London driving can be confusing whether you’re an experienced native of the capital or just a visiting courier driver from out of town. While you’ll always need to keep up to date with the latest rules and regulations, we’ll give you enough information to understand the basics and can avoid getting caught out. |
Who Runs the Roads?
It’s a good question, and, as with many things in a sprawling urban centre like London, there’s no easy answer. The capital’s roads are run by three different types of organisations: 34 highway authorities, Transport for London (TfL) and each of the 33 different London boroughs. The most important takeaway from this as a courier driver is that each authority has different types of restrictions. So make sure you check which apply to where you’ll be driving.
Managed by the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN), ‘red routes’ get the name from the red lines and signs along their length. These are the most important routes for traffic flow in and around the capital, covering most main roads and some important sections of side roads.
Only around one twentieth of London’s road mileage is designated a TfL red route, but this tiny proportion of asphalt carries up to a third of the city’s traffic. Accordingly, parking, loading and unloading are all restricted quite severely. As a courier driver, you should be checking signs and road markings carefully to know what you can and can’t do. Small horizontal ‘blips’ on the pavement are often the best available indicators. A single red mark means no stopping on days or times shown by signage, and a double means no stopping at any time. In addition, ‘red route clearways’ only allow stopping in designated bays.
Most routes in the capital come under the authority of the boroughs and these are governed by similar rules to most roads in the UK. Yellow lines and blips denote restrictions, residents’ bays are marked out and signposted, parking meters are on offer in restricted areas, and so on. While every courier driver should take care to look up any particular rules in place, in general it’s enough to know you can load and unload at certain times on single yellow lines, with additional restrictions signposted or denoted by yellow blips.
Loading and Unloading
Wherever you’re doing it, there are some simple rules covering loading and unloading. Firstly, time restrictions include the time taken to check goods delivered and fill out any paperwork. Secondly, you must move your vehicle immediately after completing your delivery (including any paperwork), regardless of the maximum length of time you’re allowed to stay there. Thirdly, it’s crucial a courier driver takes care to make it clear that they are loading or unloading, as penalty charges can be issued if enforcement officers suspect you are simply stopping. Then, the onus is on you to appeal.
Drivers in the Central London congestion charging zone must pay a daily charge by midnight of the following charging day or risk a penalty fare. It’s especially important to remain on top of congestion payments, as penalties increase the longer they go unpaid. While fleets with six or more vehicles can register for fleet autopay, and ones with five or fewer vehicles can use congestion charge autopay, the responsibility is on the individual courier driver to make sure they are covered.
Low Emissions Zone
In force 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round, the low emissions zone (LEZ) encourages the use of clean vehicles within the capital. Any vehicle weighing more than 3.5 tonnes must meet the Euro IV emissions standard. Any vehicle that does not meet this standard must pay a daily charge, which is calculated on the size and type of vehicle. The LEZ covers most of Greater London, and daily charging hours run from midnight to midnight, meaning overnight driving could see you paying twice. Vehicles without UK registration can be charged as well as those with it, and fines can be high.
Keep these tips in mind, do your research, and driving in the capital shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember to keep up to date to avoid nasty charges.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier driver work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.
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