With just six months to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, hauliers and commercial drivers are still wondering what kind of deal the government will secure. Talk in recent weeks has even suggested that the prospect of ‘no-deal’ is a possibility, bringing uncertainty to various aspects of the industry.
A deadline set for 29 March 2019 leaves businesses with little time to make significant adjustments to their operations when it comes to cross-border travel and trade. If the final outcome ends up being a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, it’s likely that hauliers would face certain disruptions come the week of 30 March.
Permits to keep operating
The government has stated: “In the unlikely event of no deal, UK hauliers could no longer rely on automatic recognition by the EU of UK-issued Community Licences.” This would effectively make it impossible for drivers to cross borders without additional documentation and checks. As a solution, they could use ECMT permits (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) to continue operating on the continent.
However, with limited availability, the government has warned that demand for ECMT permits is expected to “significantly exceed supply,” prompting the Road Haulage Association (RHA) to say that this notice is “too little, too late.” RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett has expressed further concern over whether EU hauliers would reciprocally require ECMT permits to operate in the UK, as well as stressing the importance of the agreed implementation period “to give businesses a chance to avoid chaos in the supply chain.”
Proposals surrounding the statuses of EU nationals already in the UK have also caused the RHA some concern. Mr Burnett notes that the present shortage of drivers will be made worse by adopting a new system that will make it harder for employers to attract new talent and recruit new drivers.
He commented further that the increasing shortage could affect the supply chain as suppliers turn to using commercial vans, stating: “It means drivers are moving goods over long distances but aren’t subject to drivers’ hours rules that keep them and other road users safe.” In light of this, Mr Burnett has also called on the government to work out a method that would support businesses relying in some part on migration into the country.