What’s the Holdup?

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A British Haulage Manager Explains

Seeing the long lines of lorries in the queue from Folkestone to Dover this week, I rang up our Dover contact in the haulage industry. He could not explain if the delays are any worse this week – as he was not in Dover but in France, coming back from holiday. But he said firmly – it is what we have been warning about all along since 2016: the extra paperwork causes delays at the border.

We’ve Only Just Begun

It will be much worse in July 2022, he told me, when the phytosanitary regulations are due to be imposed. Each driver will then have to carry the original health certificates. I asked him if he knew anything further about the staffing of the phytosanitary offices at Sevington, the large new lorry park near Ashford, which is where these checks will be carried out.

There have been numerous adverts for the jobs there. I wonder if they are able to fill them, since it is well-known that people qualified to do those jobs are lacking. Many who used to check fresh meat, for instance, have gone back to Eastern Europe. 

Prices up Over 300%

He was keen to tell me how much prices have risen in the haulage industry since Brexit. He used to charge £25 per tonne which has now risen to £90: this would be the extra cost a UK exporter would bear. A consignment from Italy, for example, used to go through the UK border for free (we were in the European Single Market!) but now he has to charge £200 for handling the customs papers. Altogether, not including these customs handling charges, prices per truck have gone up £1000.

Have Drivers’ Wages Gone up?

I asked him whether driver wages had increased. He said the bigger problem is that the trucks were driven mostly by foreign drivers and they are now refusing to come to the UK because of all the hassle (including those queues near Dover).

He added that the British government has not understood the haulage industry for many years, which has squeezed the sector. For example, a tax of £3000 has to be paid per truck each year in the UK, and also road tolls have to be paid when that truck is on the continent. EU haulage firms just have to pay road tolls, and no tax. 

How is Brexit Affecting the Cost of Living?

It would be interesting to get some quantification of how the Brexit costs of haulage are affecting the various UK industries, especially fresh produce and grocery costs. The problem is this is already being masked by talk of “general inflation”. Initially it was Covid, and now it is high energy prices as the excuse to avoid the marauding elephant of Brexit in the room. 

So let the Bylines researching journalists keep a steady eye out for haulage costs and problems, especially here in Kent where we are very aware of the flow of trade along the M20.