Post-Brexit Chaos: Driver shortages still the biggest threat to the haulage industry

Six months on from the end of the transition period between the UK and EU governments, driver shortages remain the single biggest crisis in the haulage industry, according to experts. 

The current driver shortages, which affects both HGV drivers and drivers of small vans is due to two main reasons. Firstly, in the build-up to Brexit itself, many European drivers decided to leave the UK due to the uncertainty over their right to live and work post-Brexit, reducing the overall number of available drivers in the country.  

Secondly, even though the new protocols are now firmly in place, it’s become common for remaining drivers to prioritise UK based contracts ahead of EU ones, to avoid any potential delays that may arise at the border. 

According to the Road Haulage Association, the combination of these two issues has led to a staggering driver shortfall of over 65,000* across the UK since January, which is already having a knock on effect on logistics across the country. For many larger brands, there just isn’t the driver supply to keep up with customer demand, especially over the last few months now the UK is easing out of lockdown. 

Since January, many businesses have turned to same day couriers to bridge gaps in the supply chain, with demand up 26%. As Speedy Freight offers a dedicated and personal service, the business has been able to support across multiple industries, helping brands to refine their import and export processes, and ensuring the movement of goods to and from the EU is more streamlined.

Some new clients have sort support with paperwork only, others the full package including transport and onward travel across Europe. An area many wholesalers and manufacturers are seeking support is regarding carnet documents, to avoid duty charges for goods being manufactured in one country, finished in another, and returned to the original country of origin.

On January 1st, hauliers were braced for delays at the border as both drivers and customs agents struggled to acclimatise to the new protocols. However, although some industries have managed to adapt to the new rules and regulations, there are still many that are being caught out by the new red tape, with lengthy delays costing them both time and money. 

According to Speedy Freight, the clients currently facing the worst delays are those shipping products of animal origins. Due to the new, longer signoff process on both sides of the border, there are reports of 24-hour, up to 72-hour delays for some shipments. 

When it comes to changes in policy, our job is to consolidate all the new information and make sure we’re only telling our clients about the changes that are relevant to them. Otherwise, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paperwork needed to clear customs. “

~ Shona Brown, Network Service Manager and resident Brexit expert

She added, “Obviously things have improved from the initial changes in January. There was a period when we were receiving daily requests for assistance from drivers stuck at the boarder – now when issues are only arising, it’s only weekly or monthly. Over 90% of our bookings have moved successfully, with no delays in or out of the EU, and there has been no impact on our wider international movements by sea or air.

“Now that we’re six months down the line, it’s clear that not all of our clients have adjusted to the new rules. Generally, it’s been smaller clients such as SMEs that have had the least trouble as they can be agile in their response to change. It’s the bigger, national brands that are still being caught out as they can be quite set in their ways.”

Even though some clients have yet to adjust to the new rules and regulations, Speedy Freight is already braced for a new wave of changes coming at the end of the year. As the UK is taking a phased approach to new post-Brexit trade regulations, changes to protocol have been split into stages. 

The next set of protocol changes is due to begin from October 2021, with a further wave of regulations coming into effect from January through to March 2022. Already, Shona and her team are working to prepare clients for the change.

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