'The clock is ticking' – RHA demands action and clarity on Brexit

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, has criticised the lack of information provided by the government on Brexit, which is crippling the road haulage industry.

Speaking on BBC Radio Kent this morning, Richard laid out the dire situation that the industry faces, and called for the government to provide the information and clarity that would allow businesses to prepare and allow them to keep the UK supply chain flowing.

Asked whether it's more likely that the haulage industry will be ready now that no-deal is looking more likely, Richard answered" "I don’t think so, no. We’ve got 61 working days to go until the October 31st deadline for Brexit.

"In terms of hauliers, we still don’t understand the process from end to end. There are handshakes that need to be undertaken to process paperwork. That clarity still hasn’t come through from government."

He also explained that this is not just about the UK exporting to Europe but also Europe importing to the UK. Firms in Europe want clarity about the processes around what they’re bringing into the UK as well, and we still haven’t got that from the British government either.

"The clock is ticking." he added.

Richard also raised the issue of export declarations and paperwork, saying: "There simply aren’t enough customs agents available to be able to support, guide, train and help businesses through. So that challenge to get ourselves ready in 61 working days is impossible.

"There simply isn’t enough time now. The inevitability is that we’re going to see queues, in Kent and possibly in France."

He then confirmed that reports that two minutes of additional stops at the Port of Dover would lead to a 17-mile tailback stretching away from the port were correct, according to the study carried out by Imperial College London.

"If we leave without a deal, under WTO rules we would have to put these procedures in place, and therefore these checks would become a reality, as would the queues and traffic chaos that the checks would cause.

“We aren’t scaremongering. I’ve said this many times, our membership, the people who we’re representing are both Remainers and Leavers. All we’re trying to do is make sure that we’ve got a clear process from government to ensure that we inform and tell hauliers what they need to do. But we simply haven’t got that clarity."

When asked about how effective Operation Brock could be at handling chaos around the Port of Dover, Richard responded that: "There’s a lot of working going into that contingency planning at the moment, but I think if we have to switch that on then we’ve failed, fundamentally.

"Government has to work really hard between now and the Brexit deadline to ensure that we’re as informed as prepared as we possibly can be."

He also explained to listeners that 85% of our industry are Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. An SME haulier makes around £60 profit per truck per week, so in a situation where trucks are standing for 24 hours or 48 hours, we’re going to see people going out of business.

Rod McKenzie, RHA managing director of policy and public affairs, supported Richard's statements when he spoke on both BBC Sussex and BBC Essex this morning.

“We’ve always said a no-deal Brexit without a transition period would be damaging for the logistics sector and the wider UK economy.

"We now have very little time left, and the priority is to maximise the number of freight vehicle that can cross the border quickly to ensure that the supply chain does not break."

Rod also lamented the fact that there is a lack of clarity about the paperwork that’s required to make this all work.
"The danger of getting this all wrong is enormous. We’re talking about big queues, confusion at ports and a disruption to the supply chain."

At the moment we trade with the continent, roll-on, roll-off with no checks. But once paperwork is introduced, the process will fundamentally change.

Lorries can have up to 13,000 individual shipments inside, and under a no-deal, each one of those 13,000 shipments in one lorry would require a separate form filled in. That would require about 165 hours of staff time, just filling in forms.

Rod explained that we’re not even really clear what information needs to be filled in on those forms.
"It’s a logistical nightmare. The staff don’t exist. The computer systems don’t exist. The training doesn’t exist. Government are doing something, at last, but it's too little, too late."

The RHA continue to urge government to tackle these six key actions to ensure that the greatest possible number of trucks can flow in and out of the UK, to keep the supply chain moving.

While they're not an exhaustive list of everything that will need to be completed before Brexit, the six actions are:
Provide clear guidance on how the whole end-to-end journey will operate
New and substantial customs facilities for transit to be opened or authorised
 A consolidated, simplified import safety and security declaration system
 
Online customs training for traders
 
Lorry holding facilities such as Operation Brock to be fit for purpose (in particular to support driver welfare)
 
The planned 22 percent tariff on new trucks to be abolished.