How to start your own courier business
- Henk Herkink
- How to
- 20 Aug 2020
- Edited 13 Nov 2023
- 5 min
As an independent courier, you have a lot of freedom. You choose your own route and decide how to deliver your parcels, groceries, or meals to your customer. But there are a lot of laws and regulations for the transport and logistics sector. Are you considering starting an independent courier or delivery business? Here are the rules.
This article is about transporting goods. For passenger transport, such as by taxi or bus, there are different rules. Which rules apply to your work as a courier depends on your vehicle, the items you transport, and the countries you drive to.
The transport market
The number of couriers registered with KVK has increased sharply in recent years: from 7,195 in 2017 to 10,273 in 2022 (source: KVK Business Register).
When are you a courier?
As an independent courier, you transport goods on behalf of someone else. You get paid for this. By law, you are then a professional goods transporter, even though self-employed people usually call themselves couriers or parcel delivery drivers.
Registering with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK
Anyone starting a business must register with the KVK. To do this, you make an appointment online at one of the KVK offices. Most couriers register as sole proprietorships. Before making an appointment, check whether you meet the entrepreneurial criteria.
The rules for couriers differ according to the type of goods:
As a transporter of food and beverages or processed foods, you are required to draft a food safety plan. The system used to prepare such a plan is known as a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Transport en Logistiek Nederland (trade association for the transport and logistics industry) created the Hygiënecode Transport Opslag en Distributie (Storage and Distribution Hygiene , in Dutch) for transporters of food and beverages.
If you transport hazardous substances, you need an ADR from the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (CBR). As a courier, you are responsible for the transport, loading, unloading and temporary unloading of hazardous substances and must ensure that:
- the shipment complies with the ADR
- the correct documents are supplied
- the vehicle and method of loading comply with the requirements
There are special requirements for the transport of fireworks. You can find a list of these requirements on the website of the Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport (Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, in Dutch).
Rules for delivery with a delivery van
Most couriers drive a van or delivery car. An overview of the rules your van must comply with:
Delivery cars or vans
Delivery cars or vans equipped for goods transport. They have a payload (including that of the trailer or semi-trailer) of up to 750 kilos. You can find the load capacity on your vehicle's registration certificate. The total weight of the vehicle plus load may not exceed 3,500 kilos. You may drive delivery vans if you have a valid B driving licence. You must be able to show your driving licence on request from the police, so make sure you always have it with you.
Since October 2023, the rules for electric vans have changed. You are now not allowed to drive an electric van with an ordinary B driving licence if it weighs more than 3,500 kilos (including goods). Because the batteries in these buses soon weigh 400 kilos, you soon reach that 3,500 kilos. You then need a special truck driving licence (driving licence C). There is an exemption to this rule until 31 December 2023. But you can make use of that only if you registered your van before 1 October 2023.
Payload over 500 kilos
If you drive vehicles with a load capacity exceeding 500 kilograms, you require a (Euro Permit, in Dutch) issued by the Nationale en Internationale Wegvervoer Organisatie (National and International Road Transport Union/NIWO) for both domestic and international journeys. You will find the load capacity on the number plate for your vehicle.
If you consistently transport less than 500 kilograms, you can reduce the load capacity of the vehicle specified on its number plate. You can do this at the (Netherlands Vehicle Authority, in Dutch). In this case, you do not require a permit.
The van must have been approved for the Algemene Periodieke (General Periodic Inspection/APK, in Dutch). You must be able to show the APK inspection certificate on request.
Registration certificate and registration
You must show your van’s registration (in Dutch) on request. If this is recognised in the balance sheet of your sole proprietorship or partnership, your registration certificate will display your personal name rather than your business (in Dutch). If the vehicle is owned by a legal entity (for example, a private limited company) or a leasing company, the vehicle is registered in the name of the legal entity or leasing company.
Suppose you forget to put your car on the handbrake when getting out of the car. The car collides with another car as a result. In such a case, third-party liability (in Dutch) will compensate you for the damage. This third-party insurance must be in the name of the main driver. The main driver is the one who drives the van the most. If you want to share your van with another courier, you should discuss this with your insurance company beforehand. This may affect the cover and premium.
Motor vehicle tax
If your van has a fuel engine, you will have to pay motor vehicle tax. You can see how much that is for your van on the Tax Administration's website (in Dutch). Fully electric vehicles with no direct carbon emissions are exempt from motor vehicle tax and purchase tax (BPM) until 2025.
If you use your company vehicle for personal purposes for more than 500 kilometres per year, you will pay additional tax in your annual income tax return.
Environmental zones apply especially in large cities or regions where many people live. There, requirements are imposed on vehicles that emit too many pollutants. These environmental zones make it more interesting to deliver parcels in inner cities and residential areas with an electric delivery van or cargo bike (cargo bike).
From 2025, municipalities will be allowed to introduce zero-emission . Only vans and trucks that are zero-emission will be allowed in these areas. Before buying a van, familiarise yourself with these rules and find out whether they apply to the municipalities where you work.
You can find more (specific) laws and regulations on transport at .
Rules for bicycle and moped couriers
You do not need a driving licence if you transport goods by (electric) bicycle or cargo bicycle. If you drive a moped, moped, or four-wheeled microcar with a maximum permitted mass of no more than 350 kilos (excluding the mass of batteries in electric vehicles), you need a valid AM driving .
If you are transporting goods to a country outside the European Union, you sometimes need a transport (in Dutch) or driving permit. This differs per country. You can find the rules for the United Kingdom on the NIWO (in Dutch).
If, as a Dutch courier, you want to deliver goods between a starting point and an endpoint in another EU country, this is called . You may make a maximum of 3 consecutive cabotage trips. After that, you must leave the EU country before you can take on new cabotage trips in that country.
Risks for couriers
Research what your risks are and try to limit them as much as possible. With general terms and conditions, for instance. If you belong to a trade association, you can use their terms and conditions.
There are also insurances for the risks you cannot bear yourself. Some insurances are compulsory, such as third-party insurance for your van. Other insurances you can take out voluntarily, such as disability insurance.
While some insurance policies are compulsory, others are simply practical and convenient. Which ones do you need? The KVK Insurance Check helps you choose your insurance products.
In addition to the above rules, starting your own business involves several other issues, such as: