Here's a little tale for any of you Sumpsters out there planning to have one or more motorcycles shifted by a delivery service. Recently, we contacted one such firm. It followed a casual recommendation from a friend in the motorcycle trade. We needed to transport two bikes two hundred or so miles, door to door. Simple enough.
The delivery guy we spoke to (by mobile phone) quoted a price of £100 for the first bike, and just £50 for the second. Very competitive rates. So we checked again with three friendly bike dealers, two of whom said they'd used this guy before without problem and were still using him. One dealer, however, said that he was currently using a different firm. No reason given.
So we fixed a tentative date for a collection of the bikes and explained that a goods-in-transit insurance certificate would need to be produced. At that point, we were told by our would-be delivery guy that he didn't carry such a certificate.
"Why not?" we asked.
He said, "I just don't carry one".
We said, "Well we need to see an insurance document before you take the bikes away."
He said, "Well I can't do that. But I've been delivering motorcycles for years."
"That's as may be," we said. "But it makes sense to have a certificate ready for people like us who want to check."
"I'm covered up to £10,000 per bike," he told us. "And I've shifted motorcycles for hundreds of people."
"But you've no certificate of goods-in-transit insurance?"
So naturally we cancelled the collection. The point is, we can't think of a single reason for NOT carrying a valid certificate, except to say that he simply doesn't have one. It's basic stuff.
Interestingly, when we referred this tale to three friendly bike dealers, we were advised by two of them that they'd never actually asked for a certificate. And they reiterated that they'd never had a problem with this guy and were often sending bikes worth ten, fifteen, even twenty grand each. One even suggested that he'd shifted so many bikes with this service that if one machine did get lost, he'd probably just "take it on the chin".
The thing is, life usually goes perfectly right until it goes horribly wrong. And okay, the production of an insurance certificate doesn't actually prove that it's valid. It's just a piece of paper. However, here's a delivery guy who obviously hasn't even got the wit to fabricate some kind of document, let alone have the foresight to actually get some genuine goods-in-transit insurance.
▲ We don't know this firm, and we're not recommending them. But neither have we any reason to mistrust them. We simply called for a goods-in-transit insurance quote. See the response below...
So we checked around to see how much such insurance costs. We asked for a quote offering £30,000 of cover. The first company we spoke to suggested a premium of around £600 for the year. But that, we understood, would limit us to two bikes per load. The second insurance company quoted £595 per annum, but wouldn't cover us for second-hand bikes. Why not? Because older bikes often have dings and dents, they said, and it's hard to discern new damage from old damage.
Regardless, it seems likely that £30,000 of goods-in-transit cover is available for less than £1,000 per annum. That equates to twenty quid per week. And, of course, an insurance certificate will be issued by the relevant underwriter.
All this aside, it's worth pointing out a few other details. Firstly, at no point did our would-be delivery guy offer a landline number. Secondly, at no point was a company address or details of a website supplied. Thirdly, at no point was an in-transit storage location given for the bikes.
The proposal was simply that we should hand over £7,000 worth of motorcycles plus £150 in charges, and these bikes would be whisked off and delivered safely (at an unspecified time) to an address a few hundred miles away.
Simple when it works. But potentially very expensive when it doesn't. We did, incidentally, contact our own motorcycle insurance underwriter who explained that our bikes would in fact be covered under our own policy. That said, it's not clear whether such cover would apply only if and when we were transporting our own bikes in our own vehicles. The legal position might be very different once the bikes have been handed over into the care of a third party.
▲ If you want a job done properly, do it yourself. That's the conventional wisdom. But of course, it doesn't always make sense. In this instance, however, we handled our own bike transportation. It was cheaper, and it worked out fine. It's your call.
The solution? We checked with Enterprise Van Hire which offered us a Vauxhall Vivaro for £39 per day plus VAT. The price includes unlimited mileage with an insurance excess of £1,500. But even with a two day hire, and with added insurance excess protection fees, the charge was quoted at just £100 - £110. There's fuel on that, of course (maybe 30mpg). And we'd need to factor in the time. But which option would you prefer?
The bottom line is that we all need reminding to carefully check out these contractual issues and ask some basic questions before handing over to others our property, be it a transportation firm or a mechanic or a storage company or whatever. And we've since spoken to another motorcycle dealer who told us one or two other things about this delivery guy which, if true, doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
Times are hard for many of us, and it's all too easy to take the cheaper option. But keep in mind that when we spoke to two other bike delivery services, we were quoted between £250 and £300 for the same trip, and both companies offered reassuring details of storage and insurance. That's still not a bad price, we figure.
If you go this route, keep in mind that you need to give the transport firm some latitude regarding collection and delivery. But naturally, we want some kind of guide times. Beyond this, you're recommended to:
1. Ask friends or bike business contacts for recommendations.
2. Query those recommendations for specifics.
3. Get two or three quotes.
4. Check any other relevant paperwork (terms and conditions, etc).
5. Ask about staged delivery (i.e. will the bike be temporarily stored en route? If so, where? And how?).
6. Get some kind of contract. In writing.
7. Discreetly photograph the motorcycle/s immediately before collection.
8. Take a discreet snapshot of the guy or girl collecting your machine/s.
9. Ask for a delivery receipt.
10. Check that the bike has been properly secured in the vehicle.
No doubt one or two delivery firms won't be too impressed at having their credentials queried. They already know that they're honest and reliable. However, you don't know that. So protect your interests. Real professionals will understand that your confidence and security is part of the deal. If they can't accept that, move down the list to the next guy.
Meanwhile, we'd be interested in any feedback or anecdotes regarding motorcycle delivery problems. And we'd be interested in your recommendations too.
We've since received some useful and therefore welcomed feedback on this feature. It comes from Dave Kelly at Bike Transporter. We don't know David or his company, but we're happy to pass on some advice from a professional in the business:
"Your article on Motorcycle Transportation made some good points, particularly regarding goods in transit cover. We have been delivering bikes for seven years, and have a motorcycle specific policy, up to £40,000 in the van at a time. Occasionally we have to extend this cover for particularly expensive bikes, and this is explained to the customer at the quotation stage. Also, we only move bikes, thatís it. This means that we have the correct vehicle for the job, i.e. a high-top panel van equipped with a permanently fitted, full width ramp, and wheel clamps. Moving motorbikes is a specialist job, so you need all the right kit; itís the same as any other profession.
"Copies of collection/delivery notes are always available to customers, and the driver (thatís me) always has his photo driving licence with him. Customers are encouraged to take photographs of the van, driver, registration number and bike once loaded.
"Around £250 to £300 for two bikes over 200 miles seems about right, dependant on the bikes. This can initially seem expensive, so letís look at the costs involved; van hire, diesel and straps are unavoidable, typically £50/ £100 for the van (one or two days), £80 fuel and £20 for straps. Add to this your time off work, and you are already up to £250 minimum.
"Of course, itís always fun to go and collect your own bike; we bikers like a road trip, and you might want to inspect the bike, or may need to hand over money. Often we have to inspect bikes for customers, and facilitate payments, so those two items can be disregarded. Now we are down to the people that really want to collect their new bikes themselves, because they can. If thatís you, here are a few tips;
1. Essential: take another biker buddy with you for loading, one to push, one to steer.
2. Make sure that whatever ramp you use is secured to the van.
3. Try to wedge the front wheel into a corner; this will help it stay upright.
4. Attach a cable tie or rubber band or anything to the front brake, to stop it rolling backwards.
5. Buy four good quality straps, ratchet type, about 30mm wide, about 3000mm long. Buy good ones, as you will need them again. Do not use rope or cable. Use ratchet straps.
6. Drive slowly when the bike is loaded; typically you will have a 250kg load, with a high centre of gravity, so drive accordingly. Pretend you are driving a lorry.
7. Check the load after a couple of miles. This means you have to climb in the back of the van and check that allís well. Bearing this in mind, donít head straight onto a motorway when loaded, drive around the block a couple of times first.
8. Take some polishing rags and old sponges/ tea towels etc. with you to prevent rubbing paintwork, grips or chrome, and a roll of tape to hold them on to the bike.
Plenty more where that came from, but thatís enough for now."
ó Dave Kelly