, Multi-Vehicle Insurance, Fleet Insurance, Goods In Transit Insurance and Employers’ and Public Liability Insurance. Follow Eddie on Facebook or Twitter.