Truckers ‘spending 3-5% longer at UK borders’ due to post-Brexit red tape, new data reveals

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orry drivers are already spending an average of 3% to 5% longer navigating UK borders as a result of new post-Brexit red tape, new data has revealed.

Experts warned today that these delays are only set to get worse, and will cause “real problems” for the trucking industry, and some just-in-time food suppliers.

It came as a survey for the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply found that more than half of the UK companies importing or exporting goods through the EU border have suffered delays this month, largely due to post-Brexit paperwork.

Post-January 1, companies have had to fill in new forms such as export health certificates and declarations, with many facing complex new duty rules. It has left truckers with the wrong paperwork stranded at borders across the Continent, with time-sensitive food exports facing lengthy delays in transit, or even – as in the case of some Scottish seafood exporters – going to waste.

Stephan Sieber is chief executive of German logistics software firm Transporeon, which tracks lorry flows through Europe in real time. The firm’s Live Tracker collects GPS data showing how long trucks are queuing at every border crossing. 

Sieber told the Standard that based on analysis of movement of tens of thousands of lorries, currently truckers’ UK border crossing time is around “3 to 5% up” on average, and warned that the number and length of these delays are likely to increase as the “liquidity crossing the Channel at this point is unusually low” and has already picked up over the last week.

He said: “If you’re a trucking company, having 30-60 minutes more waiting time is actually an issue. It is a real problem as the margins in these businesses are not super high.

“A truck is only worth something if a truck is moving. 10,000 trucks every day spending an extra hour at the border, that is 10,000 hours of trucking capacity lost.  

“For the logistics service providers, 5-10% longer waiting times at the Port of Dover is a big thing.”

Transporeon’s latest data also shows that in the second week of January the rejection rate for transport to the UK – the rate of companies based in the EU refusing to travel to Britain – was up 168% on the third quarter average, leading to increased prices for trucks to the UK on the last-minute “spot market”.

Last week the major German logistics firm DB Schenker suspended services to the UK due to “significant” problems caused by post-Brexit red tape.

“Over the last two to three weeks we have continued to see exceptionally high rejection rates and significantly higher spot rates than we had seen prior to the year-end,” Sieber said. “Not surprisingly, at this point in time, many logistics companies are preferring to drive domestically or within continental Europe than take that uncertainty and the burden of going into the ‘unknown territory’ of crossing the border into the UK.”

The Road Haulage Association confirmed to the Standard that is seeing firms “warning of not wanting to come to the U.K.” due to the “nightmare” paperwork at the Port of Dover and new permits required by post-Brexit red tape, “even before all the issues around Covid testing happened”.

Spokesperson Paul Mummery said: “The confidence of companies [to come here] has been dented given the delays and the costs.

“As volumes increase it will get harder for businesses. Things will get worse before they get better.”

The Food and Drink Federation also warned the Standard that further disruption to the industry is likely to come.  

A spokesperson said: “UK exporters of seafood have already been badly impacted by the decision of logistics companies to temporarily stop carrying their products. As trade volumes increase, there is a greater likelihood that other sectors of the food and drink industry will be impacted by disruption at ports and borders.

“We continue to liaise regularly with the UK governments and EU authorities to ensure they are aware of any issues arising, and to seek quick resolutions.”

Sieber said that we will have to wait until March – when the sector traditionally becomes much busier with more shipments for manufacturing and construction – for the real test of whether these “new market dynamics – such as higher prices and higher spot rates for the UK are structural and will stay around for the future” to cause long-term damage.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said that the Government has been stepping up its communications effort “to make sure that business knows what is required” when it comes to the new red tape. Ministers have made it clear for a long time that there would be some disruption at the end of the transition period.

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