With the impending onset of Brexit, the landscape of the transport industry is set for some inevitable changes, particularly affecting freight forwarders who manage European haulage contracts. But industry experts have voiced concerns that the UK government has been in denial about how customs procedures will be affected, and believe that they should already have infrastructure underway to avoid not only huge delays, but also increased costs to shippers and the public.
Recently, however, HMRC has shifted gear slightly, admitting that there's a possibility that inland depots may need to be created to take the brunt of increased workloads due to Brexit.
The Change is Coming
The bottom line is that freight forwarders dealing with haulage contracts for shipments coming into the UK will be at the frontline of procedural customs changes, and it is looking very likely that the solution will involve dealing with a larger number of depots. Karen Wheeler, Director General for Border Coordination at HMRC, has acknowledged that once the UK leaves the EU, new infrastructure will be needed in order to handle the added customs control of goods entering the country.
The Need for New Facilities
In order to facilitate the increased volume of holding space that’s required, Ms. Wheeler noted that – due to insufficient space at the ports – it might be necessary to move operations to inland facilities. She has admitted, however, that time is needed for planning and developing the new infrastructure, and that new facilities will not be in place before Brexit.
The FTA (Freight Transport Association), while agreeing in principle to the concept of developing inland facilities as a solution to customs issues post Brexit, believes that there is no time to waste and that contingency needs to be in place as soon as possible.
Some believe that the government's recent scrapping of plans to develop a lorry park at Stanford West, which was meant to alleviate the effects of Operation Stack, was a mistake, and that plans should have been adapted for the park to include a customs control depot. They say that additional parking spaces in and around Dover are urgently required, with the potential for Operation Stack to be implemented on a much more regular basis with post-Brexit customs procedural changes.
The Knock-On Effect of Delays
According to several industry sources, there is no room for any extra delays caused by additional customs procedures, due to the fact that HGV traffic is already caused by the Channel Tunnel and 20 ferries per day at the Port of Dover. Currently there's an average of one to two minutes "dwell time" per vehicle, and it has been claimed that adding even just another two minutes to that time would cause 17-mile queues at the port.
The costs of these delays would blow out to massive proportions up and down the supply chain for haulage contracts and, consequently, for the UK consumer. Along with the concern that there may be a shortage of qualified personnel to carry out increased/new fiscal customs procedures after Brexit, very interesting times seem to lie ahead for HMRC and the logistics industry.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage contracts with available drivers. Over 4,800 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.