What Does Brexit Mean For Haulage?

Posted on 17th October 2018 By Charlotte Haye

It’s been just over 2 years since the UK make a monumental decision to leave the comfort and safety of the EU. Even though the leave vote won by a hairs breath, it was final, and since then politicians and experts have been deep in planning talks to negotiate a deal for a smooth and frictionless Brexit. The problem is, no progress has been made. We are no closer to reaching a deal than we were at the beginning, and now with 5 months left to go, there is little hope we will reach one at all. But while all of the talks have been going on above, change has already started happening on the ground. Dozens of industries are already starting to feel the impact of a potential Brexit, and in some the damage is already done – it’s too late to avoid the disruption that would be caused by leaving the EU.

A Foggy Future

One of the biggest issues that’s arisen from the Brexit discussions is uncertainty. Because no one knows what a potential Brexit deal would even look like, there is no way for businesses to plan long-term. This is proving difficult for industries like the haulage industry, since we often work 1-2 years in advance. Without even a hint of what the future will look like after March 2019, haulage firms are struggling to offer prices, put together quotes or even answer basic questions from their customers. This significantly impacts not only their business, but their customer relationships as well. Because leaving the EU could impact trade routes, taxes, customs fees and almost every other element of haulage, there is no way to predict how much prices and timescales will be affected.

No Progress On Concerns

Early on in the Brexit process, the FTA (the Freight Transport Association) raised some pretty major concerns about how Brexit would impact Britain’s ability to trade with EU countries – something that is currently vital to our economy. To help ensure a smooth transition, the FTA created a handbook of 10 ways to ‘Keep Britain Trading’ (you can read it here), which included 8 demands for Brexit ministers to include in a Brexit deal.

But James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the FTA, comments that:

“Of the eight demands in the FTA’s list of essentials to ‘Keep Britain Trading’… not a single one has been progressed.”

That’s right – not a single one of the suggestions and solutions given by haulage professionals has been taken into account by Brexit ministers. This has caused uproar in the haulage industry, and has some significant knock-on effects that Brexit ministers might not be aware of. For one, Hookham has stated that in the event of a no-deal Brexit (or a Brexit where none of their suggestions are accepted), the haulage industry may not be able to keep employing over 43,000 drivers in Britain who are nationals of other EU states.

An Employment Question

This is the area that’s caused the most concern. Over the last few years the haulage industry has been suffering from a significant driver shortage, particularly around high-traffic times like Christmas. Despite around 20,000 new drivers qualifying every year, there is still a shortfall of around 50,000 skilled drivers in the UK alone. If haulage firms them have to dismiss 43,000 perfectly qualified drivers as a result of Brexit, then the industry will be put under even more strain. The result of this is that Britain’s trade and economy becomes unstable – since the movement of products and materials is essential to almost all retail and product based industry, and the UK’s whole trading infrastructure could be at risk of collapse.

Of course, the HGV industry aren’t the only ones to suffer. Brexit is exposing a lot of flaws in our infrastructure, and forcing a lot of very unpopular changes. In the haulage industry, these few are the just the beginning. The port of Dover (a significant trade route) has warned that the extra 2 minutes it would take to check each HGV post-Brexit would result in 17-mile tailback from the port, at minimum. It would also mean that many drivers choose to leave the profession, since EU countries would no longer recognise a UK driving licence, significantly decreasing the earning capability and range of work they could get.

At Surrey & Hampshire HGV Training, we generally try to stay neutral on all things politic. But Brexit is one thing that even the least partisan person has an opinion on, ad the haulage sector is no different. The HGV industry could be a very different place if Brexit does go ahead, but we won’t know what that will look like for quite a while. For now, we can keep working to get government ministers to take the FTA’s demands seriously, and hopefully create a deal which keeps Britain’s trading infrastructure intact. If you want to find out more about how Brexit may impact the haulage industry, or you would like to enquire about becoming an HGV driver yourself, just get in touch with us today.

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