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New Brexit checks on EU goods have led to border delays of up to 20 hours

European hauliers’ refusal to take UK delivery jobs due to Brexit border controls may lead to more shortages and higher food prices, the industry has warned.

EU hauliers have been reporting unprecedented wait times and poor conditions at Britain’s borders since checks on plant and animal goods from the Continent ramped up in April, as part of the government’s post-Brexit strategy.

The challenges that come with the new Brexit processes “may put off EU hauliers from delivering to the UK, which would drive up the cost of importing goods”, said Alex Knowles, head of Knowles Transport.

Exports to the UK from smaller European suppliers had reduced, added Oakland International CEO Dean Attwell, and “the reason cited is that we are too difficult to deal with now with import controls and documentation”.

“This has a knock-on effect to the smaller hauliers who were doing groupage work with multiple smaller suppliers on the same vehicle,” he said, which “has inherently more risk attached because it relies on every producer having the right paperwork”.

“One pallet of incorrectly documented stock can delay a whole load, with maybe a dozen other producers on the same vehicle. This can lead to fines and claims from the other producers, or stock write-offs in the case of fresh food.

“The lack of foreign drivers entering the UK legitimately will inevitably add pressure to the industry’s capacity and flexibility and could lead to further cost increases,” Attwell warned.


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The issue has been particularly bad at the Sevington BCP in Kent, which has been running the majority of controls on EU goods entering the country.

“We have seen a few instances where drivers have been delayed at Sevington. The worst example was an Italian driver who was held for 51 hours,” said Cold Chain Federation chief Phil Pluck.

“Sevington have developed a ‘non-accommodating’ approach to drivers to ensure that they do not sit at Sevington for any longer than document and load checks take.

“No toilet or washing facilities and no food access is in my view inhuman and hardly puts the UK in a good light.”

Defra recently updated its guidance, reminding hauliers not to take breaks as Sevington, which “has basic comfort facilities for drivers but is not designed as an official rest area/truck stop”.

In the instance that a driver is only two hours away from requiring a legally-mandated driving break, Defra suggested: “[Drivers] should aim to take their mandatory rest break (tacho break) at the nearest rest area/truck stop or suitable and safe place BEFORE taking their load to Sevington for checks.”

But drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of their UK border ordeals, with long lines for built-up toilets outside, and no roadside facilities to grab water or coffee.

delays border

Source: Facebook

Lorry drivers have complained about the conditions at UK border control posts

One wrote: “This is how the drivers are treated. You have to queue up outside, if it’s raining you get soaked! You only have toilet facilities, nowhere to get a drink of any kind.

“If there is a problem with any part of the paperwork, you get one hour, then you have to leave site. No overnight parking unless you have a customs problem and they authorise it.”

Another driver also told The Grocer that “UK trucking facilities and general attitudes towards those in the HGV sector are shockingly bad compared to those in Europe, so the drivers themselves might not be wanting to have to deal with such things and might be declining jobs”.

Dutch logistics trade body Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TLN) also told The Guardian last week that its lorry drivers could refuse UK deliveries unless conditions improved.


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TLN members also described the facilities that drivers were forced to wait in as “leaving a lot to be desired”. Its drivers claimed most border facilities only offered water, with nowhere for drivers to get food or drink.

“We are increasingly receiving reports from hauliers that their drivers no longer want to drive to the UK unless conditions improve,” said Elmer de Bruin, international affairs manager at TLN.

De Bruin added: “The drivers, who usually love coming to the UK, may say that if we continue to experience these waiting times, treatment, and the facilities [in the UK], it might occur that these drivers think, ‘with a huge driver shortage, I can start at a new company’.”

The trade group also warned of the effects of checks and delays on UK food prices.

“You cannot deny that the prices will go up in the UK, because we suffer so much damage and so much loss, as well as the waiting times, someone has to bear the costs.”

Defra said it had been working closely with traders to ensure checks were completed efficiently to avoid delays.