Road freight users need contingency plans for ‘no-deal’ Brexit, UK government warns

UK international road freight users need to develop contingency plans in case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, including seeking alternative routes to move goods, or using different vehicles or modes of transport if new permits needed are not availablethe UK government warned on 24 September as part of a series of guidance notices published.

Among the challenges potentially facing UK freight transport providers and users, the Department for Transport (DfT) provided some guidance for UK haulage companies and businesses using freight services on how to access to EU markets from 29 March 2019, highlighting issues including haulage permits, Community Licences, and trailer registration.

“EU countries may choose to recognise that UK-issued operator licences and associated authorisations are based on the same standards as EU Community Licences and do not require further authorisations,” the UK government added. “This would ensure continued cross-border trade, but cannot be guaranteed.

“If they do not, UK hauliers will be able to use ECMT permits if there is no deal.” The ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) permit scheme currently allows UK hauliers to carry goods to or through 43 countries (including all EU countries except Cyprus), with a limited number of permits currently available to the UK.”

“ECMT permits will be available to enable journeys to the EU, but these are limited in number,” DfT acknowledged. “While the government would seek to bring previous bilateral agreements with individual EU countries back into force and conclude new ones as swiftly as possible, the timing for this and the number of permits available under them cannot be guaranteed.”

DfT noted: “Hauliers should, therefore, consider how many permits they may require to operate internationally so they are ready to apply later in the year. Importantly, hauliers and businesses should consider what contingency plans they need to have in place for the movement of goods if they do not receive the number of permits they applied for.

“This may include planning for alternative routes to move goods, or using different vehicles or modes of transport (such as containerised transport or operating ‘unaccompanied trailer’ business models). Hauliers, and businesses who use hauliers, should consider the implications of possible impacts on supply chains including reduced capacity at ports, reduced reliability and potential higher rates.”

DfT added: “Hauliers and businesses will of course need to ensure their logistics and transport arrangements ensure the correct documentation and permissions are carried to be able to trade, including any permits, licences and proof of qualification. Businesses should also ensure they have the correct customs documentation.”

DfT said more information on what permits are available, which journeys require permits, and how to apply and how permits will be allocated will be published in due course. “In the interim, register for updates on gov.uk and via the DVSA notification system,” it recommended.

UK freight representatives such as the Freight Transport Association has been warning for some time about the risks for the freight sector in the event of a no-deal scenario, highlighting particularly the limited availability of permits if the UK becomes a so-called ‘third country’ after leaving the EU.

Commenting on the publication of Brexit ‘no deal’ papers, FTA’s head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon, said: “The publication of the government’s No Deal Notices around road haulage, aviation and the export and import of foods products was overdue and is therefore welcomed by FTA. These notices, while confirming what we already knew concerning the impact of a no-deal Brexit on freight transport and borders, will hopefully help traders and logistics companies prepare for the worst case scenario. 

“They demonstrate that contingency agreements (between governments) are needed to at least protect basic transport connectivity between the UK and the EU. FTA recognises the government’s efforts to secure such agreements, either with the EU or with member states bilaterally, and calls on EU-27 leaders and the European Commission to recognise the need for these contingency measures for freight transport, a sector which supports the entire economy.”