Business Matters Magazine:
Hauliers told to prepare for even worse ports chaos
The Cabinet Office has warned hauliers that Britain’s border controls are about to face their sternest test since the Brexit transition period ended on December 31.
Government modelling indicates that cross-Channel freight will begin to return to normal in the coming days, raising the prospect of tailbacks at ports and other disruptions if lorry drivers continue to arrive without adequate paperwork or negative Covid-19 tests, a source close to the Cabinet Office said.
At the same time a leading investment bank has warned the all-important UK services industry faces increased tariff-like costs of more than a quarter because of greater bureaucracy after the end of the transition period.
The source said at the worst point in the past month, one in five lorries bound for the EU was turned back from the UK border because of incorrect paperwork or because the driver could not produce a negative Covid-19 test.
Freight traffic fell below normal levels either side of December 31 because companies had stockpiled goods in anticipation of a hard Brexit. This meant there was only minor disruption at ports after New Year’s Day.
However, stockpiles have been depleted and cross-Channel trade is picking up. This has prompted officials at the Cabinet Office’s border and protocol delivery group to put logistics groups on high alert.
Stephen Bartlett, chairman of the Association of Freight Software Suppliers, said: “We’ve been lucky so far. Traffic volumes through ports have been quite low. But the next couple of weeks are going to be the main test.
“There could be more disruption as trucks come through that aren’t prepared with paperwork or drivers who haven’t been tested for Covid. There will be more issues. Then we could see some of these lorry parks starting to fill up.” . . . .
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