Listen now 30 mins
In the latest of his quirky and revealing assignments for Radio 4, Steve Carver works for a week as a Trade Plate driver.
'Trade-Platers' are self-employed (mostly) men who deliver vehicles up and down the country for car dealerships, rental companies, the Motability scheme, corporate clients... anyone who needs a car, or van, or lorry shifted, for whatever reason.
The 'trade-plates' themselves are the red-and-white licence plates issued to the drivers so they are legally able to drive any vehicle without being specifically registered and taxed for it.
It's a tough life. Drivers must turn up for work at around 4.30 every morning; they have no idea where they might be sent, what they'll be driving, or how they'll get home. A typical day might involve driving from Essex to Coventry, crossing Coventry by bus (or fold-up bicycle, or on foot) picking up another vehicle and delivering it to Birmingham. There you'll fetch yet another vehicle and - if you're lucky - bring it back down to Essex.
Or you might hop in a mini-bus and be delivered to Glasgow, where you'll pick up a car and drive it down to Leeds, where you'll pick up a car and drive it to Worcester, where you'll pick up a car and - perhaps - drive it back to your base.
The logistics are extraordinary, and in smaller companies with fewer vehicles on the move, drivers have no choice but to hitch between jobs. However we sent Steve to work for one of the biggest firms, based in Essex, who have 160 drivers and enough clients to ensure that hitching isn't necessary - there's always another vehicle to move. And in an extraordinary jigsaw puzzle - coordinated from the office - the deliveries are linked up, and the drivers eventually return home.
Join Steve behind the wheel as he spends the week Trade Plating Round Britain.