If you're looking at taking on haulage jobs across the Channel, it's not simply a matter of donning a jauntily tipped beret and saying "voila". France has its own rules and regulations and it is particularly important to comply when your livelihood and safety are at stake.
***The following is a guide only and you should do your own research.
When driving a lorry into France you must carry the following documentation: a valid passport, the appropriate driving licence and, if the vehicle is not registered to you, a letter of authority from the owner. In addition, if you're on any prescribed medications you'll need to carry a copy of your prescription.
You are required by law to carry the following items: a breathalyser kit, a warning triangle, spare bulb kit and a reflective jacket.
The use of mobile phones is strictly prohibited, except in hands free mode, and in the event of snow, snow chains are compulsory in areas signed "Equipements Speciaux Obligatoires".
Restrictions and Speed Limits
While there are currently no height restrictions, if your vehicle clearance is higher than 4m you should check your routing is suitable as you'll be liable for any damage incurred to low bridges.
In terms of weight, six-axle vehicles are permitted a weight of 44 tonnes but for all others the limit is 40. Should your weight exceed that you must contact the Departmente Directorate of Equipement.
HGVs and LGVs are not permitted to travel between 10pm Saturday through to 10pm Sunday or on public holidays. During summer there are further weekend restrictions.
Speed limits vary depending on the type of road and size of vehicle. For newbies, it's a good idea to have a record of these in your cab. The following offers a general guideline but it's important to check regional bylaws:
Vehicles 3.5-12 tonnes: 50km/h in towns, 80km/h open roads, 90km/h motorways
Vehicles over 12 tonnes: 50km/h in towns, 60km/h open roads, 80km/h motorways
Recommended Ferry Crossings
The most popular ferry route (which offers the most frequent services) for vans and lorries is from Dover to Calais. The journey takes around an hour and a half and there are 10 crossings a day. This is your best bet if your route takes you through the busy Paris, Lyon, Lille and Montpellier regions.
A much more relaxed ferry crossing is the one from Dover to Dunkirk, which takes slightly longer (1 hr 45 minutes) and departs every two hours. If you're delivering or picking up in the north-east of the country this is very convenient.
Tickets on all the ferry crossings are open, so you can just board the next available service.
Maximise Your Profits with Return Loads
The easiest way to ensure you maximise the profits for every long haul journey is to organise return loads for your homeward leg. Travelling home empty from France is the fastest way of seeing your profits head down the gurgler, because you'll still have to factor in fuel costs and vehicle wear and tear, with no extra money to offset them.
The most effective way of securing return loads is to become a member of the UK's leading online freight exchange: Haulage Exchange. Joining the freight exchange gives you real-time access to a vast network of jobs as they're placed. While the ideal scenario would be to secure a return load before you leave home, membership of the freight exchange gives you the facility to bid for jobs even once you're on the road. This means that, depending on the size of your lorry and your routing, you may even be able to secure multiple return loads.
While it's imperative you seek out the most current information (especially come Brexit time), there's no reason you can't start taking on haulage jobs to and from France and reaping the rewards. Oh, and if you think the beret will help, go right ahead and get one.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their online freight exchange, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching loads and with available drivers. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.