Of all European countries, the Netherlands is probably the most suitable to start your transport company. There are many reasons why the Netherlands is such a huge player in the logistical industry. For example, because of its geographical location the Netherlands is a major gateway into the European market. Because of this the country has historically been one of the largest trading countries in the world. Other large industries fuel the large logistics sector. An example is the country's enormous agricultural industry. In fact, the Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products after the US.
If there is one thing the Dutch are more famous for then trade, it is their struggle against water. Not only have the Dutch won that battle, they have made that very same water into one of their most important assets. The Netherlands currently harbours the largest inland shipping fleet in Europe. This does not only serve internal demand: over 40 percent of the EU's inland container shipping passes through the Netherlands.
Where in the Netherlands should I base my transport company?
Often said to contribute to the relatively large importance of the Netherlands in the world of trade and logistics is the presence of two of Europe's largest logistical hubs: Schiphol Amsterdam Airport and the Port of Rotterdam (Europe's largest and busiest harbour). These 'gateways' are served by an extremely dense and modern road network covering every corner of the country. Furthermore, goods come and go easily because of the open borders to all of the country's direct neighbours and toll-free access to entire Europe due to the Schengen agreement.
Because of the presence of so many other logistical companies in the Rotterdam and Schiphol area, many of our clients set up their business there. On the other hand, these locations can be costly and the small size of the Netherlands makes for easy access to these 'mainports' no matter where in the western part of the Netherlands.
A popular location for warehousing businesses in the Netherlands is the border area with Germany and Belgium. Many warehouses are set up in the Limburg province in the south east of the Netherlands. This area provides easy acces to the rest of Europe and is much cheaper than the Randstad area between Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht.
The main online marketplace for commercial real estate in the Netherlands is the website FundaInBusiness. Here you can find basically anything, from a small office rental to large warehouses for sale.
Which legal entity for your Dutch transport company?
A transport company should be registered as a company like any other business. In effect this means you will need to make a few choices and arrange a few practical issues.
The minimum requirement to starting a transport company in the Netherlands is a chamber of commerce registration number (in Dutch: KvK-nummer). To obtain this registration number, you will register your company type at the chamber of commerce. You should choose which type of legal entity works best for you.
In most cases a limited company is the most suitable type of legal entity for a transport business. Transportation of goods or persons has a higher risk profile than most business types and the Dutch limited liability company (or in Dutch: BV) makes sure you are not personally liable for company losses and risk. Another advantage is that it is easy to bring partners and investors on board by selling shares.
Alternatively you could set up a sole proprietorship (in Dutch: eenmanszaak) if you are the sole owner or a partnership (vof) if there are several partners involved in the business. These two company types are only suitable for smaller size transportation businesses with a low risk profile. If your business has a reasonable turnover, also from a tax perspective it usually makes sense to start a BV
In addition to this we recommend business owners to set up a holding structure. This effectively means setting up two BV entities where one (the holding BV) owns 100 percent of the shares in the other (the operating BV). The natural person who is the owner owns the shares in the holding BV. Setting up this structure will reduce in an even lower risk for the transport business owner and usually in a lower tax bill. You can read everything about the Dutch holding BV structure in this guide.
In conclusion: most transport companies setting up shop in the Netherlands should seriously consider setting up a BV. The most common way to structure your company is using a holding BV and an operating BV. Request a quote to receive free custom advice.
Arrange transport licenses in the Netherlands
Depending on the type of transportation you will provide, you need different types of licensing. Find an overview of the most common trucking and transport licenses in the Netherlands below.
You transport goods for yourself or your business (not for third parties)
If your business transport goods but not professionally, for example goods that are yours or your business' you do not need a Euro license. An e-commerce business driving its goods around does not need a Euro license.
You move goods by truck with a maximum load capacity of 500 kg
If your car or truck does not exceed the 500 kg mark, you will only need to have a chamber of commerce (KvK) registration number. This allows basically anyone to drive goods with a vehicle that has a load capacity of maximum of 500 kg. Every KvK registration comes with one or more industry codes, so-called SBI codes. Your transport companies should be registered with the right SBI codes, dependent on your specific type of transportation business.
You move goods by truck with a maximum load capacity of more than 500 kg
In addition to a registered Dutch company, you will need at least a so-called Euro license (in Dutch: Eurovergunning). This is the basic trucking license every serious trucking business in the Netherlands and is issued by the NIWO institute.
If the vehicle has a load capacity of maximum 3500 kg and you are transporting goods internationally, the Euro license is sufficient.
If you are transporting goods internationally with a vehicle with over 3500 kg load capacity, you will need:
- Euro license
- CEMT license OR a journey permit
You collect or transport waste
Given that your vehicle's load capacity is over 500 kg you will need the following paperwork:
- Registered company at the chamber of commerce (KvK)
- Euro license
- VIHB license
Make your transport business legally compliant
Terms and conditions
The rules that apply to you and your customer are first of all determined by the Dutch civil law. This law explains when a transport company reaches an agreement with a customer and some further general rules. On top of those rules, a company will usually sign a separate agreement with its customer. Part of that agreement are usually a set of transport terms and conditions. Those articles will work out all the details surrounding the transport assignment. In the Netherlands it is common practice to use the so-called AVC conditions. These apply to road transport throughout the Netherlands. They are free to use and give both you as the transporter as well as the customer the necessary protection. There are also similar conditions available that are specifically aimed at certain sub-industries, such as heavy goods, storage and cattle.
Terms for international road transport
The CMR convention automatically applies to contracts of carriage for international road transport, where the place of receipt and / or the place of delivery is located in a convention member state. The CMR convention is mandatory law, which means that general terms and conditions and transport agreements between the parties that are in conflict with the CMR will not be valid. In practice, for international road transport the AVC conditions are often applied in addition to the rules of the CMR convention. If you are driving in the Netherlands you can choose to declare the CMR applicable to your contracts for domestic transport.
Tax and administration compliance
Given that your Dutch business is structured as a BV limited liability company, you should perform the following actions:
- Bookkeeping (and keeping the books at least 7 years)
- Quarterly VAT return
- Corporate tax return
- Annual accounts and submit t chamber of commerce
- Keep a salary administration (if anyone is employed by the company)
The annual financial report (annual accounts) are done by an accountant. Most clients choose to outsource all administrative and tax work. Check out our services and package pricing for more information.
Further legal compliance
- If you are processing personal data (most transport companies do), you should have your GDPR documents in order.
- We strongly recommend you to draft a shareholders agreement if your company has two or more shareholders/partners
- A holding structure should have a management agreement and a current-account agreement.
- In case the company employs any staff (including yourself), you should have an employment contract in place.
We are happy to make you a full overview of your compliance needs.
Insurance for transport companies
Since the AVC conditions cover liability to €3,40 per kg of load, it is wise to take out additional liability insurance. Sometimes this is called carrier liability insurance or transport liability insurance. Additionally, the customer who ships the cargo can also take out insurance to insure their goods against any damage, so-called property liability insurance (in Dutch: goederenaansprakelijkheidsverzekering).
Become a member of Dutch transport associations
The Dutch transport industry has many clubs, associations and institutes that represent the interests of transport companies and their customers. Being a member can give you access to new partners and legal and business advice. More importantly, being a member of such organizations radiates a sense of professionalism that could make customers favour your business over non-members. Find just a few of many industry organizations that could be relevant for your business:
- TLN: largest interest and lobby organization for the entire Dutch transport and logistics sector.
- Evofenedex: interest organization for shippers (those who want to send goods, not the transport companies).
- FENEX: organization for businesses in the freight forwarding industry.
Getting customers for your Dutch transport business
There are many ways to get in touch with new customers for your transportation business. You might not have an existing network in the Netherlands. However, there are many more direct ways to attract new customers for your transport company. Especially for incidental assignments, it is quite easy to get work through online platforms. Find a few of those below:
- Transportscanner: one of the largest online platforms for Dutch transport businesses. They offer a directory where you can post your business for free. Additionally, you can purchase access to transport assignments at a reasonable fee.
- Marktplaats: the Netherlands' largest classified ads website where you can find many customers who post transport jobs.
- uShip and Shiply: online auction platforms for shipping.
At Legalee we have extensive knowledge of the Dutch transport industry and we are happy to help you get your business started. This includes help with setting up your company, make it fully legally and tax compliant. Additionally we can provide you with strategic business advice and insights into the Dutch transport industry.