Motorcycle Courier

The Job and What's Involved

Motorcycle couriers collect and deliver small items in person. These are often confidential letters or documents which require urgent and safe carriage.

Motorcycle couriers travel throughout the city making up to twenty trips a day, covering about 100 miles. They work constantly in noisy city traffic. They sometimes ride for long periods in heavy rain, wind, snow and ice. A courier wears safety clothing, including a helmet, leathers, gloves, boots and sometimes a mask to provide protection from traffic fumes. They may have to wear a heavy pouch or bag.

In constant contact with a base depot using either two-way radios or mobile phones motorcycle couriers receive scheduled pick-up instructions. Collection and drop-off duties typically include:

  • Signing for the item or items upon collection.
  • Planning the delivery route, navigating around diversions and congested routes.
  • Packages usually need to be handed to the addressee.
  • Obtaining recipient signatures and documenting delivery times.
  • Confirming delivery with the central depot and collecting instructions for the next job.

Motorcycle couriers normally work 40 to 48 hours a week, although hours may vary. Part-time work is common and some companies require shift work. Because pay depends on the number of trips undertaken, speed, combined with safety, is particularly important.

Normally, motorcycle couriers must provide:

  • Their own motorcycle (at least 200 cc).
  • Fuel, courier insurance, road tax and MOT (if appropriate).
  • Safety clothing and a helmet.

Companies often provide accessories such as a fluorescent jacket, a bag and a motorcycle-top box unit. Some companies rent 'company bikes' to couriers at low rates, operate 'hire to buy' schemes, or provide motorcycles free as part of a bonus scheme.

Most couriers work on a self-employed basis, with the rates of pay negotiated between the dispatch company and the courier. Income varies from day to day. In large cities, earnings range from between £12,000 and £22,000 a year. In London, experienced riders may earn up to £27,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 20,000 motorcycle couriers working throughout the UK. Most opportunities are in major cities, particularly in London, which has around 10,000.

The number of motorcycle couriers has remained stable for the past few years.

Typically,motorcycle couriers are either employed directly by, or self-employed and contracted to work for, courier service companies. Some couriers operate independently. Parcel and courier franchises are also available.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, in trade publications or in Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres. Companies offering franchise opportunities are likely to advertise online.

Education and Training

No academic qualifications are required to become a motorcycle courier.

Entrants must be at least 17 years old and should normally have a full motorcycle licence. However, some start as bicycle couriers and begin their motorcycle courier training with a provisional licence.

For insurance reasons, many employers prefer people over 21 years of age.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most courier training is on the job, although those undertaking external training courses can work towards NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Carry and Deliver Goods.

NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Carry and Deliver Goods is made up of eight units, including transporting goods, the collection and delivery of goods, health and safety, security in the workplace, working relationships and customer service. Although candidates can select units, for the full NVQ they must be fully competent in all areas.

Courierwise Training offers free motorcycle courier training in London to eligible people who are at least 18 years old. Training takes 13 weeks and includes two-way radio practice, map skills, route finding and basic bike maintenance. Those who do this free course normally work towards NVQ Level 2 in Carry and Deliver Goods at the same time.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A motorcycle courier should:

  • Be a skilled and safe driver, with expert knowledge of local streets.
  • Be fit and healthy.
  • Have an interest in motorcycle maintenance.
  • Be trustworthy and discreet when handling confidential documents.
  • Have a responsible attitude to safety.
  • To be methodical and organised.
  • Have good customer service skills.
  • Be self-motivated and able to use their initiative.
  • Be prepared to work outdoors in all weather conditions.

Your Long Term Prospects

Some couriers progress to become depot controllers (delegating the jobs) or start their own courier firms.

There are some opportunities to work as an NVQ assessor

Get Further Information

The Despatch Association, Lamb's End House,
36 Church Road, Magdalene, King's Lynn,
Norfolk PE34 3DG
Tel: 01553 813479

Institute of Couriers (IOC), Green Man Tower,
332 Goswell Road, London EC1V 7LQ
Tel: 0845 601 0245

National Courier Association (NCA),
5 Woodside, Ecton Lane, Sywell,
Northamptonshire NN6 0DG
Tel: 0845 603 7813

Skills for Logistics,
12 Warren Yard, Warren Farm Office Village,
Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360

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