National Same Day Courier Companies

Same Day Couriers Throughout The UK

National same day courier companies. With national networks of local depots, companies like TNT Sameday, UK Mail, DHL Sameday, Citylink, and Royal Mail Sameday may seem like the ideal choice for your same day courier requirements. They don’t get big by being bad at what they do, surely?

Now I’ll have to be careful what I say here for obvious reasons but my personal opinion is that the only things this type of same day courier business have going for them is the scale of their operations and the fact that the decision-makers in many of the companies they provide services to aren’t the people who deal with them at ‘ground level’ and are more focussed on the other services the companies offer.

Often these businesses are operated as a ‘bolt-on’ to the companies’ main business as an overnight parcel carrier. They’re able to cross-sell their services to their existing customer base and offer the type of ‘one-stop-shop’ (or ‘jack of all trades…’) service that many national blue-chip companies require across the country, offering next-day deliveries, worldwide deliveries, pallet distribution etc. as well as the same day courier operation which might be a very insignificant part of their business.

Then there’s the ‘large company’ factor. In an ideal world you might expect well-known national names, with ISO 9001 accreditation, ‘Investors in People’ awards and who knows what else, to provide a top quality service. I think most of us have either worked for or dealt with large companies who fall well short of that ideal though and in my opinion the same day courier industry is more prone to this than many.

The main problem starts at ground level, with the same day couriers out on the roads providing the service. Despite the uniforms and the signwritten vehicles these couriers are almost exclusively self-employed, providing their own fuel and vehicles and often paying the company for the privilege of wearing their uniform and having their vehicles signwritten.

These self-employed couriers are typically paid less than 60p per loaded mile for a small van, sometimes 55p or lower. So the courier typically receives £120 or less for a 200 mile delivery from Manchester to London for example.

At 45mpg and assuming the courier’s VAT registered that’s £50 in fuel costs alone on the journey. Standing costs, depreciation and maintenance for the van are typically £25-30 per day for a late model, reliable van, so that’s a minimum of £75 cost for the driver’s £120 remuneration, leaving £45 profit for a minimum of 8 hours work, before the usual deductions and before the driver sets aside money to cover the holiday, sickness and pension entitlements he loses as a self-employed person.

The drivers are only legally allowed to drive for 10 hours a day and are only legally allowed to work for a total of 11 hours a day, including all work-related tasks such as completing paperwork, so there’s an absolute limit on what they can earn in the day, based on how far they can drive during those 10 hours, including their journey home.

So how do they make a living? Well often they don’t, which is why there’s a very high turnover of couriers at many of the national companies, something that inevitably has an impact on service levels. There’ll almost always be a small core of couriers who are ‘fed’ the best work by their controllers and can make a proper living but that’s always to the detriment of the other couriers.

Drivers can earn extra by taking on ‘double-ups’ or ‘co-loads’ – two (or more) consignments going in roughly the same direction are both charged at full rate to separate customers who both believe they’re paying for a priority, dedicated courier service. When one or both (or all) of the consignments are delayed because the courier has been diverted to do the other work the company often blames traffic conditions for the delay. The courier is typically paid a lower rate for the second or subsequent delivery, typically around 50%, so our driver going from Manchester to London might be allowed to charge £120 for the London delivery and another £55 for collecting a second consignment from Bolton for delivery to Stevenage. Both customers’ consignments have been delayed, they’ve both been charged for a dedicated service they’ve not received and the driver’s day has been stretched beyond the legal 10 hours driving limit.

I won’t claim that all the companies named above do this, or that they do it with every delivery but there must inevitably always be some compromise in service when the drivers aren’t paid a rate for the work they carry out which translates to a reasonable living wage.

There are many reasons why these companies chose to engage their drivers on a self-employed basis but I suspect that providing well-paid, stable employment with good working conditions and complying with all the necessary legal regulations isn’t very high up on the companies’ list of priorities, ‘Investors in People’ awards or not.