Source: IRU, 2021-01-26
Three weeks after the end of the transition period following the UK’s departure from the EU and its customs union after 47 years, hauliers are already bearing the costs of the new post-Brexit border rules.
With the UK now outside the EU’s single market and customs union, truck queues, delays and supply chain disruptions are multiplying, which is a concern for transport operators, shippers and businesses on both sides of the English Channel.
During the first days of 2021, traffic leaving Great Britain to travel to the EU and from France to the UK was quieter than usual, with an average of 2,500 trucks a day leaving the Port of Dover, a drop of 60%. Many companies took the decision to stock up before the end of the transition period, but more and more hauliers are now returning to the roads with dire consequences.
Eight-hour queues have been seen at the Waterbrook Park estate in Dover as drivers wait for border paperwork to be approved by UK authorities. Waiting times are increasing as traffic is picking up and approval for access to port areas is often delayed due to a lack of staff and flaws in the documentation and information being presented.
“The lack of customs agents in the UK is a critical fault line in the whole process. Traders cannot find an agent to do their paperwork because there simply are not enough – and the existing agents are deluged with work. This highlights the UK government’s lack of preparation, despite our warnings that an estimated 50,000 agents would be required, currently there are only around 10% of that number,” said Rod McKenzie, Managing Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the UK’s Road Haulage Association.
Exporters are also struggling to acquire transit documents for goods to enter the European Union because of a shortage of customs agents and the unavailability of financial guarantees within the NTCS system that cover taxes or duties on the goods being moved.
However, since 1 January 2021, the TIR system is an alternative for the customs clearance of goods carried to and from the UK.
“TIR offers one single guarantee of up to EUR 100,000, at a fixed price, covering multiple consignments, and multiple places of loading and unloading, without the need to use a broker. Accredited TIR hauliers in the EU, UK and beyond can use the benefits of this tried and proven system to easily complete customs procedures. The TIR system provides unique advantages to hauliers, shippers and customs,” said Umberto de Pretto, IRU Secretary General.
Brexit has increased the cost of goods transport. Spot rates for last-minute shipments across the Channel were almost ten times higher at the end of 2020 than at the end of 2019. A Europe-wide decline in capacity was also recorded on routes to and from the UK, which has subsequently pushed up road freight rates. The France-UK route, a bellwether for the effects of Brexit, saw road transport capacity last month reach a two-year low, declining 22% from November while prices soared 51% year-on-year.
Due to the challenges posed by the paperwork, customs declarations and increased prices some road goods transport and logistics operators, including DB Schenker and DPD, have decided to temporarily suspend services into the UK. According to Umberto de Pretto, “Major logistics players may decide to stop servicing the UK due to delays at the border, longer transit times and difficulties finding backloads. This should be a wake-up call for UK and EU governments that checks and procedures must be eased to keep goods moving. The best option now is to use TIR to complete customs procedures more quickly and securely.”
The Northern Ireland protocol, the mechanism agreed by the UK and EU in 2019 to avoid a hard border in Ireland, has introduced new procedures to process Irish Sea checks on shipments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The extra paperwork required has left many food suppliers facing lengthy delays on shipping goods to the region, resulting in empty shelves for time-sensitive products like fresh fruit and vegetables and chilled meat.
In order to tackle this worrying situation, some ferry companies in Ireland have opened new direct routes to the European continent from the ports of Rosslare and Dublin. But these are already fully booked due to the new challenges in using the “UK Land Bridge” to the continent.
Delivery and transport delays are also increasing due to the new wave of COVID-19 strains and several European countries requiring drivers to present negative tests, including France, Germany and the Netherlands.
“We must preserve the continuity of the European logistics chain through a concerted and sustainable approach to our exchanges. The situation we experienced at the end of December with the closure of the border between the United Kingdom and France was completely unacceptable and cannot be repeated. More and more drivers, but also carriers, are asking themselves about the continuity of their activities across the Channel. We must remain vigilant and preserve the concept of Green Lanes supported by the European Union, which make transporters essential workers whose activity must not be hampered by inappropriate protocols generating delays and operational dysfunction.” said Florence Berthelot, FNTR General Delegate.